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Searching for more information about your personal risk for HIV infection?

If you’re in New York’s Hudson Valley region, talk to our Regional Prevention Initiative about testing, individual counseling sessions or information sessions near you.

Statisticians, in case you’re curious, do have a formula for cumulative risk: 1 – ( ( 1 – x ) ^ y ) in which x is the risk per exposure (as a decimal) and y is the number of exposures.

But let’s face it, many of us can’t tabulate the tip at a restaurant, so it’s unlikely we’ll whip out the advanced algebra during sexytime.

The risk of contracting HIV during vaginal penetration, for a woman in the United States, is 1 per 1,250 exposures (or 0.08 percent); for the man in that scenario, it’s 1 per 2,500 exposures (0.04 percent, which is the same as performing fellatio).

As for anal sex, the most risky sex act in terms of HIV transmission, if an HIV-negative top—the insertive partner—and an HIV-positive bottom have unprotected sex, the chances of the top contracting the virus from a single encounter are 1 in 909 (or 0.11 percent) if he’s circumcised and 1 in 161 (or 0.62 percent) if he’s uncircumcised.

It’s also important to realize that during acute infection, the immune system has not yet created the antibodies that lower viral load, at least for a few years.

HIV tests that rely on antibodies may give a false negative reading during an acute infection, also known as the “window period.” The presence of another sexually transmitted infection (STI)—even one without symptoms, such as gonorrhea in the throat or rectum—can raise HIV risk as much as 8 times, in part because STIs increase inflammation and thus the number of white blood cells that HIV targets.

They are general ballpark figures that do not reflect the many factors that can raise and lower risk.

One such factor is acute infection, the period of six to 12 weeks after contracting the virus.

And if an HIV-negative person bottoms for an HIV-positive top who doesn’t use any protection but does ejaculate inside, the chances of HIV transmission are, on average, less than 2 percent. If the guy pulls out before ejaculation, then the odds are 1 out of 154. Is HIV really this hard to transmit, especially in light of the alarming statistics we are bombarded with?

Although the CDC estimates that nearly 1.1 million Americans are living with HIV and that the rate of new infections remains stable at about 50,000 per year, there has been a 12 percent increase between 20 among men who have sex with men (MSM)—including a 22 percent jump among young MSM ages 13 to 24.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) fact sheet describes the probability of oral sex transmission as “low.” But what does that mean?

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