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Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)


What is HIV?

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. When left untreated, the virus attacks and destroys the cells of your immune system, causing your body to be unable to fight off other diseases and infections. HIV infection additionally causes AIDS. There is no current vaccine or curative treatment for HIV. However, with today’s effective treatment, HIV can be controlled, allowing people with HIV to lead relatively normal lives.



What is AIDS?

AIDS stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. It is acquired in the final stage of the HIV infection that occurs when your immune system is badly damaged and you become vulnerable to infections that are very severe in people with weakened immune systems.



How do you get infected with HIV?

HIV infection occurs when the virus is transferred into your bloodstream, which can occur through contact with infected body fluids: blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid (pre-cum), rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. The most common courses of transmission of HIV is through sexual intercourse and direct needle injection.



Sexual Intercourse.

HIV can be transmitted through both vaginal and anal sex, although it is more common to be infected by HIV from anal sex. During sex, tears or cuts in the vaginal or anal tissues can occur, allowing HIV that may be residing in a partner’s sexual fluid to enter the bloodstream. HIV transmission from oral sex is also possible because HIV may enter your body through cuts or sores, but it is very rare and not as risky as anal or vaginal sex.



Needle Injection.

HIV can be transmitted when you use a needle that has been in contact with HIV infected blood. This type of transmission can occur for those who inject drugs or receive blood transfusions. Using a needle that has been in contact with HIV means you may be directly putting the virus into your body. The best way to prevent this transmission is to use clean needles and to not share needles with others.


How do I lower my risk of getting HIV?

There are many preventative methods that can be used to substantially reduce the risk of getting HIV. To lower your risk, you can use condoms, take PrEP, get tested and treated for other STIs, or alter your sexual behaviors. Condoms are effective in preventing the spread of HIV and other STIs by preventing direct contact with an infected partner’s body fluids. Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is an oral medication that, when taken consistently and correctly, can seriously reduce the chances and risk of contracting HIV. Another factor helpful in lowering risk is to get tested and treated for other sexually transmitted infections because having other existing STIs can increase the risk of HIV transmission. Lastly, considering your sexual behavior may help reduce your risk of HIV. Because HIV is commonly passed through sexual encounters, considering the amount of partners one has may help reduce risk of getting and passing on HIV.



My partner is HIV-positive, what can I do to prevent getting HIV?

If you do not have HIV but your partner does, there are several ways to substantially reduce your risk of getting HIV. First, you may consider using condoms when engaging in sex. Using condoms can drastically decrease your chances of getting HIV and other STIs. You may also want to consider Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP). PrEP is an oral medication that works to prevent HIV in individuals who are at risk of being exposed to and contracting HIV. It has been shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection for all individuals who engage in sex. However, PrEP does not protect against other STIs or pregnancy. Lastly, getting tested frequently for HIV and other STIs is recommended. If you feel you are at risk of becoming infected with HIV, consider these methods of prevention and find one, or a combination, that works for you.








Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

Chlamydia, Syphilis, Gonorrhea, Herpes, HPV, Hep C



How do STIs relate to HIV?

Having a sexually transmitted infection can increase your risk of becoming infected with HIV through sexual intercourse. Having an STI can cause inflammation, sores, and cuts around the genital area that allows HIV to more easily enter your body. This also occurs in people who are both HIV-positive and living with an STI and increases the risk of passing HIV on to a partner.



What is Chlamydia?

Chlamydia is a common STI that is spread through anal, vaginal, and oral sex with someone who is infected with chlamydia. Chlamydia is curable with proper treatment. If you are sexually active, the best way to prevent chlamydia is to consistently and correctly use condoms or to consider limiting the number of sexual partners you have.



What are the symptoms of Chlamydia?

For most people with chlamydia, it is common to have no symptoms. Alternatively, symptoms may not occur until several weeks after having sex with an infected person. If you are infected with chlamydia, you may experience discharge or a burning sensation when urinating. Chlamydia may also cause damage to your reproductive system.



What is Syphilis?

Syphilis an STI that is transmitted by direct contact with a syphilis sore during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Syphilis can cause long-term complications if not treated correctly but can be cured with proper antibiotic treatments. However, having syphilis once does not mean you are safe from getting it again. Additionally, syphilis can be transmitted from an infected mother to her unborn child. If you are sexually active, the best way to prevent syphilis is to consistently and correctly use condoms or to consider limiting the number of sexual partners you have.



What are the symptoms of Syphilis?

Symptoms of syphilis in adults are divided into stages. These stages are primary, secondary, latent, and late syphilis. During the primary stage, people infected will have one or multiple sores in the area that the infection entered their body.  Without treatment, the sores will eventually heal but the infection will still remain. During the second stage, one may develop skin rashes and/or sores in the mouth, genital, or anal areas. The rash can look like rough, red, or reddish brown spots on the palms of your hands and/or the bottoms of your feet. Symptoms of the late stage of syphilis include difficulty coordinating your muscle movements, paralysis (not able to move certain parts of your body), numbness, blindness, and dementia (mental disorder) and can result in death.



What is Gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is another common STI that can cause infections in the genitals, rectum, and throat. It is a very common infection, especially among young people ages 15-24 years. You can get gonorrhea by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who is infected with gonorrhea but it is curable with proper treatment. If you are sexually active, the best way to prevent gonorrhea is to consistently and correctly use condoms or to consider limiting the number of sexual partners you have.



What are the symptoms of Syphilis?

If you are infected with gonorrhea, you may not have symptoms. Infected men may have symptoms that include a burning sensation when urinating, a white, yellow, or green discharge from the penis, and painful or swollen testicles (although this is less common). Infected women may have symptoms that include a painful or burning sensation when urinating, increased vaginal discharge, or vaginal bleeding between periods. Rectal infections may either cause no symptoms or cause symptoms in both men and women that may include discharge, anal itching, soreness, bleeding, or painful bowel movements.



What is Genital Herpes?

Herpes is a common STI that is caused by two types of viruses (herpes simplex type 1 and herpes simplex type 2) and results in sores in the genital region. Most people with the virus don’t have symptoms, so it is important to know that even without signs of the disease, herpes can still be spread to sexual partners. You can get genital herpes by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who is infected with genital herpes. There is no cure for genital herpes but there are treatments that prevent outbreaks and decrease the risk of passing it on to other people. If you are sexually active, the best way to prevent gonorrhea is to consistently and correctly use condoms.



What are the symptoms of Syphilis?

Most people who have herpes have no symptoms or very mild symptoms, which may go unnoticed or may be mistaken for another skin condition, such as pimples or ingrown hair. Genital herpes sores usually appear as one or more blisters on or around the genitals, rectum, or mouth. The blisters break and leave painful sores that may take weeks to heal. The first time someone has an outbreak they may also have flu-like symptoms such as fever, body aches, or swollen glands.Although the infection can stay in the body for the rest of your life, the number of outbreaks tends to decrease over a period of years.



What is HPV?

HPV stands for human papillomavirus and is the most common sexually transmitted infection. You can get HPV by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the virus, but it is most commonly spread during vaginal or anal sex. There are many different types of HPV. Some types can cause health problems including genital warts and cancers. However, there are vaccines that can prevent infection of HPV.  If you are sexually active, the best way to prevent HPV is to consistently and correctly use condoms or to consider limiting the number of sexual partners you have. However, HPV can infect areas that are not covered by a condom, so condoms may fully protect against HPV.



What are the symptoms of HPV?

Symptoms from HPV include genital warts and cervical cancer (in women). HPV may also cause other cancers.  



What is Hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is an infectious liver disease. It is a bloodborne disease, meaning it is passed through contact with contaminated blood that can occur from activities like sharing needles during drug injection, use of unsterile syringes or needles, or use of unsterile tattoo equipment. Hep C may be sexually transmitted, yet instances of this happening are not very common. Furthermore, it is not spread through breast milk, food or water, or by casual contact such as hugging, kissing and sharing food or drinks with an infected person. There are no current vaccinations for Hepatitis C but there are antiviral medications that are available for treatment of people who have Hep C, making it curable.  



What are the symptoms of Hepatitis C? 

Hepatitis C causes both acute and chronic infection. Acute Hepatitis C refers to the first several months of infection. It doesn't usually have symptoms and is only very rarely associated with life-threatening disease. However, those with acute Hep C may experience fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, vomiting, nausea, etc. With treatment, some people are able to be cured of the virus within the first 6 months. Chronic Hepatitis C refers to a long term infection. It also may not have any symptoms but can cause serious health problems concerning the liver, such as liver disease, liver failure, and liver cancer.



Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

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