Tag Archives: STDs

World AIDS Day 2013: What We Know and Where We Are Headed

1 Dec

World AIDS Day logo

First reported in 1981 as a rare lung infection, what we now know as AIDS has become a worldwide epidemic. Scientists believe the virus originated from Western Africa. According to recent studies, it is thought that HIV may have jumped from monkeys to humans as far back as the late 1800’s (aids.gov).

A common misconception is that people think you immediately contract AIDS when you are exposed (I will elaborate on exposure below) to someone who had AIDS, but you actually contract HIV.  HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. The short version is that this virus infects your body, attacks your T-cells and uses them to replicate themselves and repeat the process. When your T-cell number gets to a certain low threshold, you are diagnosed with AIDS. AIDS stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome.

HIV is found in blood, semen (cum), pre-seminal fluid (pre-cum), breast milk, vaginal fluids, and anal mucous. It can be transmitted by-

  • Sexual Contact
  • Injection Drug Use
  • Pregnancy, Childbirth, & Breast Feeding
  • Blood Transfusion/Organ Transplant
  • Accidental Exposure (i.e. needle stick)

Transmission occurs when there is contact to a mucous membrane, cut, or sore. The most common ways that transmission occurs are through sexual contact (oral, vaginal, anal), sharing needles, or through childbirth.

While HIV/AIDS seems grim, it isn’t a death sentence. There are treatments for HIV/AIDS and many people can live out a relatively normal life. Antiretroviral therapy (‘The Cocktail’) is used to treat HIV. This can help extend your life, lower your chances of developing a non HIV-related illness, and help reduce the chance you will transmit the virus to others. If diagnosed with HIV, it is very important to seek medical attention to get on a treatment plan. Taking the prescribed medications from your health care provider is imperative to keep you healthy as long as possible.

It is very easy to reduce your risk of exposure by knowing your status. Get tested. You have nothing to lose by doing it and everything to gain. In this instance, ignorance is not bliss. You cannot tell by looking at someone if they are infected or not.

Using a barrier is a fantastic way to help prevent contact with fluids that can transmit the virus. Barriers include condoms (male and female) and dental dams. Latex and polyurethane are the best materials for prevention. Lambskin condoms, which are a natural material, have a permeable membrane which impede sperm from crossing because they are too large, but HIV, which is much smaller, and can cross through. Also, it is important to not share needles.

We (the world) have made great progress against the HIV/AIDS epidemic, but there is still much that needs to be done. Prevention is key, but we need to focus on the lessening the stigma that comes with an HIV diagnosis. With advocacy, education, and testing we can hope to reduce the number of new infections. Currently MSM (men who have sex with men, all races and ethnicities) and African Americans are at the highest risk for transmission. The CDC estimates that there are 1.1 million people in the United States who are infected with HIV, and here is the kicker, nearly one in five of those infected are not aware that they are infected.

While this is not as lighthearted as many of my posts, the message is just as important. There is so much more to be said about this epidemic, but I wanted to get the basics out there. My hope is that you will take away the following-

  • Know your status. Get tested
  • Practice safer sex
  • Never share needles
  • Know that HIV is not a death sentence
  • And, education and advocacy can help reduce future transmissions

Resources

World AIDS Day

Planned Parenthood HIV/AIDS Guide

CDC HIV/AIDS Information

NIH AIDS Information

Infographic on HIV/AIDS today in the United States

WorldAidsDayUSSnapshot1 WorldAidsDayUSSnapshot2

Oh You Have Strep Throat? I Have Chlamydia

11 Oct

Let’s face it, being sick is never fun. You feel gross and you can’t go out with your friends because you might pass on your illness to them. This is the same whether you have strep throat or a sexually transmitted infection, or STI.

Both Strep throat and chlamydia are caused by bacteria, the Streptococcus bacteria and the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis respectively. One is acceptable in society to say you have and the other is shamed and shunned because it is transmitted sexually. It’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that you need to be responsible for, especially if you intend to play with others.

This article is going to give you a quick overview of what you can get and how they can be treated.

Chlamydia

According to the CDC, Chlamydia is the most frequently reported bacterial STI in the US. As I said earlier, it is a bacteria that can be transmitted through vaginal, anal, and oral sex. It is curable with antibiotics. Reduce your risk to exposure by using male latex condoms.         

Gonorrhea

Ah, the Clap. It is caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae. About 600,000 men and women each year in the US are affected says the CDC. It is also transmitted through vaginal, anal and oral sex. It is curable with antibiotics and to help reduce your risk, use a female or male latex condoms during vaginal or anal intercourse. While transmission through oral sex is rare, it is still beneficial to use some form of a barrier.

Hepatitis B

          Hepatitis is a virus and while it is a liver infection, three types of Hepatitis can be spread sexually; Hepatitis B is the most common. Usually we are inoculated with the Hepatitis B vaccine as a requirement to attend school. It is quite contagious and can be passed through semen, vaginal fluids, blood and urine. Protect yourself by getting vaccinated if you haven’t already and use a male or female condom during intercourse.

Herpes

          Herpes is a very common infection in the US. The most common form is oral herpes followed by genital herpes, more commonly known as just herpes. The symptoms may come and go, but you will always be a carrier of the virus. It can be acquired through common activities like touching and kissing but it can also be transmitted sexually via vaginal, anal, and oral sex. And, even if the partner has no symptoms! Herpes is especially contagious when there are open sores present. To protect yourself from getting herpes, use a condom to limit your risk for exposure. If you have active sores, planned parenthood recommends to abstain from any sexual contact until seven days after the sores heal because the virus can be spread to areas that are not protected by a condom. While there is no cure, you can help lessen your outbreak time and there are also medications to help reduce the number of outbreaks.

HIV & AIDS

          HIV is the abbreviation for the human immunodeficiency virus. It is this virus that causes people to get AIDS, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome. The virus can be passed through blood, semen, including pre-ejaculate, breast milk, vaginal fluid, and contaminated needles. Avoid using contaminated needles and do not engage in intercourse without a condom. Transmission through oral sex is debated because an open wound or sore is needed to come in contact with infected fluid. So unless you have a mouth wound or dental work recently, technically you are less likely to contract it, but, the transmission risk is still there. There is no cure for AIDS yet, but it is not a death sentence like it used to be. With medication, people can still live out full lives while managing their symptoms.

HPV

HPV stands for human papillomavirus. The CDC tells us that there are 40 types of HPV that can infect genital areas including the vulva, vagina, cervix, rectum, anus, penis, or scrotum. Some forms of HPV cause genital warts which are very contagious in their own right. HPV has also been known to cause cervical cancer, but by getting vaccinated against the virus, you can reduce your risk. It is transmitted through skin to skin contact so use a condom or a barrier like a dental dam to avoid exposure during oral sex and intercourse.      

Pubic Lice

          The species of louse that can inhabit the pubic region is Phthirus pubis, more commonly known as crabs. The lice can be spread from sharing towels with someone infected or coming into contact with their skin. They can be rid of by using medication that is usually in the form of a shampoo. Multiple applications may be necessary. And contrary to popular belief, shaving will not rid you of a crab infestation.

Syphilis

The bacterium responsible for this STI is Treponema pallidum. It is transmitted when there is direct contact to a syphilis sore and can infect the external genetalia, anus, rectum, even your lips and in your mouth! If caught early enough, within the first year, syphilis can be cured with a single dose of penicillin. Protect yourself with the use of a female or male latex condom.

Planned Parenthood and the health department offer free STI/HIV testing. Check in your town to find out where they are and get tested. It’s painless and it’s great to know, especially when you’re having the talk with a new play partner. For those of you who think that having that talk is a mood killer, imagine how bummed out you’d feel if you actually got something.

Be proactive, not reactive. And if prescribed antibiotics, ALWAYS remember to take your prescription all the way through! Don’t stop half way because you are starting to feel better, you don’t want to build up a resistancy to the medication and have something like antibiotic resistant gonorrhea!

This wasn’t written to spread doom and gloom. It was written to make everyone more aware of what can happen to you and how to be responsible for your sexuality. Be safe, be smart, have fun, and remember to always talk before engaging sexually with a new partner. Ask when the last time they were tested and if they had anything, ask if it has been resolved.

Many thanks to the CDC and Planned Parenthood for their facts. They are great resources to learn more about a specific STI, but in no way should be used in lieu of seeing a doctor! Happy safer sex! And as always, everything is OK here.