Linkage to Care Social Media Takeover: STI Blog

Ryan White

The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program was named for a courageous young man named Ryan White who was diagnosed with AIDS following a blood transfusion in December 1984. Ryan White was diagnosed at age 13 while living in Kokomo, Indiana and was given six months to live. When Ryan White tried to return to school, he fought AIDS-related discrimination in his Indiana community. Along with his mother Jeanne White Ginder, Ryan White rallied for his right to attend school – gaining national attention – and became the face of public education about his disease. Surprising his doctors, Ryan White lived five years longer than predicted. He died in April 1990, one month before his high school graduation and only months before Congress passed the legislation bearing his name in August 1990 – the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act.  

HIV 

What is HIV? 

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It weakens a person’s immune system by destroying important cells that fight disease and infection. 

Who has HIV? 

Some groups of people in the United States are more likely to get HIV than others because of many factors, including their sex partners, their risk behaviors, and where they live. An estimated 1.1 million people in the United States had HIV at the end of 2016. In 2018, gay, bisexual, and other MSM accounted for 69% of all new HIV diagnoses in the United States and 6 dependent areas. In the same year, heterosexuals made up 24% of all HIV diagnoses.  

Symptoms 

The only way to know for sure whether you have HIV is to get tested. Some people may experience a flu-like illness within 2 to 4 weeks after infection, flu-like symptoms include fever, chills, rash, night sweats, muscle aches, sore throat, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, or mouth ulcers. These symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks. 

How do you get HIV? 

Only certain body fluids—blood, semen (cum), pre-seminal fluid (pre-cum), rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk—from a person who has HIV can transmit HIV. Having anal or vaginal sex with someone who has HIV without using a condom or taking medicines to prevent or treat HIV. Sharing needles or syringes, rinse water, or other equipment (works) used to prepare drugs for injection with someone who has HIV. 

Testing & Treatment 

CDC recommends everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once. People at higher risk should get tested more often. If you were HIV-negative the last time you were tested, the test was more than one year ago, and you can answer yes to any of the following questions, then you should get an HIV test as soon as possible: 

  • 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? 
  • Have you injected drugs and shared needles, syringes, or other drug injection equipment (for example, cookers) with others? 
  • Have you exchanged sex for drugs or money? 
  • Have you been diagnosed with or treated for another sexually transmitted disease? 
  • Have you been diagnosed with or treated for hepatitis or tuberculosis (TB)? 
  • Have you had sex with someone who could answer yes to any of the above questions or someone whose sexual history you don’t know? 

You should be tested at least once a year if you keep doing any of these things. Sexually active gay and bisexual men may benefit from more frequent testing (for example, every 3 to 6 months). 

  • There are three types of tests available: nucleic acid tests (NAT), antigen/antibody tests, and antibody tests.  
  • HIV tests are typically performed on blood or oral fluid. Laboratory tests (NAT and antigen/antibody) require blood to be drawn from your vein into a tube and then that blood is sent to a laboratory for testing. 
  • The results may take several days to be available. With a rapid antibody screening test, usually done with blood from a finger prick or with oral fluid, results are ready in 30 minutes or less.  
  • The rapid antigen/antibody test is done with a finger prick and takes 30 minutes or less.  
  • The oral fluid antibody self-test provides results a quickly as 20 minutes. It is important that you start medical care and begin HIV treatment as soon as you are diagnosed with HIV. 
  • Antiretroviral therapy or ART (taking medicine to treat HIV infection) is recommended for all people with HIV, regardless of how long they’ve had the virus or how healthy they are.  
  • HIV medicine works by lowering the amount of virus in your body to very low levels. HIV medicine can make the viral load so low that a test can’t detect it (called an undetectable viral load). HIV medicine slows the progression of HIV and helps protect your immune system. If you take HIV medicine as prescribed and get and keep an undetectable viral load, you can stay healthy for many years.  Having an undetectable viral load also helps prevent transmitting the virus to others.  

How Are We Related Again?

Those who have an STI may be at greater risk for HIV. When you contract an STI, you are 3-5 times more likely to contract HIV. Why, do you ask? Because although you may be cured from said STI, cells are still broken down, which HIV tends to target. According to the CDC in the US, both syphilis and HIV are highly concentrated epidemics among men who have sex with men (MSM). In 2018, MSM accounted for 77.6% of all primary and secondary syphilis cases among males in which sex of sex partner was known.  The CDC states that these activities increase risk for STI’s and HIV.  

  • Having anal, vaginal, or oral sex without a condom 
  • Having multiple sex partners 
  • Having anonymous sex partners. 
  • Having sex while under the influence of drugs or alcohol can lower inhibitions and result in greater sexual risk taking. 

In order to prevent this, we at Heart to Hand Inc., recommend that you get tested every 3-6 months. If you’re on treatment for an STI complete the treatment before engaging in sexual activities again, lastly use protection, decide if you’re a good candidate for PrEP and use condoms! 

 The Truth About STI’s  

HPV

What is HPV 

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the name of a group of viruses that infect the skin. There are more than 100 different types of HPV. Certain types of HPV cause warts on the hands or feet, and other types can cause warts on the genitals. (CDC, The American Sexual Health Association) 

Who has HPV? 

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a very common STD, with an estimated 80 percent of sexually active people contracting it at some point in their lives; 14 million new infections occur yearly in the United States. About 79 million people — both men and women — are thought to have an active HPV infection at any given time. (The American Sexual Health Association) 

Symptoms 

Some people have no symptoms. Many people who have HPV get blisters or sores on their lips, or inside the vagina, penis, thighs, or buttocks. 

How do you get HPVs? 

Skin to skin touching with infected areas can pass along HPV even if the person who has it doesn’t have any visible sores or other symptoms.  

Testing? 

  • Pap Smear for women. 

Treatment? 

  • In late 2018 the FDA approved use of the Gardasil-9 HPV vaccine in males and females ages 27-45, expanding the previous indication that covered from ages 9-26. However, for those 15 and older, a full three-dose series is needed. 
  • Cryotherapy (freezing off the wart with liquid nitrogen). This can be relatively inexpensive but must be done by a trained healthcare provider. 
  • Podophyllin (a chemical compound that must be applied by a healthcare provider). This is an older treatment and is not as widely used today. 
  • TCA (trichloracetic acid) is another chemical applied to the surface of the wart by a healthcare provider. 
  • Cutting off warts. This has the advantage of getting rid of warts in a single office visit. 
  • Electrocautery (burning off warts with an electrical current) 
  • Laser therapy (using an intense light to destroy warts).  This is used for larger or extensive warts, especially those that have not responded well to other treatments. Laser can also cost a lot of money. Most healthcare provider do not have lasers in their office and the provider must be well-trained with this method. 
  • Interferon (a substance injected into the wart). This is rarely used anymore due to extensive side effects and high cost. Less expensive therapies work just as well with fewer side effects. 

http://www.ashasexualhealth.org/stdsstis/hpv/genital-warts/ 

Herpes 

What is Herpes? 

Herpes is an infection caused by a virus, either herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) or herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2).  Genital herpes infections are caused by HSV-2 and oral herpes are caused by HSV-1 but either virus type 1 or type 2 can cause blisters or sores known as genital herpes. CDC does not recommend herpes testing for people without symptoms. Testing can be done through a blood test. 

Who has the virus herpes? 

About 1 in 6 people between 14 and 49 are infected. Almost 90% of people are unaware that they have the virus (Centers for Disease Control US). 

Symptoms 

Some people have no symptoms. Many people who have herpes get blisters or sores on their lips, or inside the vagina, penis, thighs, or buttocks. 

Treatment 

There are three major drugs commonly used to treat genital herpes symptoms: acyclovir (Zovirax), famciclovir (Famvir), and valacyclovir (Valtrex). These are all taken in pill form. Severe cases may be treated with the intravenous (IV) drug acyclovir.  

How do you get herpes? 

Skin to skin touching with infected areas can pass along herpes even if the person who has it doesn’t have any visible sores or other symptoms. Once, you have herpes the virus is always in your body.  

Syphilis 

What is Syphilis? 

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum that can have very serious complications when left untreated, but it is simple to cure with the right treatment.  

Who has Syphilis? 

Everyone: MSM, pregnant women, person living with HIV 

Symptoms 

Sore/s, skin rash, swollen lymph nodes, and fever. 

How do you get Syphilis? 

You can get syphilis by direct contact with a syphilis sore during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. You can find sores on or around the penis, vagina, or anus, or in the rectum, on the lips, or in the mouth. Syphilis can spread from an infected mother to her unborn baby. 

Testing & Treatment 

Syphilis can be cured with the right antibiotics. However, treatment will not undo any damage that the infection has already caused. There are no home remedies or over-the-counter drugs that will cure syphilis, but syphilis is easy to cure in its early stages. A single intramuscular injection of long acting Benzathine penicillin G will cure a person who has primary, secondary or early latent syphilis. Persons who receive syphilis treatment must abstain from sexual contact with new partners until the syphilis sores are completely healed. Persons with syphilis must notify their sex partners so that they also can be tested and receive treatment if necessary. Any person with signs or symptoms suggestive of syphilis should be tested for syphilis. Also, anyone with an oral, anal, or vaginal sex partner who has been recently diagnosed with syphilis should be tested for syphilis. Some people should be tested (screened) for syphilis even if they do not have symptoms or know of a sex partner who has syphilis.  

Chlamydia

What is Chlamydia? 

Commonly known as chlamydia, which can manifest in various ways, including: trachomalymphogranuloma venereumnongonococcal urethritiscervicitissalpingitispelvic inflammatory diseaseC. trachomatis is the most common infectious cause of blindness and the bacteria that cause chlamydia usually infects a woman’s cervix or it may infect the urethra in both. 

Who has Chlamydia? 

A lot of people have chlamydia – as many as 1 in 10 young women test positive for it. In 2016, over 1 and a half million cases of chlamydia were reported to the CDC in the US. In California alone, there were almost 200,000 reported cases of chlamydia (Centers for Disease Control, United States). 

Symptoms 

Most people who have it don’t know because they don’t have symptoms. Among young women, chlamydia is sometimes called the “Silent Epidemic” because it causes so much damage in so many people without even showing any symptoms. A few people might have a thick yellow or clear discharge from the penis or vagina, pain or burning when they pee, or pain or bleeding during sex. 

How do you get Chlamydia? 

You can get chlamydia from any type of sex. Chlamydia infections like to live in the type of tissue that lines the openings of your body – like the vagina, the urethra, the rectum, or the throat. It can get passed between two people any time these tissues come together – which happens most often during unprotected vaginal or anal sex. It’s less common – but not impossible – to get chlamydia from oral sex. 

How do you get tested? 

Clinicians can do a simple and painless urine test to find out if you have chlamydia. They may also collect a swab sample from the vagina, cervix, urethra or rectum during a physical exam. 

Treatments 

Chlamydia can be cured with antibiotics. The best way to cure chlamydia and keep from infecting your partners, is to avoid sex for seven (7) days, until the antibiotics have done their job. If you do end up having sex while the antibiotics are still working, it is really important to use a condom or else its likely the medicine you took won’t work. If you got medication to take at home make sure you take all the pills, even if you start to feel better – otherwise the infection might not go away completely. 

Gonorrhea 

What is Gonorrhea? 

Gonorrhea is a common STD, especially among teens and people in their 20s. Sometimes called “the clap” or “the drip.” Gonorrhea may not show symptoms. If left untreated, it can cause infertility and pain in both women and men. However, once diagnosed, it is easily cured with antibiotics. 

Who has Gonorrhea? 

Among males, the rate was highest among those aged 20–24 years (705.2 cases per 100,000 males) and 25–29 years (645.9 cases per 100,000 males). In 2017, persons aged 15–44 years accounted for 91.8% of reported gonorrhea cases with known age (Centers for Disease Control, United States). 

Symptoms 

Like most STDs, gonorrhea often does not show any symptoms, or the signs may be so mild you don’t even notice them. The only way to know is to get tested. 

When symptoms do appear, it is usually within a week of infection and may include: pain or burning when peeing, abnormal discharge from the vagina or penis, and pain or swelling in the testicles. 

Gonorrhea can also infect the anus if you have anal sex, or may spread to the anus from another part of the body (for example, by wiping after using the bathroom). Anal gonorrhea often does not have any symptoms, but signs can include itching in or around the anus, discharge from the anus, or pain when pooping. 

How do you get Gonorrhea? 

Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection usually transmitted during vaginal, anal or oral sex. It is spread when semen (cum), pre-cum, or vaginal fluids get on or inside the genitals, anus or mouth. Gonorrhea can be passed even if the penis does not go all the way in the vagina or anus. 

Gonorrhea can also be passed to a baby during birth if the mother has it and is not treated. 

When used consistently and correctly, condoms protect against gonorrhea and many other STDs. 

How do you get tested? 

There are different tests for gonorrhea. It can be as simple and easy as peeing in a cup. Some healthcare providers might use a swab (like a big Q-tip) to take cell samples from the penis, cervix, urethra, anus or throat. The samples are tested for gonorrhea bacteria. 

Treatments 

Gonorrhea can be easily cured with antibiotics prescribed by a healthcare provider.

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