Dear doctor

I want to know how the HIV virus enters the penis. Is it through the urethra, a cut on your skin or through the head of the penis? And if you use a condom properly and remove it immediately, won’t the fluids from the woman get into contact with your manhood and get infected with HIV?


Eriabu

Dear Eriabu, to begin with, we all agree that when you have unprotected sexual intercourse with an HIV-infected woman, you stand a high risk of getting infected by the virus. In this case, the virus enters your penis through the foreskin, the tip of the penis and the urethra (which is a natural opening leading to the inside of your body). The virus attaches itself to the soft lining (mucous membrane) of the inside of your foreskin or the head of the penis or inside the urethra.

That way it is absorbed into the blood stream. Once there, it multiplies rapidly and gives you the HIV infection. If you happen to have cuts or sores on your penis, this even multiplies the risk further since it provides the virus with an “open door” for it to get into your bloodstream easier and faster. So if you suffer from Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) that give you sores on the penis (such as Syphilis), your risk of acquiring HIV becomes very high. The HIV virus has been studied extensively and has been found to be attracted easily to some particular cells that are common in the foreskin of your penis.

Even as you use condoms to protect yourself from HIV, you need to take the necessary precautions to minimise the risk of acquiring HIV through contaminating yourself with the woman’s fluids before, during or after sex. So, the answer to your question is: Yes, you could get infected by the woman’s fluids on your scrotum and thighs, if she is HIV positive. It is also true that there is a risk of infection if you transfer those fluids to your penis using your fingers.

In both cases, the risk is higher if those fluids are a lot and if you have cuts or sores on the penis. After sexual intercourse, it’s better to wipe yourself with a dry piece of cloth as opposed to washing. And this cloth shouldn’t be shared by both of you in circumstances where you aren’t sure of each other’s sero-status. If there’s any such contamination and you aren’t sure of the status, it would be better for both of you take an HIV test and if one is positive, see a doctor for further help.