QUESTIONING AIDS
By Christine Maggiore 

 

 

“Had Sex, Feel Sick — Is It HIV?” 
Dear Christine, 
I had sex about two years ago with a very close friend and ever since then I have had repeated yeast infections, strep throat and bronchitis. What are the odds of having unprotected sex and contracting the HIV virus? 
Signed me, 
Woman Who’s Worried Sick 

Dear Worried,
The chances of contracting “the HIV virus” are difficult to calculate. The tests that declare people HIV positive don’t test for HIV. They are supposed to detect HIV antibodies, but they actually look for certain proteins that are said to belong to HIV but are not specific to HIV. Newer viral load tests don’t test for the virus either. They amplify fragments of genetic material (DNA or RNA) which are assigned a value as virus and then multiplied according to a complex mathematical formula. The FDA has not approved theses tests for diagnostic purposes which means they should not be used for saying someone “has” HIV. 

Believe it or not, HIV in pure form has never been isolated from an AIDS patient, and idea that HIV causes illness in people who test positive has not been proven. All of the diseases called AIDS, which include yeast infections, certain cancers and pneumonias, also occur among people who test HIV negative. All these diseases have causes and treatments that are completely unrelated to HIV. 

With regard to your health concerns, a yeast infection (also known as candida) is a common problem caused by an imbalance of essential (friendly) bacteria. Some things that may provoke this imbalance are frequent or chronic use of antibiotics and other prescription drugs, alcohol, or having a diet high in sugars. 

If I were you, I would get the imbalance you’re experiencing resolved rather than worrying if a former partner may have passed on a virus that no test can say is there. Dealing with a yeast infection is important as having one can compromise your ability to properly digest food and absorb nutrients, a situation that can lead to illness of all sorts, even serious ones. Yeast infections are so prevalent among Americans that there are hundreds of books written on the topic of how to treat and prevent them. 

Strep and bronchitis are not AIDS’ defining illnesses — at least not this week. But since the AIDS definition has been enlarged several times to include more and more illnesses, hurry up and get better before they throw strep and bronchitis in the AIDS pile, too! 

A way to treat your anxieties about this situation might also be to speak frankly with your friend about your fears.

I wish you well, 
Christine 

“Safe Sex and Still Worried” 
Dear Christine,
I had safe sex three months ago and I am concerned. I have three tiny red dots on my chest and right arm. Does this in any way indicate that I may have HIV?
Thank you for your time.
Sincerely yours,
Tony P

Dear Tony,
Three tiny red dots after safe sex sounds like nothing to be concerned about. Especially when you consider that according to calculations in the New York Times AIDS History section, the chances of contracting AIDS from an encounter of protected sex are one in 5 billion.

 This calculation was made at a time when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimated the number of Americans with HIV to be between 1.5 and 2 million. Current estimates are now much lower — between 600,000 and 900,000 people — which makes the odds work even more in your favor. 

Take care,
Christine 

 

“What’s My Risk, Please?”
Dear Christine,
I had oral sex with a women who has told me that her ex-boyfriend “screwed around” a lot. How much of a risk is this? 
David P 

Dear David,
According to the longest and largest study of sero-diverse couples (that means a couple in which one partner tests HIV positive and the other is HIV negative), none of the HIV negative partners had become HIV positive after 10 years of follow up even though many of the couples did not use condoms consistently. (Heterosexual Transmission of HIV in Northern California: Results from a 10 Year Study, American Journal of Epidemiology 1997; 146:350-7) 

Based on this, the authors of the study speculated that it must take at least 1,000 acts of unprotected intercourse with a person who tests HIV positive for their partner to become HIV positive. Comparing this to syphilis or gonorrhea, which transmit in just two to three contacts, gives you an idea about your risks. 

There is much data that refutes the notion that a woman can even pass HIV to a man. Check out the book “Sex At Risk” by Stuart Brody (Transaction Press) if you want to simultaneously blow and open your mind . . . no pun intended. 

Hope that helps, 
Christine 

 

“AIDS, Gay Men and Oral Sex” 
Dear Christine,
Can you get AIDS from male to male oral sex?
Thanks, 
Jack 

Dear Jack,
A careful review of scientific, medical and epidemiological data pertaining to HIV and AIDS shows me that AIDS is not a disease one person can give to another.

AIDS is an official category for familiar illnesses that can occur in people who test HIV positive as well as in those who test HIV negative. The American definition of AIDS includes one non-illness. A T-cell count of 200 or less in a person with a positive HIV test result but no illness is called AIDS in this country. I mention this since a disease normally involves clinical illness. A disease also remains the same no matter where a person who has been diagnosed lives. Instead, what is called AIDS varies from country to country. To give you one example, many Americans with AIDS do not have AIDS by Canadian standards. 

To be sure, some of the diseases in the AIDS category are contagious — tuberculosis for instance, but many are not. Diarrhea, dementia and lymphoma are AIDS-defining illnesses that don’t spread from one person to another. 

With specific regard to oral sex, it was revealed at a recent forum on gay oral sex in San Francisco that in the entire history of the AIDS epidemic there have been five claimed cases of AIDS acquired through oral sex, but in none of these cases was it verified that oral sex was the only health risk factor that led to a diagnosis of AIDS. 

There a number of non-HIV risk factors that can lead to immune deficiency. If you would like to learn about those more prevalent and preventable risks for ill health, and at the same time discover why many people dismiss the HIV= AIDS paradigm, try visiting the web site rethinking-aids.com. You’ll find lots of surprising facts and scientific information all expressed in very understandable language. 

Thanks for writing,
Christine 

 

“Getting Over the Fear”
Dear Christine,
After reading your columns and visiting your web site, I learned a lot about HIV and AIDS. I have since stop taking the AIDS meds I was on. I have been off them for two weeks and feel fine, but I get nervous when something minor happens like a cough or if I get a headache. I guess I’m still in the “AIDS zone”.

I think I am strong enough to stand by my decision. I’m just writing to let you know that I am so grateful that I saw an ad for your book. I believe I would have still been feeling sorry for myself and thinking I wouldn’t be able to live a long healthy life had I not found this. 

I am very grateful and I just want to say thank you. 

Sincerely, 
Tom

Dear Tom,
Thanks so much for writing. It takes a lot of courage to come to a decision about drug treatments. I’m glad to know you’ve based yours on a careful evaluation of information. 

I don’t know what it might be like to start and then stop treatments as I have never been on any AIDS medicines since testing positive eight years ago. I have known what it’s like to live in fear of HIV, however. I lived with almost constant fear for a couple years before I found information challenging popular (and frightening) ideas about HIV and AIDS. 

Even after extensive research and reading, it took a while for the facts to take the place of my fears. Although I knew on an intellectual level that the HIV paradigm made no sense, for many months I couldn’t quite let go of the fear. I found the process was a bit like a dance — two steps forward, one step back. I hope that you will eventually find the confidence you need to live peacefully and happily with your decision. 

In the meantime, I can totally relate to where you’re at, so if you need someone to talk with, please let me know. I’m here. 

Take care,
Christine

ALIVE & WELL Alternative AIDS Information Network (the organization formerly known as HEAL Los Angeles), offers free information, free meetings and classes challenging the HIV-AIDS paradigm. Call toll-free for details (877) 92-ALIVE.


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