MMA vs. HIV, HBV, and HCV: the blood battle
By Andrea Arscott, Senior Columnist
We all know fighting is dangerous, yet people still do it. Since attackers are willing to risk their lives in street fights, maybe the thought of spreading or contracting HIV as well as hepatitis B and C is only a minor concern, if it even crosses their minds. Although the risk of getting HIV from fighting is lower because the virus dies when it’s exposed to air, there’s still a risk. AIDSMap.com explains, “The small number of case reports documenting HIV transmission via this route [fighting] involved a significant amount of blood from the HIV-positive person, as well as large open wounds in the other person’s skin.”
Hep B, on the other hand, can live outside the body for at least seven days, and hep C can survive on surfaces for up to six weeks. Hep B is passed on through semen, vaginal fluids, and blood; hep C is only transferred from blood-to-blood. Most people get the vaccine for hep B when they get a series of Twinrix shots, but there’s currently no vaccine for hep C. So, when it comes to fighting, hep B and C are the more likely blood-borne illnesses to be transmitted.
In sports fighting, like mixed martial arts (MMA) in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), opponents battle it out with fistfights and wrestle each other despite the fact that they may be dripping or oozing blood. If a trained fighter is unaware that they’re positive for HIV or hep B or C, and they get their blood into another fighter’s bloodstream (through cuts and sores), they could pass the virus on to their opponent. MMA- and UFC-style fighting involves grappling and bear hugging, which could lead to rubbing open wounds together and exchanging blood.
You may be shaking your head right now thinking, “That’s why competitors get tested.” But guess what? According to mmabc.ca, regulation rules require that blood tests are taken within a year prior to a fight. A year is a long time to go untested, if the fighter is a risk-taker. Many fighters are young and in top physical shape, so it’s likely they have sex. If an opponent is responsible and practices safe sex by using condoms, there’s an even smaller chance of passing HIV on during a match.
However; if a pro fighter is also an adrenaline junkie, he may enjoy other daring behaviour: sharing needles and other equipment needed for drug injection or steroid use, sharing straws and bills to snort cocaine, sharing crack pipes, and using unsterilized tattoo/piercing equipment and ink. Sharing these items can lead to hep B and C, if they’re contaminated. Although there’s only a slim chance of acquiring HIV through most of these activities, sharing needles is a concern because HIV can live in the barrel of a syringe for approximately a month.
Unless fighters who engage in these activities get tested more often than once a year (two to four times per year would be ideal), they might not know they have a blood-borne illness or that they’re putting opponents at risk by competing.
There’s also a three-month window period to consider when testing for HIV. Most people will test positive for HIV a month after the exposure, but some may take up to three months before they can say they’re in the clear.
So, if you’re going to pick a fight with an illness as tough as HIV or hep B or C, know your status and protect yourself and others. Stop HIV and hep B and C now.
The Purpose Society testing clinic at 40 Begbie Street in New Westminster will be providing anonymous and rapid HIV testing and STI and hepatitis testing on February 5. It also provides vaccines, free harm reduction supplies, and condoms! You can also get your questions answered by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org