Every year 40,000 people are formally diagnosed with HIV. Currently there is an estimated 1.2 million people living with HIV. The number that should be getting diagnosed is actually much higher, as 13-20% of the 1.2 million are unaware that they are infected.
What most people don’t know about HIV is that there are three stages, AIDS being one of them.
- Acute infection. About 2-4 weeks after being infected, the individual will suffer many flu symptoms in addition to severally swollen glands and a borderline headache/migraine. Many people describe this stage as the worst flu of their life. The individual can transmit the virus to others as soon as 2 weeks after being infected.
- Latency. After this the virus goes into hiding. It will continue to multiple at low levels in your blood. There will be no visible symptoms, and this stage can last anywhere from a few months to decades. The individual can still transmit the virus to others at this stage.
- AIDS. The individual’s immune system crashes. It allows them to be easily infected by another infection. The life expectancy once you get to this stage is under 3 years. The individual is still contagious until the very end.
There are medications that can be taken to slow the rate or chances of one’s latency from progressing to AIDS, like ART (Antiretroviral Therapy). Two other drugs have recently come onto the market. PrEP and PEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis and post-exposure prophylaxis) work as precautionary measures to decrease the likelihood of infection. PrEP can be taken daily for as long as you are at risk and PEP can be taken after an encounter where you believe you were exposed. They work to lower the likelihood of infection by as much as 97%.
There are several things that one can do to lower their chances of infection.
- Where a male/female condom during every sexual encounter. This includes oral and anal as well as vaginal. HIV is transmitted through blood, semen, pre-seminal fluids, rectal fluids and vaginal fluids. A condom decreases the chances that one will come in contact with one of these mediums. Women are even more likely to be infected during vaginal sex then their male counterparts. The infected semen has a large surface area to come in contact with and can remain in the vagina for several days, increasing the risk.
- Be treated for other STDs. More so then men, women increase their chances of HIV by having by having another STD. The other STD lowers any barriers the body may have making it easier for the virus to get in.
- Avoid injectable drugs. By sharing needles or using needles of unknown history, you may be contaminating yourself with infected blood.
- Avoid the misuse of alcohol and drugs. These cause impairments in your decision making abilities. Doing so may decrease the chance of using a condom or increase the chance of using a needle.
- Be monogamous. If that is not an option, talk to your sexual partners about their history. If someone is unsure of their status, have them get tested. For now, under Obamacare you can get tested for free.
- Take PrEP. It may be expensive, but this preemptive move may save you more than what you would spend if you did contract HIV.
- Take PEP. If something happens and you think you might have been exposed, begin taking the necessary doses of PEP within 72 hours of the contact.
There are also several threats that only effect women. This awareness day works to bring attention to both the above facts and these. Women are more likely to be the victims of sexual abuse.People that have histories of abuse are more likely to not go in for testing. They are also less likely to receive treatment for HIV if they are already positive. The abuse itself might give frequent exposure to the virus.
Women are also able to transmit the virus to their children through breastfeeding. Mothers are warned to not breastfeed their babies and to find a local breast milk bank or to use a formula. If the mother does, the chances of the baby becoming infected decreases to less than 1%.
For more information visit www.womenshealth.gov.
National condom week 2017 is to take place February 14th through the 21st which also coincides with Valentine’s day. As Valentines Day approaches, the romance rises between couples. While romantic, this can have some devastating effects if not prepared for properly. The most common contraceptives among young adults and middle aged people are birth control and condoms. However, condoms are not always used regularly. Situations like pregnancy and getting a sexually transmitted disease or infection could arise from this practice.
For those who don’t know, there is a difference between birth control and condom use. Birth control is often hormone based and used to prevent pregnancy or lessen the effects of a woman’s period. Birth control is recommended for those who want to avoid pregnancy until they are ready. Condoms are used during sexual intercourse to help prevent pregnancy as well but they do one other, very important, thing. Condoms can assist in preventing both partners from getting a sexually transmitted disease. Most of the time, medical professionals will recommend birth control and condom use together to increase your protection.
There are benefits of using condoms. The first is as stated above, condoms are effective in preventing STD’s. “Condoms and female condoms are the only methods of birth control that also help prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections” (Planned Parenthood). Another is that condoms do not cost much and they are easy to get. In the United States, they can be bought almost anywhere including convenience stores. Next is pleasure, condoms provide protection while also allowing both people to enjoy the moment, “Safer sex is better sex because it stops stress from killing the mood” (Planned Parenthood). Lastly is that condoms do not have any side effects other than a possible latex allergy and they help other methods of birth control work better, “Adding condoms to your birth control lineup can give you extra pregnancy protection. No method is 100% effective, so adding condoms as a backup helps you prevent pregnancy if you make a mistake with your other method or it fails” (Planned Parenthood).
All in all, there seems to be no reason as to why someone would not use condoms. They provide protection, they can improve the pleasure of the moment, and are easily accessible. Considering Valentine’s day is approaching it is best to be prepared and safe instead of scared and worried down the road. Don’t you think?
The teenage years are when many people begin to date and have romantic relationships. It is a new experience that teens are exploring and learning more about. Parents may view their children’s relationships as cute and innocent and look back to their own teenage dating years or maybe cringe at the thought of their own children dating! Whatever the case, most teens do not share every detail of their relationships with their parents. How much knowledge do teens even have about relationships? Do they know what a healthy and respectful relationship is or looks like? Many teens do not understand what is acceptable in a relationship and what is not. Last year, 1 in 10 teens reported that they were purposely hit or physically hurt by their partner. Dating violence doesn’t stop at being physical. It can be emotional and sexual violence, too. Violent actions in relationships have been linked as causes of negative effects for the victims; including depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol use, decreased school performance, and a higher risk to become a victim of violence in college and adult relationships. Teen dating violence is very serious and needs to stop. That is why February has been declared National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. The goal is to reach out to teens and parents and provide resources to prevent and stop teen dating violence. The best way to promote healthy and respectful relationships is to educate!
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers great resources and tips in tackling teen dating violence. Ideally we want to avoid violence all together, but whether it is occurring or not, it is never too late to take steps to stop. Discussing with teens about what is acceptable and unacceptable in relationships is very important. This step is extremely beneficial when it is discussed before a relationship begins as the teens have this knowledge in their minds and know when a red flag appears. Other resources could include school-based programs or online seminars. To learn more about teen dating violence, take a look at the following resources:
- CDC’s Dating Matters: Strategies to Promote Healthy Teen Relationships
- CDC’s Teen Dating Violence Infographic
- National Dating Abuse Helpline and Love is Respect:
- National Domestic Violence Hotline
- National Sexual Assault Hotline
- National Sexual Violence Resource Center