HIV and Other STIs

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are passed from person to person through sexual contact. There are many types of STIs. If you think you might be at risk for contracting an STI, check out the resources below to find out more, particularly about HIV.

HIV and STIs - image of condoms

HIV/AIDS

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system. AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. It is the final stage of infection with HIV.

Being HIV-positive is not the same as having AIDS. People often feel healthy for many years after being infected by HIV, and they might not even know they are infected. When HIV is diagnosed and treated, it may never advance to the AIDS stage.

What happens in the body when someone contracts HIV? Watch this short video to find out.

How to prevent HIV

HIV can be transmitted by four fluids:

  • Blood (including menstrual blood)
  • Semen
  • Vaginal fluid
  • Breast milk

The main ways that HIV is transmitted are:

  • Sexual contact with an infected person
  • Sharing needles and/or syringes with someone who is infected
  • Transfusion of infected blood (this is now extremely rare in countries where blood is tested for HIV)
  • Mother-to-child (perinatal) transmission, either during childbirth or through breast-feeding

Individuals can avoid HIV infection by changing behaviors that can expose them to HIV. Two of the best ways to avoid HIV infection are engaging in safer sex and avoiding shared needles when using drugs. Abstaining from sex and drug use altogether is an effective way to avoid HIV infection, but it might not be realistic for some. Visit the NIH’s HIV Prevention page to learn more.

If you think you might be at risk for becoming infected with HIV, get tested. Rapid tests are now available, making testing super easy and quick.

You may also want to talk to your doctor about taking PrEP. PrEP is a daily pill that greatly reduces your risk of becoming HIV positive. Find out more about PrEP or watch this short video about how it works.

How to treat HIV

There is currently no cure for HIV infection, but there are many drugs to treat it.

Highly-active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) has been very effective in slowing the progress of the virus. HAART can help people living with HIV decrease their viral load, increase their CD4 count, and live a longer and healthier life. There are many different types of HIV medications. Browse the current list on the AIDSInfo website.

If you are HIV positive, talk to your doctor about antiretroviral therapy. It is important to take your meds every day; if you miss days, the medicine may not work.

Find out more about HIV/AIDS medicines on Medline Plus.

Still want to know more? Sign up for a TEACH class to become a peer educator on HIV/AIDS.

Other Sexually Transmitted Infections

There are many other types of STIs, including:

  • Chlamydia
  • Genital herpes
  • Genital warts
  • Gonorrhea
  • HPV
  • Syphilis
  • Trichomoniasis

STIs are very common. According to the CDC, every year there are about 20 million new STI cases. The most common STI is HPV; 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV.

If your sexual partner has an STI or you think you might have one, check out this list of possible symptoms and talk to your doctor about getting tested.

This short video gives a good overview of STIs and how to prevent them.

How to prevent STIs

There are a few things you can do to prevent STIs:

  • Know your sexual partners and their sexual histories. Be honest with each other about any STIs you might have.
  • Reduce your number of sexual partners.
  • Use latex condoms.
  • Avoid having sex that might tear or break the skin.
  • Get immunized. For certain STIs (Hepatitis B and HPV) you can get vaccines to prevent them.

Learn more on the CDC website.

How to treat STIs

It is important to diagnose and treat STIs in order to control their spread and reduce their harm on your body.

Bacterial STIs can be treated with antibiotics, which are taken orally or applied to the skin. Treatment for viral STIs like genital herpes, HPV, and hepatitis are all different, but they can usually reduce the symptoms and the spread of these infections.

What are some types of and treatments for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or sexually transmitted infections (STIs)?: Visit this page to learn more about how to treat some of the most common STIs.

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