What is HIV?
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a kind of lentivirus that causes HIV infection, and over time it causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome causes progressive failure of the immune system leading to life-threatening opportunistic infections and cancers to thrive. A study by anonymous questionnaire in over 900 HIV-positive people using combination therapy (80% men, 20% women) found that around one-third reported less interest in sex.
Effect of HIV on Sex Life
- People find that their sexual desire or performance is affected when they are first diagnosed as HIV positive.
- A person is worried about the impact of the diagnosis on the current relationship(s) and also on chances of creating new ones, especially with someone who is HIV negative.
- Some people may experience lack of pleasure while having sex as they may have to use a condom to avoid transmission of the virus.
- Lower (than normal) testosterone levels have been found in people with advanced HIV infection leading to sexual dysfunction.
- Untreated HIV can also cause nerve damage (a condition called neuropathy) resulting in erectile problems.
- Women with HIV may experience menopause (the end of your menstrual cycle) earlier than women who are HIV negative due to abnormal production of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. Fall in the level of these hormones causes a reduction in sexual desire.
- Experiences such as receiving a positive HIV test result are likely to be a time of shock, worry, fear, or disbelief because of which sexual desire and performance can be affected.
- Concerns about possibly passing HIV on to sexual partners can also affect your desire for sex and intimacy.
- Anti-HIV drugs, such as the ddI (didanosine, Videx/Videx EC), may cause numbness in the genital area, causing difficulty in obtaining or sustaining an erection.
- In relationships, the diagnosis of HIV may reveal aspects of a person's behavior that they may have wanted to keep private. This may include infidelity or sexuality (such as male homosexuality) or intravenous drug use resulting in feelings of guilt and blame.
- Some individuals keep complete abstinence from sexual activity due to the myths and beliefs heard from people in their surroundings. This leads to unhappy relationship between spouses.
Both women and men gave similar reasons for having not resumed sex, and these were:
- Not having recovered fully
- Insufficient energy
- Lack of privacy as they shared a sleeping house with children
- Lost interest in sex
- Followed the health workers advice of not engaging in sex
- Fear of superinfection
- Fear that the virus would regain strength
- Sex no longer was an important part of their lives
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