Been more than four years but Cas­san­dra* still re­mem­bers how her hands were shak­ing when she got the sealed en­ve­lope that con­tained her HIV test re­sults. “my face­book org had or­ga­nized an HIV test­ing ac­tiv­ity and a bunch of us were get­ting tested. my then

Cosmopolitan (Philippines) - - Need To Know -

it’s Her anx­i­ety be­gan when she men­tally ran through her sex­ual past while wait­ing for her turn to get tested. “I’d been hav­ing sex since I was 17, and since then I think I had slept with about 12 or 13 guys. A lot of them were flings and most of the en­coun­ters were un­pro­tected. I found my­self sud­denly won­der­ing about the other peo­ple those guys had slept with. Un­til then, the pos­si­bil­ity of get­ting HIV had never really crossed my mind.”

Cas­san­dra cas­ti­gated her­self with a litany of what ifs. “I had al­ways thought of my­self as a re­spon­si­ble per­son, but think­ing about all those times when I didn’t use a con­dom made me shud­der. I was just hav­ing fun—but I was care­less.”

Her test re­sults came out neg­a­tive. Cas­san­dra was re­lieved; she had dodged a bul­let—this time. with HIV are men, women are at an in­creas­ing risk for HIV be­cause of a com­bi­na­tion of risky sex­ual be­hav­ior and mis­con­cep­tions about how some­one can get in­fected. Cosmo sat down with two health ex­perts to shed light on these mis­con­cep­tions:

“But only gay guys get HIV.”

“From 2013 to 2015, there was a steep rise in HIV preva­lence among 15- to 24-year-olds, mostly men. But we know that some of these men have both male and fe­male sex part­ners— and that puts women at risk,” says Dr. Ge­n­e­sis Sa­monte, who heads the DOH sec­tion that mon­i­tors HIV in­fec­tion rates.

“We need to see HIV as cen­tered around sex­ual be­hav­ior rather than sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion,” ex­plained Ivy Kris­tel Hap­i­tan, an HIV peer ed­u­ca­tor and coun­selor at the Love Your­self Test­ing Clinic. “A lot of those I’ve coun­seled at the clinic are what we re­fer to as ‘MSM’ or men who have sex with men. They have sex with both men and women. Some are ex­plor­ing or ex­per­i­ment­ing, oth­ers just want to,” adds Hap­i­tan.

“But i’m on the pill.”

When Cas­san­dra was re­view­ing her sex­ual his­tory, she thought of how many times she agreed not to use a con­dom, say­ing, 'It’s ok, I’m on the pill.' "I was more scared of get­ting preg­nant than get­ting HIV,” she re­calls.

Hap­i­tan says it’s com­mon for a lot of women to be more con­cerned about get­ting preg­nant rather than with get­ting HIV. “Un­like an un­planned preg­nancy, HIV does not seem real un­til we see one of our girl­friends get in­fected, so we think be­ing on the pill is enough,” she said.

The pill does not pro­tect against sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted in­fec­tions, only con­doms can. Hap­i­tan also cau­tions that with­drawal or “pulling out,” a fa­vored but highly un­re­li­able birth con­trol method, does not pro­vide pro­tec­tion from preg­nancy or STIS. “You can get an STI like HIV from pre-ejac­u­la­tion fluid,” says Hap­i­tan.

“But i’m too to ask Him to wear Con­doms.”

Usu­ally, women aren’t that great at hav­ing “the con­dom talk” with a sex part­ner. “Girls get stuck when it comes to in­sist­ing on con­doms. We’re em­bar­rassed; we’re wor­ried about what the guy will think or about los­ing the guy if we in­sist on con­doms. That needs to change,” Hap­i­tan says. Con­doms should be like lip­stick, you never leave home with­out it in your kikay kit. “Al­ways be pre­pared. Don’t wait for him to bring up con­doms. In­sist on it,” she stresses.

“But He Comes from a good fam­ily and He’s ed­u­cated. He Can’t pos­si­bly Have HIV.”

HIV in­fec­tions in ur­ban ar­eas like Metro Manila and Cebu have breached what the DOH and the United Na­tions have re­ferred to as a “5% thresh­old,” which Sa­monte ex­plains as “a crit­i­cal mass of peo­ple who have the virus, en­abling the rate of in­fec­tion to grow ex­po­nen­tially.”

HIV does not dis­crim­i­nate and the num­bers are telling. “The phys­i­cal map of the peo­ple with HIV is now big enough that any woman who is sexu-

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