Saturday, 21 August 2010

Always have your condoms at the ready


HIV as weapon
The case of the German singer Nadja Benaissa being prosecuted [1] for grievous bodily harm and attempted bodily harm in having unprotected sex with partners whilst knowing she was HIV positive makes interesting and controversial reading.
There are various camps pitched between considering her acts criminal to properly apportioning responsibility in relation to sexual liaisons between infected and uninfected partners.
For the case of the man who allegedly became infected through having sex with her, I am beginning to wonder if the onus of proof should not be extended to ascertain the particular strains of the virus because it does not appear to be conclusively proven that she infected him, rather the assumption has been made of her culpability without addressing the possible promiscuity of the partner.
Abdication of personal responsibility
My greater concern about these prosecutions comes from that of responsibility, each partner in a sexual liaison should be in charge of securing their personal protection when indulging in a sexual act.
I find it reprehensible that people would abdicate that responsibility and then seek to blame others for their personal irresponsibility when things go wrong.
In the passion of the moment or conversely in the moment of passion, if people can assume without verification that a partner is not infected with the virus and then engage in unsafe sex, the consequences are dire and the results can be life changing; it might be a consideration for a female to wear a femidom but surely anyone who likes wick-dipping should for all intents and purposes have condoms in their pockets.
Now, for a more clinical approach the partners can be as pragmatic as to obtain saliva test swabs from the local chemists and make a crude determination of status before copulation, but how many do have the presence of mind to do that?
The assumed invincibility of being active
There is a stigma attached to having the HIV virus and not everyone has reached the point where honesty about status is as forthcoming as the Karma Sutra positions they might persuade each other to take.
In another article I read earlier this week [2] with the graphic detail of homosexual sex, what was interesting was the inclination for the penetrative partner to assume that they are at lower risk of infection than the partner who receives the penetration.
The other matter of condom aversion with heterosexuals and homosexuals alike does not seem to be addressed too, this following on from the hubris of being the active partner and thence the almost invincible partner.
Another issue about sexually transmitted diseases is that the more common infections like chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes and syphilis makes the HIV negative partner more susceptible to infection but that chronology of events would normally not be forensically proven by the time the vindictiveness of prosecution and persecution takes hold.
Preventative measures of dispute
In another set of circumstances there is the matter of circumcision being preventative [3] of infection along with the recently announced microbicide gel [4] which is purported to prevent the transmission of the virus to women.
I have my concerns about the risks involved in conducting these tests in South Africa that sacrificed the health and safety of over 10% of the subjects to arrive at the conclusions and the effectiveness thereof is quite in the lower percentiles of success.
Obviously, the other question about this gel is whether when applied by an infected female partner it prevents the male partner from contracting the disease, they all do not constitute a panacea for risk.
None is so innocent or so wronged
In conclusion, I believe the responsibility must be shared; each person should take the responsibility for their sexual health and wellbeing seriously and personally without succumbing to the delirium of passion.
If a clear decision is made not to engage in unsafe sex as a matter of course and where that does not happen the question of trust is properly verified medically these atrocious persecutions should never happen.
Where one partner can play victim whilst visiting the full force on the law on the other when during the sexual event all common-sense had been thrown out of the window, this becomes unsafe from a justice and fairness perspective and though prosecution might exclude one person from the public sexual pool, I have my doubts that it serves as a deterrent to people from engaging in risky behaviour and it could well prevent people from seeking out the very truth about their status whilst engaging in promiscuously enjoyable behaviour.
In a more dispassionate application of the law, the wronged might well be excluded from the sexual pool by making it public knowledge that they also have become a public sexual risk just as much as the original culprit in the case. The foolishness on the part of the assumed victim should not be excused just as the prosecution for the alleged "crime" is being pursued with questionable vigour.
Sources

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