The Link Between HIV and STDs

Lake Conway: How HIV is Transmitted

Disclaimer: Not medical or professional advice.

According to the World Health Organization, the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are trichomoniasis, chlamydia, human papillomavirus (HPV), gonorrhea, and herpes. The WHO estimates that more than 1 million people acquire sexually transmitted infections every day. Although HIV infection belongs to this group of diseases, it has a distinctive feature. There is no cure for HIV. In most cases, STIs enter the body along with HIV and occur together.
HIV is a slow-progressing infection caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). To reproduce and spread throughout the body, HIV infects CD4 cells and T-lymphocytes. These cells are responsible for killing viruses in the human body.

Facts about HIV and STDs

  • HIV is an unstable virus that dies outside the human body. Also, it cannot survive at temperatures above 132.8 F
  • HIV is not the most contagious virus. For example, the risk of getting HIV through unprotected heterosexual intercourse is about 1 in 900.
  • HIV can be found in all body fluids of an infected person. However, only blood, semen, precum, vaginal fluids, and breast milk can contain enough HIV to infect someone. The virus cannot be passed on through saliva, sweat, or urine.
  • Risky sexual behavior can lead to concurrent transmission of HIV and STIs. If a person is infected with gonorrhea, hepatitis B, or another STI, it suggests that they had sexual intercourse with an HIV-positive partner. Therefore, it is recommended to do tests for common STIs since people with one STI have a relatively high chance of having another one.
  • STDs can increase a person's vulnerability to HIV. STDs that cause ulcers or inflammation act as doorways for HIV to enter the bloodstream. A person with these symptoms is more vulnerable to HIV.
  • People who have both an STD and HIV are more likely to spread HIV to their partners. Studies have shown that the concentration of HIV in semen dramatically increases in men with gonorrhea and chlamydia. However, antibiotic treatment helps to bring the virus back down to its previous level.
  • STDs and HIV do not always cause symptoms. Even if a person has no symptoms, it is still possible to pass the disease on to other people.

How HIV is Transmitted

  • Unprotected anal or vaginal sex.
  • Sharing non-sterile injection equipment.
  • Sharing non-sterile tattoo or body-piercing equipment.
  • From an HIV-positive mother to the child (the transmission can occur during pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding).

Anyone can get HIV, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, economic status, or membership in social groups.
The chances of contracting HIV or any other sexually transmitted disease are proportional to the number of sexual partners. In addition, not all HIV-positive people take responsibility for their health and inform their partners about their HIV status. Some experience the so-called window period and do not know that they are already infected.

Prevention of HIV

Lake Conway: Prevention of HIV

HIV Testing

  • You should start taking HIV antiretroviral therapy as soon as you are diagnosed to minimize the risk of getting HIV-associated conditions and protect your sexual partner from infection.
  • If you test positive for HIV, you should seek advice and support from your physician.
  • The sooner you are diagnosed and begin HIV antiretroviral treatment, the better your chances of maintaining health.

No test can detect HIV immediately after exposure. The period of time between exposure to HIV infection and the production of antibodies is called the window period. The length of the window period varies depending on the properties of the virus and the characteristics of the human body.
Most tests do not detect HIV but the presence of antibodies. The immune system begins to produce them after the virus enters the body. Approximately 97% of people will develop detectable antibodies within 3–12 weeks of contracting HIV.

Pre-exposure Prophylaxis of HIV

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is the medicine that prevents getting the infection through contact with an HIV-positive partner. Depending on the regimen, the effectiveness of PrEP ranges from 90 to 99%.
The two medications that make up PrEP block the virus's ability to start to multiply. If the person taking PrEP is exposed to HIV, the virus goes through its normal life cycle and dies without causing harm.

PrEP is commonly recommended for people who inject drugs, men who have sex with men, and sexually active people with multiple partners, especially if they do not always use condoms. Also, a physician may prescribe PrEP for a woman planning to get pregnant with a partner who is HIV-positive.

Post-exposure Prophylaxis for HIV

Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is a combination of antiretroviral medications taken in high doses. It is prescribed to.
●    Victims of sexual assault, if the fact of violence is proven.
●    Physicians and laboratory workers after accidental exposure to a potentially-contaminated instrument (a needle stick prick or cut with a scalpel).
●    An HIV-negative partner in a discordant couple (for example, if the condom breaks).

Timing is the key factor. Post-exposure prophylaxis should be initiated as soon as possible, ideally within the first 3 hours and no later than 72 hours after the exposure.
Medicines stop HIV from replicating and spreading through the body. Therefore, if you think you were exposed to HIV, you should consult a physician as soon as possible.

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