Guides

HIV, sex and risk

This book is about sexual transmission of HIV. 

Although most people know what is high or low risk there is less confidence about the middle ground in between these extremes. 

If one person has sex without a condom they are unlikely to become HIV positive. But if 10,000 people have sex without condoms, it is very likely that some will become HIV positive. Even if they all have exactly the same type of sexual risk.

A low single risk can end up affecting a lot of people if the group is large. A lot of people have sex and the majority of times this doesn’t involve condoms.

Understanding risk is also not always easy and is something that is not really taught in school.

So we might worry most about things that are never likely to affect us, such as plane crashes and bird flu.

On the one hand we convince ourselves that things we enjoy are low risk (“it will never happen to me”).

On the other hand, some very low risk things are so scary that we can worry out of all proportion to the likelihood that it will happen (“I’m sure I am HIV positive”).

This is how our brains work. No wonder HIV is so tricky to get your head around.

Last updated: 1 June 2016.