Women at high risk of HIV infection are 40 percent more likely to contract the virus through anal sex, according to a study presented at the 2016 HIV Research for Prevention Conference. This follows the Center for Diseases Control and Prevention’s estimate that HIV is 12 times more easily transmitted via anal than vaginal sex.
The study defined “high risk” as non-drug-injecting women between the ages 18 and 60 who were low income and lived in one of the 20 highest prevalence metropolitan areas. The average age was around 39, 73% of the nearly 10,000 women involved in the study were Black, and about 22 percent had had sex in exchange for money, goods, or shelter in the last year.
32 percent of the women had anal sex in the last year. 27 percent said they had anal sex the last time they had intercourse. According to the study, the older the women were, the more likely they were to have anal sex — 22 percent of 18 and 19-year olds, and 31 percent of 40 to 60-year olds.
One of the major concerns was that 60 percent of the women were less likely to have used a condom the last time they had anal sex, in comparison to those who’d had vaginal. This may be due to the fact that you can’t get pregnant through anal sex, but unfortunately they forget about STIs.
Researchers concluded that 20 percent of HIV-positive women in Denver, 48 percent in San Juan, and 44 percent in New York had contracted the virus through anal sex, concluding that over one-third of HIV infections in women might have been transmitted anally.
It’s time for counselors to talk to women about the importance of safe sex, either vaginal or anal. Condom usage is significantly lower with women who choose to have sex anally, which is why women should consider alternatives like PrEP or simply become more aware of risk.