HIV Diagnosis and Treatment
Early diagnosis and treatment of STIs can help you avoid complications and can also help prevent the spread of infection. If you are sexually active, be alert and seek treatment for any sign or symptom of disease, such as a rash, a discharge, sores, or unusual pain. Many STIs can be asymptomatic, however, so a professional examination and testing are recommended following any risky sexual encounter even in the absence of symptoms.
The only sure way to avoid exposure to STIs is to abstain from sexual activity. If you choose to be sexually active, think about prevention before you have a sexual encounter or find yourself in the “heat of the moment.” Plan ahead for safer
Have you ever engaged in sexual activities you regretted later? If so, what were the circumstances, and what influenced you to act the way you did? Were there any negative consequences? What preventive strategies can you use in the future to make sure it doesn’t happen again? sex. For tips and strategies, see the box “Protecting Yourself from STIs.” Remember that asking questions and being aware of signs and symptoms show that you care about yourself and your partner. Concern about STIs is an essential and mutually beneficial part of a sexual relationship.
If you are diagnosed as having an STI, begin treatment as quickly as possible. Inform your partner(s) and avoid any sexual activity until your treatment is complete.
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TIPS FOR TODAY AND THE FUTURE
Because STIs can have serious, long-term effects, it is important to be vigilant about exposure, treatment, and prevention.
RIGHT NOW YOU CAN
Make an appointment with your health care provider if you are worried about possible STI infection. i Resolve to discuss condom use with your partner if you are sexually active and are not already using condoms.
IN THE FUTURE YOU CAN
Learn how to communicate effectively with a partner who resists safer sex practices or is reluctant to discuss his or her sexual history. Support groups and classes can help.
Make sure all your vaccinations are up-to-date; ask your doctor if you should be vaccinated against any STIs. Follow instructions for treatment carefully and complete all the medication as prescribed.
• HIV damages the immune system and causes AIDS. People with AIDS are vulnerable to often-fatal opportunistic infections.
• HIV is carried in blood and blood products, semen, vaginal and cervical secretions, and breast milk; it is transmitted through the exchange of these fluids.
• Drugs have been developed to slow the course of HIV infection and to prevent or treat certain secondary infections, but there is no cure.
• Chlamydia is a bacterial infection that causes epididymitis and urethritis in men and can lead to PID in women.
• Untreated, gonorrhea can cause PID in women and epididymitis in men, leading to infertility. In infants, untreated gonorrhea can cause blindness.
• Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), a complication of untreated chlamydia or gonorrhea, is an infection of the uterus and oviducts that may extend to the ovaries and pelvic cavity. It can lead to infertility, ectopic pregnancy, and chronic pelvic pain.
• Genital warts, caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), are associated with cervical cancer. Treatment does not eradicate the virus, but vaccines are available, recommended for everyone age 9-26.
• Genital herpes is a common incurable viral infection characterized by outbreaks of lesions and periods of latency.
• Hepatitis B is a viral infection of the liver transmitted through sexual and nonsexual contact. Some people become chronic carriers of the virus and may develop serious, potentially fatal, complications.
• Syphilis is a highly contagious bacterial infection that can be treated with antibiotics. If left untreated, it can lead to deterioration of the central nervous system and death.
• Other common STIs include trichomoniasis, bacterial vaginosis, lymphogranuloma venereum, and pubic lice and scabies.
• Successful diagnosis and treatment of STIs involves being alert for symptoms, getting tested, informing partners, and following treatment instructions.
• All STIs are preventable; the key is practicing responsible sexual behaviors.
American Social Health Association (ASHA). Provides information and referrals on STIs; sponsors support groups for people with herpes and HPV. http://www.ashaSTI.org
The Body: The Complete HIV/AIDS Resource. Provides information about prevention, testing, and treatment, and includes an online risk assessment.
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