Do Vampiric Rituals Put Cult Members at Risk
A few nights ago, I couldn't sleep. So I clicked on the TV and came across a Wesley Snipes classic, the movie Blade. For those of you who don't know, Blade
is a 1998 film about a vampire slayer portrayed by actor Wesley Snipes.
The first scene I caught involved a human who stumbled into a "vampire
club" while being seduced by a sexy woman, who unbeknown to him, is a
vampire. The scene culminates with the fire sprinkler system coming on.
Instead of spraying water, it sprayed human blood everywhere. Being a
good HIV nurse, the first question that came to mind was, "Is this
'blood shower' an HIV transmission risk?" The next morning, the scene
stuck with me. I thought I had read somewhere about vampire cults and
their blood rituals, but was certain it was just a "made for Hollywood"
concept. Surprisingly, the more research I did on the subject of
vampires and vampire cults the more concerned I became. While I still
believe that scene was an exaggeration -- at least I hope it was --
there still seemed to be a story here. So I dug a little deeper.
How is HIV Spread from Person to Person?
Are Vampires For Real?
The movies portray vampires as the unfortunate undead that become
vampires after being bitten on the neck by another vampire. They are
pale, ashen immortals with a thirst for blood and a sexual aura that
lures their next victim. But again, this is a Hollywood portrayal.
Actually, those who consider themselves vampires are a subculture of
people who are attracted to vampire lore.
The Vampire Lifestyle
Those who live the vampire lifestyle share some common features but
there are variants as well. Most living the vampire lifestyle have an
interest in vampire lore. Many believe they possess physiological and
psychological vampire traits. Most of these focus on music, fashion,
and bodily appearance. But a small number believe sunlight is harmful
or even fatal. So they live their lives in darkness. However, a few who
live the vampire lifestyle that believe they need to ingest living
human blood to survive and thrive. This group commonly known as "Sanguinarians"
claim they physically require blood from other living beings. While
most groups discourage actually biting people for the blood they seek,
ingesting human blood does occur. It is those people whom we want to
explore. Does their ingestion of human blood put them at risk for HIV?
The Biology of HIV
Where Does the Blood Come From?
In this day and age of bloodborne illnesses
and HIV, one has to wonder why on earth anyone would tempt fate and
ingest human blood. But in vampire circles, a small group do. It's
suggested that vampire members use a razor or needle
to make small wounds, then suck the blood directly from these wounds
with their mouth. In most groups, testing for blood borne illnesses is
done on blood sources before drinking their blood. Most refuse to use
animal blood, regarding the animal blood as "dead" and an ineffective
source of the blood borne energy they seek.
Is the Ingestion of Blood an HIV Risk?
So the question remains: Is there a risk of HIV infection by ingesting
infected blood. And the answer is not a simple yes or no. Blood has the
highest concentration of HIV when compared to the other fluids known to
transmit HIV (vaginal secretions, semen and breast milk). We know that breast milk
especially can transmit HIV when ingested by a baby. It is so risky
that experts recommend that infected mothers not breastfeed their
babies if at all possible. In fact, in the United States there is
really no reason for HIV positive women to breastfeed their newborns
given the availability of clean water and commercial formula. But be
careful not to assume that because breast milk can transmit HIV that
ingesting blood can be as risky. The fact is that the
oral transmission of HIV
is rare, but can happen under certain circumstances. The fragile
tissues of the inside of mouth and esophagus can be routes of entry for
HIV, especially if a large quantity of blood is ingested and the viral
load per milliliter of blood is high. Compared to oral sex, the
infected fluid (semen or blood) is a small quantity, greatly reducing
the risk of infection. So while the digestive properties of saliva does
help reduce the rate of HIV via oral routes, it does happen. While
rare, ingesting blood can be a risk to those who observe the practice.
Really - What Does This All Mean?
Well my point to all this is simple: Be safe all you vampires out
there. Those of you who observe the vampire lifestyle and all you who
feel you need to ingest blood to survive, know you are not doing so
without risk. And for the rest of us who aren't vampires or anything
like vampires, understand the risks of your choices. Making healthy
choices is the key to staying safe and healthy. Those choices should