HIV-POSITIVE AND STIs
If you are HIV positive there are some extra things you need to know about STIs. Some STIs may badly affect HIV and can make the treatment of some STIs more difficult.
Some STIs can increase the HIV viral load (the amount of virus) in cum, pre-cum and anal mucus because your immune system is fighting both the HIV infection as well as the other STI.
Your last test indicates what your viral load was at that time, not what it might be now and it only tests the amount of virus in your blood not your cum or other fluids. An increased viral load means a greater risk to an HIV-positive person’s health and makes passing on HIV more likely if you are having sex without condoms.
Having HIV and an STI can also make the STI more severe and more difficult to treat. It is also more likely that viral infections like herpes will recur more often than for an HIV-negative person.
Syphilis is more common in HIV-positive men. It can progress faster in people infected with HIV, is more difficult to treat, and is more likely to have mental health complications.
Using condoms and water-based lube is the best way to prevent HIV transmission.
Condoms also offer some protection against other STIs. They do this by not allowing germs to be passed on. But because STIs are transmitted in a variety of ways the protection condoms give does not always help.
Even if you show no symptoms, it is possible to have an STI and pass on the infection.
To keep yourself protected from STI’s, you can:
- Have a sexual health check when you have a blood test;
- Get tested regularly, at least every year and more frequently if you are having a lot of sex;
- Get vaccinated for hepatitis A and B; and
- Use condoms so you do not pick up or pass on STIs.
Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)
If you think you may have been exposed to HIV you should consider getting PEP. If you think you may have exposed another person to HIV, let them know about PEP and where they can get it.
PEP is a four week course of anti-HIV drugs that may prevent HIV infection, provided the treatment is started as soon as possible after the potential exposure.
To be most effective, PEP should be started as soon as possible after exposure to HIV. If it is not started within 72 hours (three days) it is not likely to work.
To get PEP contact your local sexual health clinic or hospital emergency department. For a list of hospitals and sexual health centres and to get more information on PEP go to www.getpep.info.