If you look at the WHO site for Ebola, it’s clear that we’ve known Ebola is transmitted sexually. On the site the WHO recommends: “Men who have recovered from the illness can still spread the virus to their partner through their semen for up to 7 weeks after recovery.” But that information is, unfortunately, wrong. A woman contracted Ebola and died, and the only contact with Ebola was “sex with an Ebola survivor on March 7, five months after the survivor was discharged from a clinic. Health officials said previous studies showed the virus could be found in the semen of recovering men up to 82 days after the onset of symptoms. But the new finding suggests the virus can persist in seminal fluid for longer than previously recognized, and potentially lead to sexual transmission of the virus.”
So the recommendation is that anyone who has ever contracted Ebola will use contraceptives indefinitely. But we’ve seen how effective that recommendation has been with HIV infection. The same areas that have experienced Ebola are also continuing in crisis with HIV.
For those of us who do not live in Sub-Saharan Africa, Ebola has been only a minor scare. But HIV infection is not a distant issue. It’s a very current one. And the most recent generations have grown up thinking of HIV and its associated AIDS as a chronic, controllable infection rather than the death sentence it was when it was first discovered. As a result, we are not seeing the same level of concern and our HIV numbers are not where they should be after decades with the illness.
If we are going to treat Ebola as a possible sexually transmitted disease with an indefinite infectious period, then we are looking at a possible repetition of the HIV epidemic.