What Can I Do To Prevent Getting Stds And Hiv
The only 100% effective way to avoid STDs is to not have vaginal, anal, or oral sex. If you are sexually active, you can do the following things to lower your chances of getting STDs and HIV:
- Choose less risky sex activities
- Use a new condom, consistently and correctly, for every act of vaginal, anal, and oral sex throughout the entire sex act
- Reduce the number of people with whom you have sex
- Limit or eliminate drug and alcohol use before and during sex
- Have an honest and open talk with your healthcare provider and ask whether you should be tested for STDs and HIV
- Talk to your healthcare provider and find out if either pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, or post-exposure prophylaxis, or PEP, is a good option for you to prevent HIV infection.
Who Does Hiv Affect
Its a myth that HIV only infects certain people. Anyone can get HIV if theyre exposed to the virus. Having sex without a condom or sharing needles to inject drugs are the most common ways that HIV spreads.
Some populations are statistically more affected by HIV than others. Groups disproportionately affected by HIV include:
- People who identify as gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men .
- Certain races such as people who are Black or Hispanic.
- Those who exchange sex for money or other items are also at high risk for HIV infection.
While these arent the only populations impacted by HIV, its important to consider that they face unique barriers to accessing preventative care, getting tested, and receiving comprehensive treatment. Homophobia, racism, poverty, and social stigmas around HIV continue to drive inequities and keep people from accessing high-quality healthcare.
How Is Hiv Spread
HIV is spread through the exchange of particular bodily fluids like semen, breast milk, and blood.
Important: The most common way HIV spreads is through sexual intercourse. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 138 people per 10,000 exposures are at risk of getting HIV through receptive anal sex.
Other common ways in which you can be infected with HIV include:
- Anal sex: Anal sex is the riskiest type of sex to have with a person who has HIV. It becomes even riskier if you are on the receiving end during intercourse. This is because the lining of the rectum is very thin, and can allow the virus to easily pass through.
- Penetrative vaginal sex: This is not as risky as anal sex, but is still a very common way for the virus to be spread. Here either party can contract the virus.
- Sharing needles and syringes: Sharing needles and syringes for steroids, drugs, or hormones with a person who has HIV puts you at high risk of getting the virus.
- Through pregnancy and breastfeeding: HIV can sometimes be passed from a mother to her baby through pregnancy and breastfeeding. This is known as perinatal transmission. It’s uncommon for this to occur if the mother is aware of her status and is receiving adequate treatment.
HIV can also be spread in other ways. However, these are rarer:
Can You Get Hiv From Kissing
Since HIV is not spread through spit, kissing is not a common way to get infected. In certain situations where other body fluids are shared, such as if both people have open sores in their mouths or bleeding gums, there is a chance you could get HIV from deep, open-mouthed kissing.
You also dont get HIV from:
- Touching or hugging someone who has HIV/AIDS.
- Public bathrooms or swimming pools.
- Sharing cups, utensils or telephones with someone who has HIV/AIDS.
- Bug bites.
- Donating blood.
More On Safer Sex At Thebodycom
To find out more about safer sex, we recommend the following articles:
- Getting to the Bottom of It: Anal Sex, Rectal Fluid and HIV Transmission
- HIV Transmission Risk
In addition, our Q& A experts sometimes address questions about safer sex in our “Ask the Experts” forums. Here are some of those questions and our experts’ responses:
- Can you get HIV if you had unprotected sex without any semen coming outMe and my friend were just fooling around and we had unprotected sex. No semen entered either of our bodies as we both ejaculated on the floor.
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There Needs To Be Enough Virus
The concentration of HIV determines whether infection will occur. In blood, for example, the virus is very concentrated. A small amount of blood is enough to infect someone. The concentration of virus in blood or other fluids can change, in the same person, over time. People who take HIV medications as prescribed can have very low quantities of HIV present in bodily fluids, greatly reducing the risk of transmitting HIV to their partners.
It is important to note that HIV is a very fragile virus that will die quickly when exposed to light and air. Exposure to small amounts of dried blood or other infectious fluids is not a realistic risk for HIV transmission.
A Sexually Transmitted Infection
Katie Salerno/Flickr Creative Commons
If you have a sexually transmitted infection , there is a chance you may have HIV as well. The odds may be greater than you think.
Some STIs like syphilis and herpes cause open sores that make it easier for HIV to enter the body. Others like gonorrhea and chlamydia cause inflammation in the genitals that attracts the very immune cells that HIV likes to target and infect.
Having syphilis can increase your risk of HIV by as much as 500%. Other STIs can do the same. Because of this, you should be tested for HIV if you test positive for any STI.
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How Is Hiv/aids Transmitted
Sexual contact – HIV is spread most commonly by sexual contact with an infected partner. The virus enters the body through the lining of the vagina, vulva, penis, rectum, or mouth during sexual activity.
Blood contamination – HIV may also be spread through contact with infected blood. However, due to the screening of blood for evidence of HIV infection, the risk of acquiring HIV from blood transfusions is extremely low.
Needles – HIV is frequently spread by sharing needles, syringes, or drug use equipment with someone who is infected with the virus. Transmission from patient to healthcare worker, or vice-versa through accidental sticks with contaminated needles or other medical instruments, is rare.
Mother-infant – HIV also can be spread to babies born to, or breastfed by, mothers infected with the virus.
Learn more about:
Hiv: How Its Not Transmitted
The following are nine ways the virus is not spread:
Kissing and touching. Social kissing and hugging pose no risk of transmission, Sha says. Also, being sexual with someone without exchanging infected body fluids does not spread the virus. The only time deep kissing is a risk is when the person infected with HIV has open sores or oral bleeding, Sha notes.
Sharing a living space. Any casual contact with someone who has HIV, including sharing a bathroom, is safe. However, Sha tells patients not to share razor blades or toothbrushes. If someone who is infected nicks himself while shaving or has bleeding gums, it could increase risk of transmission.
Sharing food or utensils. The virus cannot survive on surfaces, so sharing utensils and other household items will not spread HIV. You can even share a meal with someone who is infected without worry. Transmission has been associated with mothers pre-chewing food for their babies, when infected blood from the mouth mixes with the food. Known as pre-mastication, it is a common practice in Africa, but not typically done in the United States, Sha says.
Saliva, sweat, or tears. An infected persons saliva, sweat, and tears do not put you at risk.
Water fountains. Sipping from a water fountain after someone who has HIV used it is considered casual contact and will not lead to transmission.
Mosquitoes and other insects. The virus is not viable in insects or ticks, Sha says.
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How Can I Know If I Have Hiv
You cant tell if someone has HIV just by looking at them, and you may not have any symptoms if youre infected by HIV. The only way to know if you have HIV is to take an HIV test.
Since nearly 1 out of 7 people with HIV dont know it, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention recommends screening people between the ages of 13 to 64 at least once as part of routine healthcare. This test is voluntary and confidential.
What You Can Do
Get tested for HIV. CDC recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care. People with certain risk factors should get tested at least once a year.
If you were HIV-negative the last time you were tested and answer yes to any of the following questions, you should get an HIV test because these things inc rease your chances of getting HIV.
- Are you a man who has had sex with another man?
- Have you had sex —anal or vaginal— with a partner who has HIV?
- Have you had more than one sex partner since your last HIV test?
- Do you have another sexually transmitted disease ?
- Do you have hepatitis or tuberculosis ?
- Have you had sex with someone who could answer yes to any of these questions or someone whose sexual history you dont know?
You should be tested at least once a year if you answered yes to any of these questions. Sexually active gay and bisexual men may benefit from more frequent testing , depending on their risk.
If you think youve recently been exposed to HIV during sex or through sharing needles, syringes, or other injection equipment , talk to your health care provider or an emergency room doctor right away about taking post-exposure prophylaxis . You must start PEP within 72 hours of a possible exposure, but the sooner you start PEP, the better.
Also, anyone who has been sexually assaulted should get an HIV test as soon as possible after the assault.
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How Do I Take Care Of Myself With Hiv
The best way to take care of yourself while living with HIV is to follow your treatment plan.
- Make sure to take your medications as prescribed and on time.
- Show up to all appointments so your healthcare team can monitor how youre feeling and know if theres a need to adjust your treatment.
- Follow your healthcare providers recommendations on how to avoid additional illnesses.
Blood Transfusions And Organ Donation
The risk of contracting HIV from a blood transfusion, other blood products, or organ donation is now extremely rare in the United States. All donated blood or blood products in the United States are for several types of bloodborne pathogens, including HIV.
Organ donations are also screened for HIV. Although very rare, its possible for HIV transmission to occur following an organ transplant.
However, testing of organ recipients after surgery can quickly detect transmission so that antiretroviral medications can be started promptly.
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Sudden Unexplained Weight Loss
National Human Genome Research Institute
Weight loss is common in people living with HIV during the advanced stages of the disease. This is not about the loss of just a few pounds. This is the sudden, unexplained loss of 10% or more, in which both fat mass and lean muscle are lost.
Also known as HIV wasting syndrome, the condition is seen less often today due to the use of antiretroviral drugs that keep the virus suppressed and allow the immune system to rebuild itself. Wasting is mainly seen in people who have not been treated for HIV.
The exact cause of HIV wasting is unknown, but it is thought that the constant inflammation caused by HIV increases the speed at which energy is burnt and reduces testosterone levels needed to build lean muscle.
Other common causes of wasting include malnutrition, chronic diarrhea, tuberculosis, and cancer, all of which require urgent diagnosis and treatment.
Is Hiv/aids Different In Older Adults
A growing number of older people are living with HIV/AIDS. One reason is because improved treatments are helping people with the disease live longer. Nearly half of people living with HIV in the United States are age 50 and older. Many of them were diagnosed with HIV in their younger years. However, thousands of older people get HIV every year.
Older people are less likely than younger people to get tested, so they may not know they have HIV. Signs of HIV/AIDS can be mistaken for the aches and pains of normal aging. Older adults might be coping with other diseases and the aches and pains of normal aging, which can mask the signs of HIV/AIDS.
Some older people may feel ashamed or afraid of being tested. Plus, doctors do not always think to test older people for HIV. Some people may not have access to high-quality health facilities and services, which can limit their treatment options. By the time the older person is diagnosed, the virus may be in the late stages and more likely to progress to AIDS.
Remember, if you are at risk, get tested regularly for HIV.
For people who have HIV, it is important to start treatment as soon as possible after diagnosis. Treatment can help reduce the level of HIV in the blood to undetectable levels. When treatment makes HIV undetectable, the possibility of spreading the virus to a sexual partner becomes very low. This is known as treatment as prevention .
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What Are The Stages Of Hiv
HIV has three stages:
Stage 1: Acute HIV
Some people get flu-like symptoms a month or two after theyve been infected with HIV. These symptoms often go away within a week to a month.
Stage 2: Chronic stage/clinical latency
After the acute stage, you can have HIV for many years without feeling sick. It’s important to know that you can still spread HIV to others even if you feel well.
Stage 3: AIDS
AIDS is the most serious stage of HIV infection. In this stage, HIV has severely weakened your immune system and opportunistic infections are much more likely to make you sick.
Opportunistic infections are ones that someone with a healthy immune system could typically fight off. When HIV has advanced to AIDS, these illnesses take advantage of your weakened immune system.
Youre more likely to get certain cancers when you have AIDS. These cancers and opportunistic infections together are called AIDS-defining illnesses.
To be diagnosed with AIDS, you must be infected with HIV and have at least one of the following:
- Fewer than 200 CD4 cells per cubic millimeter of blood .
- An AIDS-defining illness.
When Is Hiv Most Infectious
HIV is most infectious in the first one to four weeks after infection. In the early stages of infection, the amount of HIV in your blood is high so youâre more likely to pass the virus onto others. At this time, many people are unaware of their status which is why itâs a good idea to always use condoms or PrEP to keep you and your sexual partners safe.
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How Do You Feel When You Have Hiv
Around two to four weeks after getting human immunodeficiency virus , the patient may experience the following symptoms
- Upset stomach
- Joint aches and pains
As the disease progresses, the patient may remain symptomless for quite some time. This stage is also known as clinical latency. During this stage, the virus multiplies at a low level. Without treatment, the patient may remain in this stage for 10 to 15 years. However, the virus remains active during this stage.
If left untreated, HIV progresses to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome . AIDS can weaken the immune system causing several opportunistic diseases. The patient may experience the following severe symptoms in this stage:
- Prolonged swelling of the lymph glands in the armpits, groin or neck
- Diarrhea that lasts for more than a week
- Sores of the mouth, anus or genitals
Hiv: How Its Transmitted
HIV is spread through certain body fluids, such as blood, semen , rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services AIDS.gov website. The virus can be transmitted when these fluids in an infected person come into contact with mucous membranes in the rectum, vagina, penis, or mouth of another person.
While HIV can be spread during anal or vaginal sex, anal sex is riskier because there is more trauma and irritation to the mucous membranes, says Beverly Sha, MD, professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.
Although the risk is low, HIV can also be spread through oral sex. HIV transmission can happen during ejaculation into the mouth, or if there are mouth ulcers, bleeding gums, genital sores, or other sexually transmitted diseases present, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Using condoms during sex lowers the risk of HIV transmission. When they are used properly, its clear they offer significant protection, Dr. Sha says. However, condoms can fail when they break, if theyre too old, or if they are not used correctly.
The virus can also spread if infected fluids come into contact with damaged tissue, such as a cut in the skin, or if infected blood is transferred from a needle or syringe. Doing injection drugs with someone who is infected and sharing equipment is high risk. HIV can be found in a used needle for as long as 42 days.
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