What Do I Need to Know About STDs?
Living healthy with HIV includes preventing other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). An STD is an infection that’s passed from person to person through sexual contact. HIV is an example of an STD.
Other types of STDs include:
- Genital herpes,
- Hepatitis B and C,
- Human papilloma virus (HPV), and
The only way to avoid getting other 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 other STDs:
- Choose less risky sexual behaviors
- Use condoms consistently and correctly
- 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 health care provider and ask how frequently you should be tested for STDs.
For people living with HIV, it can be harder to treat STDs. STDs increase your viral load in your genital fluids, and some types of STDs can lower your CD4 count. Because HIV weakens the CD4 cells in the immune system, your body has a harder time fighting off STDs. This also means that if you are living with HIV and also have an STD, you may be able to transmit HIV to your partner(s) even if your viral load is undetectable. In fact, people living HIV who are also infected with another STD are 3 to 5 times as likely as others living with HIV to spread HIV through sexual contact.
It’s important for people with HIV to get tested and treated for other STDs. Being tested and treated for STDs helps you maintain good health and avoid transmitting an STD unknowingly. If you have HIV and are sexually active, get tested at least once a year.
Encourage your partner(s) to do the same. You or your partner(s) can have an STD without having symptoms. You and your partner should determine what sexual behaviors and prevention practices are going to be used in your relationship—and outside of it if you are not exclusive. The goal of this communication is to keep you BOTH healthy and free from new infections.
Your health care provider can offer you the best care if you discuss your sexual history openly. Locate a provider near you.