Before I answer the question of whether a virgin can be infected with HIV, let me tell you what HIV is. HIV is an acronym that represents human immunodeficiency virus. It causes viral infection in humans. HIV infection may progress to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) stage if not detected early and treatment initiated. 1st December every year is earmarked for creation of awareness of AIDS/HIV worldwide, hence, The World AIDS/HIV Day. This year's theme is "Let Communities Lead".
It will be proper for you to know the current state of HIV infection in Ghana as the discussion of whether a virgin can be infected with HIV or not continues. According to National AIDS Control Programe, Ghana, at the end of 2022, HIV population in Ghana stood at 354,927 with 254,753 being aware of their status and out of that 222,581 were receiving Anti-retro Viral Therapy. Those on treatment who are virally suppressed were 151,549. Viral load suppression simply means that the clients who are on the treatment have attained a stage where they can no longer infect anyone with the HIV virus, though they will continue to take the treatment consistently for life.
As we know, HIV infection is classified as a sexually transmitted infection. This means that it can be transmitted from an infected person to the other through sexual intercourse. Generally, people with this mindset think that an individual can largely be infected with HIV through sexual intercourse. So, if this mindset is anything to go by, then, a virgin can never get infected with HIV.
However, it will interest you to know that statistics from National AIDS Control Programe indicates that HIV population among sexually transmitted infection is about 12.3%. What could be the other contributory factors to HIV transmission in Ghana?
Clearly, there are other hidden contributory factors to HIV infection that are not given the needed attention that could possibly lead to infection of a virgin with HIV.
Let's first of all start by looking at barbering of hair. An interesting question I normally ask clients is, when you have your hair trimmed by a barber and after barbering and application of spirit on your head, do you feel pain? The obvious response is yes. Then, I ask again, what could be the cause of the pain? A cut from the barbering machine. Have you asked yourself whether the barber sterilizes the machine or not? You the one barbering your hair, how many times have you checked to ascertain whether the autoclave or sterilizing machine at the shop works or not? This is a possible means of transmission of HIV virus where a virgin can innocently get infected with the virus.
An individual can equally be infected with the virus at the hairdressing salon where pins are sometimes used to fix the hair and other stuff. These pins are not disposable at all and can be source of infection to an innocent virgin.
Another interesting hidden factor that might not have caught the attention of HIV adcocates is the pins in a sewing machine at a tailoring shop. The tailoring machine definitely use pins in sewing. An individual own machine might not cause any problem but a situation where many apprentices practicing in a shop and laying their hands on any machine they see could be troubling. You imagine one person being infected with HIV and lays his or her hands on every machine in the shop with pins not regularly changed unless they're blunt.
Among all the factors I consider us hidden and unnoticeable factors is the patronage of the services of young men named 'Abochi'. What work do they actually do? They cause a lot of havoc and if I have authority such services would not be rendered at all in Ghana. They go round sharing the virus to people ignorantly without any shame in the name of making money. Majority of them are not even Ghanaians. I am referring to those who go round cutting nails of people with their unsterilized instruments. They use that same instruments all day, cutting nails and people are also ignorantly and comfortably patronizing their services. If we continue to record new cases of HIV infection, do you wonder again why? Now to the question of "Can a virgin be infected with HIV"? I encountered a young lady who was diagnosed with HIV infection. In attempt to find out the possible means she got infected, it was first revealed that she was a virgin. Then, when I enquired further, it was revealed to me that she has had engaged the services of 'Abochi' before. She said it even led to her toes developing abscess. That is the point, a virgin has been infected with HIV through the services of 'Abochi'.
Now, from the above factors and many others that are contributing to the transmission of HIV infection, it is clear that a virgin can be infected with HIV. It is responsibility of each and everyone to be responsible for his or her health.
On the occasion of World AIDS/HIV Day with the theme "Let Communities Lead, it is obviously clear that the fight against HIV infection needs holistic approach. Education on HIV infection has to be deliberately sustained and spread across the country with all the contributory factors outlined in detail. Communities must lead. Individuals must show genuine and deliberate concern to fighting the infection to the later. We must own up to collectively fight the infection. We have to avail ourselves for regular HIV testing. Fortunately, Ghana has now rolled out HIV self-test, where one can comfortably test himself or herself at home without having to visit a health facility with a self-test kit. The fight against HIV infection is on until it is eradicated in Ghana, Africa and the world at large by 2030 as envisaged.
Alhaji Salifu Hadara
A Nurse In-charge, STI CLINIC
Tamale Teaching Hospital
Tamale - Ghana