There’s a lot you can do to reduce the chances of HIV/STD transmission. Need a plan that’s right for you? Call us, or come in to talk it out in person. No prevention method is 100% guaranteed to prevent transmission, so if you’re sexually active it’s important to get tested regularly for HIV and other STDs.
ways to reduce the risk of transmission:
condoms (male condoms)
When used consistently and correctly, condoms are highly effective in stopping HIV transmission. They’re also good at preventing STDs that are transmitted through bodily fluids, such as gonorrhea and chlamydia. However, they provide less protection against STDs spread through skin-to-skin contact like genital warts, genital herpes, and syphilis.
internal condoms (“female condoms”)
Internal condoms were designed for women, but can be used by men too. The internal condom is a latex sheath that you insert into the vagina or rectum before vaginal or anal intercourse. If used correctly, it can block exchange of semen and body fluids thus prevent HIV and STD transmission — and pregnancy too.
Internal condoms can be put in up to two hours before sex, compared to male condoms which are put on just before sex or during foreplay. This can help you feel more prepared and in control of protecting yourself during sex.
PrEP stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. PrEP is a way for people who don’t have HIV to prevent HIV infection by taking a pill every day. The pill contains medicines that have proven effective at preventing HIV infection. If you take PrEP and are exposed to HIV through sex or injection drug use, these medicines can work to keep the virus from taking hold in your body. PrEP is only available by prescription. If you want to know more about PrEP and how to get it, call us at 617-267-0159.
Treatment as prevention (TasP) refers to people living with HIV taking medications to treat HIV as prescribed by their doctor. Studies clearly show that when people with HIV or AIDS take their medications regularly, it dramatically reduces the chances they’ll transmit HIV to others. HIV treatments reduce the amount of HIV in the blood, semen, vaginal fluid and rectal fluid – even to the point where the virus may be virtually undetectable. If you’re HIV positive, it is important that you get connected to a doctor and a medication plan that works for you. Taking your HIV medications as prescribed will help keep you healthy, and also decrease the chances of you transmitting HIV to others.
Studies show that taking drugs normally used to treat HIV infection may prevent infection — if they’re taken soon after exposure. This is called PEP, which stands for post-exposure prophylaxis. PEP should be started no later than 72 hours after an exposure — the sooner the better! It usually requires taking pills every day for 28 days. PEP can be prescribed by a medical provider or at your local emergency room. Call 617-267-0159 for more info.
This doesn’t mean a person has been cured, but rather that the virus is under control for now. Someone with an undetectable viral load is very unlikely to transmit HIV because they don’t have much virus in their blood, semen, vaginal fluids and the linings of their vagina, anus and rectum. However, if they stop taking their treatments their viral load will increase again, and the risk of transmission will increase too. Viral load can vary over time and be affected by certain infections (like chlamydia or gonorrhea) that may cause the viral load to increase. So being undetectable at a certain point doesn’t necessarily mean you are still undetectable today. Regular follow-up is important.
HIV and Hepatitis can be transmitted by sharing needles, syringes, or other injection equipment (e.g., cookers, rinse water, cotton). Injection drugs can also lower inhibitions and increase sexual risk-taking. Using your own sterile equipment every time is safest. Call us at 617-599-0246 we can connect you to a safe place to exchange needles, and hook you up with naloxone to stop an overdose and save a life!
Although the risk of HIV infection from oral sex is fairly low, some other STDs can be easily passed via oral sex, such as Chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes or syphilis. If you already have an STD in your throat your chances of picking up HIV or Hep B may be higher. For oral sex on a man, these risks can be greatly reduced by using a condom during oral sex. For oral/anal sex (“rimming”) or for oral sex on a woman, a latex dental dam can create a barrier between you and your partner’s body fluids. If you want to reduce your risks but don’t want rubber to get in the way, you may want to avoid going down on someone when you have bleeding gums, mouth sores or a sore throat, since these can make it easier for an infection to enter your body. You should avoid getting blood in your mouth and may also want to avoid taking cum into your mouth. Get regular check-ups to find and treat any STDs you may not realize you have. You may also want to learn about Treatment as Prevention and PrEP.
your sexual health
what is HIV?
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It’s a virus that attacks and weakens the immune system. When someone has been infected with HIV, they’re referred to as being “HIV positive”. If untreated, HIV can weaken the body’s defenses against diseases, to the point that AIDS may develop.
There’s no cure yet for HIV or AIDS, but it can be controlled with regular medical care and treatment. Not everyone who is “HIV positive” ends up developing AIDS. People with HIV can lead long and healthy lives. One reason to get tested for HIV regularly is so you can connect with treatment options as soon as possible.
AIDS is a serious illness that can develop in people who are living with HIV – particularly if they don’t get regular HIV treatment. AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. “Acquired” means it’s caused by a viral infection, “Immune Deficiency” means weakness in the body’s system that fights diseases, and “Syndrome” means a whole group of serious health problems that can develop when someone’s immune system is weak.
HIV can be transmitted when blood, semen or vaginal fluids from someone living with HIV gets into the body of someone who doesn’t have it. Most often this happens during sex, or when sharing syringes, needles or works to inject drugs. Sharing syringes, needles or works is highly risky because blood from one user can get directly injected into the bloodstream of anyone who uses after them.
As for sex, some types are more risky than others. The highest risk activity is receiving anal sex (“bottoming”) without a condom. Any activity where a partner’s blood might get into your body is also high risk.
You can also get HIV from being the insertive partner in anal sex (“topping”) without a condom. And HIV can get transmitted in both directions during vaginal intercourse with no condom. The likelihood of HIV transmission during oral sex (giving/getting a blowjob, cunnilingus or oral/anal contact) is believed to be very low, but you can further reduce your risk by avoiding it when there is any blood present or you have open sores or cuts in your mouth.
The chances of HIV transmission go up if the HIV-positive partner is not on HIV treatment or if either partner has another STD or open sores on their genitals.
It’s important to know that some people may have risky sex many times before getting HIV, but others have gotten infected from a single risky act.
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Good sex can be pretty amazing. So don’t let HIV and STDs rain on your parade. Learn how to play safe.
how are other STDs transmitted?
There are lots of other Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs – also called STIs, for Sexually Transmitted Infections). Many of them are easier to transmit than HIV, including through oral sex. Some, like herpes or genital warts, can even be passed just from skin-to-skin contact. It’s important to get checked in every part of the body where you’ve have sexual contact, including the mouth, penis, vagina or anus, even if you don’t notice any symptoms.
Most STDs are easily treated if caught early. Unfortunately, many people don’t seek treatment because they don’t know they have an infection. Others avoid going to the doctor because they’re embarrassed or they don’t recognize the symptoms as warning signs of a serious infection. If left untreated, some STDs can cause severe health problems, and can also cause sores or immune reactions that increase your chances of getting another STD or HIV. And if you don’t get treated, you’re very likely to pass it on to someone else. Talk to your doctor or call us us at 617-267-0159 with your questions or concerns.
“This guy I hooked up with told me he just found out he had syphilis and I should get checked.
I’m glad I did — turns out I had it too and I got it treated right away.”
more about STD symptoms:
Most people with a sexually transmitted infection actually won’t have symptoms. So it’s a good idea to get checked every three months, especially if you’ve had new partners or sex without condoms. That way you can get treated before the infection has a chance to cause problems. And if you have any of the following symptoms, come in right away.
STDs can also cause fevers, headaches, fatigue, diarrhea and other more serious symptoms. If you aren’t feeling right, don’t delay getting medical help.
People who are sexually active are at increased risk for Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B (viruses that can cause serious liver problems if untreated), and for HPV (a virus that causes genital warts and can cause cancer). There are safe and effective vaccines for all of these, so you should strongly consider getting vaccinated. HPV is so common that it makes most sense to get that vaccine before you become sexually active.