Wednesday, July 20, 2011

New HIV Treatment Breakthrough vs. Sexual Behavior

Quite often, many of the behaviors which human beings engage in have had me questioning whether we are in fact the highest order of life on the planet. Politicians distort reality and craft policies which affect real lives for the sake of political power. Individuals routinely allow themselves to be manipulated for the sake of ideological conformity and to assuage their social and individual insecurities (or fears). We wage wars. We kill with inconsistent justifications. And we allow our baser desires like sex to control our higher reasoning; at least animals have primitive instincts—sans the reasoning ability—as grounds for doing so.
With regards to sex, instances like the high-profile indiscretions of former Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner and former California Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, revelations of local suburban prostitution rings (some involving teenagers) being busted up by police, and the introduction of sexual addiction as yet another in a growing list of human psychological maladies provide an insight into how sex controls our lives. Even if life and/or health are at risk, we often find ourselves victims of our own urges. Take the issue of HIV and AIDS for example.

Last week, it was reported that an experimental drug being tested among HIV-infected adults in Africa has been shown to significantly reduce the spread of the virus in their uninfected partners. The drug, Truvada, had already been shown to prevent the spread of HIV among gay men. The conclusion of the more recent study indicates that the drug is also just as effective in preventing new infections among heterosexual couples as well (The study and it’s results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine). According to the research,

At the same time, national and international health officials said it's far from clear how preventive use of these drugs will play out. How many people would want to take a pill each day to reduce their risk of HIV infection? Would they stick with it? Would they become more sexually reckless?

As with any issue involving human behavior, there are potential implications to consider surrounding the drug’s potential use. Among these concerns: how many people would want to take a pill daily to reduce their risk of HIV infection? If so, would they be consistent with its use? Would they become more sexually reckless?
If the history of our behavior with regards to sexuality is an indication, we can expect even amounts of irresponsibility and responsible behavior. While the new drug shows a great deal of promise in preventing the spread of HIV, especially in AIDS-stricken regions of the world like Africa, human behavior can be expected to be only marginally changed by the advent of the new drug. Take for example the revelation earlier this year of the link between oral sex and the increase the risk of certain types of head and oral cancers (ex: “Rise in Some Head and Neck Cancers Tied to Oral Sex: Study” and “Oral Sex Causing Increased Cancer Rate in US” ). In much the same way that this link garners high levels of skepticism among those who routinely engage in oral sex (mostly because of the irrational human propensity to defend what we like or what feels good such as cigarette smoking and drinking), the same could be expected with Travada. Continual engaging in this particular risky sexual behavior by the public has not noticeably diminished since the reporting of this story. Indeed, most have brushed aside the link in much the link between oral sex and certain cancers with the same casualness they have with many suspected carcinogens; everything causes cancer. Expect the same reckless casualness with sexual behavior under the new anti-AIDS drug regime.
And in much the same way that the pill ushered in changes in women’ sexual behavior, there is the very real possibility that people would feel that this new advancement, if made available on a wholesale scale, would give the false sense that the risk of contracting AIDS is a thing of the past, leading to even more promiscuous sexual behavior. Men, including high profile celebrities, power-shapers, and everyday joes will still engage in unprotected sex, despite the risks. Politicians, sports figures, and high-profile types in particular can and will continue to birth children from extramarital affairs (if you doubt the slackening morals of our decadent sexual decisions, you needn't look any further than rapper Lil Wayne, who has 4 children by 4 different high profile women in the entertainment world). Prison rapes will still go on. And teens will still experiment, spurred on by the implied socially-driven message that “everyone does it.” Oddly enough, the only group which anyone could be expected to responsibly use the new drug would be those who engage in sex for more pragmatic reasons…prostitutes, and maybe the possible exception of those in the adult film industry.
As for the rest of us “responsible” adults? Considering that many of us cannot even remember to take our blood pressure, vitamin supplements, or even birth control pills daily, how can anyone in their right minds expect those at-risk of spreading a dangerous pathogen like HIV to be as responsible? During the drug’s trials, it was found that 31 of the volunteers had not even taken their pills at all, while some others did not take their entire supply. These individual failures indicate that even at the risk of health and ultimately life, people will still lie about issues related to their sexual behavior as well as continue to act recklessly.
Don’t get me wrong. I like everyone who is interested in such things am excited at this new medical breakthrough in the fight against AIDS. But in opposition to the researchers and scientists involved collective declaration that it is a “game changer,” human nature being what it is leads me to believe that it will do nothing to change human sexual behavior…or the irresponsibility which causes us to make irrational decisions with regards to our health.


  1. That was one of your more interesting postings. Thank you.

  2. Thank you. And I apologize for those of you who left comments earlier. I was forced to re-post and the comments were lost. Feel free to re-post.

  3. when will the new drug come out??