The Basics of HIV & STD Prevention

There are more ways to prevent HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), and other sexually transmitted diseases, today than ever. From medications to healthy sexual practices and more, preventing the spread of disease is easier for everyone. This article walks you through how you can contract HIV/STDs, various ways to prevent becoming infected, and what to do if you think you may have come in contact with HIV or another STD.

Sexually transmitted diseases you should know about

There are many diseases and infections that can be spread through sexual contact. Here are the most common ones.

HIV

HIV causes AIDS, or autoimmune deficiency syndrome. There is no cure for HIV or AIDS, but both diseases can be treated. If you think you may have contracted HIV, then you should get tested as soon as possible. With quick and daily treatment, HIV may never turn into AIDS.

Chlamydia

This is the most common bacterial STI, or sexually transmitted infection, in the United States. It is easily treatable, but because it sometimes lacks symptoms, the infection can go untreated for years turning into more serious illnesses that lead to infertility.

Gonorrhea

Similar to chlamydia, this infection can lack symptoms and turn into much more serious illnesses. Gonorrhea and chlamydia can occur at the same time.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)

Both gonorrhea and chlamydia can turn into PID if left untreated. This disease occurs in the upper female reproductive tract and can cause infertility.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

Researchers have identified more than 100 types of this virus. HPV is another typically silent infection with over half of patients exhibiting no symptoms. HPV has been proven to be responsible for four in five cases of cervical cancer as well as several other genital malignancies.

Genital herpes

Both types (HSV-1, HSV-2) are chronic conditions. Most of the time, the virus is dormant coming in outbreaks that can last a week or more. Herpes is contagious whether or not the patient has any sign of an outbreak.

Syphilis

This infection can be fatal if left untreated. The virus can eventually get into the bloodstream, infecting organs outside of the reproductive system.

You can experience different symptoms depending on your sex, with each disease or no symptoms at all. Many of the diseases listed often come with no symptoms, so people do not seek treatment. It is important to be tested for STDs regularly to ensure you stay healthy. Having safe sexual relationships is a primary preventative of STDs.

How does HIV spread?

There are four common ways that HIV is spread to another person: by having sex, from a blood transfusion (today the risk of contracting HIV from a transfusion is small), by sharing needles, and from HIV-positive mothers to children during pregnancy, delivery, or breastfeeding.

Today, contracting HIV through blood transfusions and pregnancy are low risk. Hospitals and blood banks in the United States thoroughly check donated blood for HIV and other viruses. Although infected mothers can still pass on the virus to their babies through pregnancy, delivery, and breastfeeding, the risk is much lower if the mother is being treated for HIV. Expecting mothers should talk to a primary care center for more about how to minimize the risk of passing HIV to children.

How can I protect myself from HIV and STDs?

You have many preventative measures available to you. Here are some great ways to significantly reduce your chances of contracting HIV or STDs.

Using condoms

Male and female condoms can be highly effective in preventing the spread of HIV if used correctly. However, condoms provide less protection from STDs that are spread through skin contact, like HPV, herpes, and syphilis. Latex condoms better prevent STDs than do plastic condoms, since plastic breaks more often. Condoms, however, are not guaranteed to prevent HIV and other STDs.

Medications

Federal guidelines recommend that people who have a high risk of contracting HIV take pre-exposure prophylaxis (or PrEP) daily. These medicines can significantly reduce your risk of getting HIV. People with high risk of contracting HIV include individuals in an ongoing relationship with someone who is HIV positive, those in non-monogamous relationships, gay/bisexual men who engage in anal sex and have had an STD in the last six months, and heterosexual men or women who do not regularly use condoms with partners of unknown HIV diagnosis who are at substantial risk of HIV infection.

Getting tested and knowing your partner’s history

It is important to get tested for HIV and STDs if you are engaging in sexual activity with different partners. Be sure to discuss sexual history with your partner, and encourage them to get tested.

Limiting your number of sexual partners

Having more sexual partners greatly increases your chances of getting HIV or other STDs.

Not injecting drugs

Never share your needles or syringes with others no matter how well you know them. If you must inject yourself with medicine, then sterilize your equipment before and after using it.

For more information

If you experience symptoms of HIV or an STD, then take action that benefits your health. For more information about testing, contact ARcare today at (866) 550-4719 to speak with a healthcare professional.

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