Frequently Asked Questions
- What is an STD?
- Do I have an STD?
- What are the Symptoms of STD’s
- Is there a cure for STD’s?
- How many people have STD’s?
- I Have an STD… Did my partner cheat on me?
- How can I avoid contracting an STD?
- Can I get an STD from Oral Sex?
- Can I get an STD if I’m a Virgin?
- Do all STD’s have Symptoms?
- Are Condoms Effective Against All STD’s?
- Can I get an STD even though my partner has no symptoms?
- Are “cold sores” really Herpes?
- Can I get an STD from kissing?
- Should I get tested for an STD?
- Can I get an STD more than once?
- What are HIV & AIDS?
- Do I need to get tested? Where can I get tested?
- Where did HIV come from?
- Is there a cure for HIV?
- What is the difference between HIV-1 and HIV-2?
- How is HIV transmitted?
- Can I get HIV from casual contact?
- Can mosquitoes transmit HIV?
- Are condoms effective in preventing HIV transmission?
- Is abstinence the only way to prevent the sexual transmission of HIV?
- Can I get HIV from unprotected oral sex?
- What if I have another Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD)?
- How is HIV transmitted through injecting drug use?
- Additional Questions?
What is an STD?
An STD stands for Sexually Transmitted Disease meaning exactly what it says. A disease that is transmitted in a sexual manner There are many STD’s that can be transmitted in other ways other than sexually but is generally rare.
Do I have an STD?
It is can be very hard to say if you have a STD without proper testing, because some STD’s show very little or no symptoms but if you have had any sexual contact in your life especially unprotected, but not limited to, you are at risk of being infected with a STD and should be tested.
What are the Symptoms of STD’s
While most STD’s do show some kind of symptoms it’s very possible that symptoms may go unnoticed or might not exist at all.
- Dark or smelly urine
- A secretion or discharge from a genital organ
- A strange rash or spots on your body
- A burning sensation when urinating
- Bumps, legions, blisters, or warts on the genital area
- An unusual odor
- White spots in pubic hair or small bugs
Is there a cure for STD’s?
Some STD’s are curable if diagnosed at an early enough time while others have no cure and if you contract it, it will stay with you the rest of your life.
How many people have STD’s?
The easiest answer is about 1 in 4 people have an STD but can be even more because some STD’s can be treated at home such as Crabs and won’t end up being counted by medical providers.
I Have an STD… Did my partner cheat on me?
If you recently found out you have an STD and you have been in a monogamous with your relationship boyfriend or girlfriend and you have not cheated it doesn’t necessarily mean you partner has cheated on you, contracted an STD and given it to you. Many STD’s can stay hidden with no symptoms for Years. So while Your partner may have given it to you they may have already contracted it before they were with you and it is now just becoming active in there and/or your body. It is in both partners best interests to get tested before entering into a serious relationship so that this situation is avoided.
How can I avoid contracting an STD?
It should be made more known that even with proper condom usage it is still very easily possible to contract an STD. That being said the only real way to stay clear from STD’s, as I’m sure you’ve heard before, is to refrain from any sexual contact including oral sex. Other than that being in a monogamous relationship where no one cheats and both people have been tested for ALL STDS you would be fine but most places don’t test for all STD’s and sometimes no matter how well you think you know someone sometimes things happen and they cheat so this is not really a fool proof way of being free and clear of STD’s.
Can I get an STD from Oral Sex?
A common misconception is that you cannot get an STD from giving or receiving oral intercourse. This is of course very untrue. There is Gonorrhea of the throat, Herpes, and Genital Warts of the mouth that can all easily be transmitted when engaging in acts of oral.
Can I get an STD if I’m a Virgin?
If you are a virgin and you are not engaging in any sexual activity than you chances of getting an STD are very slim although not impossible. Sexual activity includes any touching of any “private part” either by you or your partner. Once engaged in any sexual activity your chances of contracting an STD increases dramatically.
Do all STD’s have Symptoms?
While many STD symptoms can be prevalent in most cases there can be an unusual amount of times where the symptoms don’t show up for years or are so unnoticeable they go undetected. If you have had sexual relations with a partner it is important to be tested for all STDs to be sure.
Are Condoms Effective Against All STD’s?
Condoms are a great way to help protect yourself while engaging in sexual acts but unfortunately aren’t that effective against all STD’s.
Can I get an STD even though my partner has no symptoms?
If your partner is infected with an STD the chances of contracting it are slightly lower when there are no symptoms present such as in HSV but they are still contagious and transmission of the disease is possible.
Are “cold sores” really Herpes?
Yes cold sores on your mouth are a symptom of the Herpes Simplex Virus-1 and can be transmitted to the genitals as well as the mouth.
Can I get an STD from kissing?
It is possible to contract certain STD’s from kissing such as Herpes from kissing but with most STD’s the chances are pretty slim, but still existent.
Should I get tested for an STD?
Everyone that has engaged in any kind of sexual activity should be tested for all STD’s on a regular basis to insure protection of yourself and future partners.
Can I get an STD more than once?
Yes. If you have contracted and cleared up a bacterial infection, once you finish treatment you are at risk of contracting the infection again. The Antibiotics you took to clear up the infection is just to cure it its not a vaccine
What are HIV & AIDS?
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is the virus that causes AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). Being HIV-positive or having HIV disease is not the same as having AIDS. Many people are diagnosed with HIV but may not get sick for many years. Once in a person’s system, HIV begins to attack the immune system and for many who are HIV-positive, over a period of time, they can become ill with a number of conditions.
AIDS is a technical term defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An HIV-positive person is diagnosed with AIDS when that person has developed certain opportunistic infections or other medical conditions such as a T-cell or CD4 (the most basic element of the immune system) count of less than 200. Only a physician can officially make the diagnosis that a person with HIV now has “AIDS”. Generally an AIDS diagnosis occurs many years after infection.
HIV is the virus, AIDS is the disease and “HIV disease” is the most appropriate way to describe the continuum of HIV to AIDS. It is important to note that an AIDS diagnosis does not mean that an individual will soon die. While severe illness can develop, there are many medications available to help treat these. With good medical care it is possible for a person to maintain good health even after an AIDS diagnosis.
Do I need to get tested? Where can I get tested?
Transmission of HIV almost always occurs through unprotected anal or vaginal sex, or by sharing needles. If people think they have been exposed to the HIV virus they should get an HIV test. Explore the other questions on this page to help assess if you are at risk for HIV or contact us at 1-800-805-7837 and a counselor will assess your risk.
The most commonly used test is a blood test that looks for antibodies to the virus. Antibodies are produced by the immune system to fight the virus. The “window period” is the time that it takes for the antibodies to develop after being exposed. Although many people develop antibodies within the first month of their infection, some people take a bit longer. Clinicians agree that testing at three months after exposure will give a conclusive result. All pregnant women should be tested for HIV so they can be treated prenatally and greatly reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to their baby.
It is especially important to practice abstinence or safe sex and to avoid sharing needles during the window period in order to get an accurate HIV test result, and to avoid the risk of infecting another person since newly infected people are especially infectious to others.
Call us at 1800-805-7837 to get information about testing and testing sites in your area.
Where did HIV come from?
Since scientists first became aware of HIV in the early 1980s, they have explored and debated how and where the disease originated. To this day, the debate continues and different theories exist. Despite these differing theories, all the experts still agree that HIV is the virus that weakens a person’s immune system and can lead to either one or more physical conditions that a physician then diagnoses as “AIDS”.
In February of 1999, an international team of scientists reported that they had traced the roots of the most common type of HIV (HIV-1) to a virus found in a subspecies of chimpanzees in Africa. It is now generally accepted that HIV is a descendant of this virus. It is believed that the virus was transferred to humans as a result of chimpanzees being killed and eaten or their blood getting into cuts or wounds of people during the hunting process .
While determining the origin of HIV was important to increase understanding of the virus, it is important to now focus on treatments for people living with HIV and education and prevention efforts to stop the spread of HIV.
Is there a cure for HIV?
There is no cure for HIV yet, but research continues daily. There are a variety of medications that can slow down the progression from HIV to AIDS and reduce damage to the immune system. Many of these drugs were not available until the mid-to-late 1990’s. Other drugs can prevent or treat opportunistic infections that result from HIV infection.
What is the difference between HIV-1 and HIV-2?
There are two identified strains of HIV: HIV-1 is the retrovirus usually associated with the epidemic in most of the world, including the United States; HIV-2 is not as virulent as HIV-1 and is primarily epidemic in West Africa. Many HIV tests in the United States will detect either HIV-1 or HIV-2. Blood banks and plasma centers also screen for HIV-1 and HIV-2.
Due to the rare incidence of HIV-2 in the United States, testing for this specific strain of HIV is only recommended if a person has had a known risk with someone from a country where HIV-2 is prevalent.
How is HIV transmitted?
A person must be infected with HIV in order to infect others. There are no uninfected “carriers” of the disease. The virus is transmitted only by the blood, semen, vaginal fluid or breast milk of an HIV-infected person. It is not transmitted by sweat, tears, urine, saliva or casual contact. In order for transmission to occur, the virus must enter an uninfected person’s bloodstream. The virus can enter the bloodstream through contact with mucus membranes or through open cuts or by injection. Transmission almost always occurs through unprotected anal or vaginal sex (mucous membranes), or by sharing needles. In very rare cases, HIV transmission has occurred through oral sex. HIV can be transmitted from an HIV-positive woman to an infant through breast milk. It should be noted that HIV is not very concentrated in breast milk and it is only through repeated feedings of large quantities of breast milk that transmission may occur.
Transmission is most likely when a person is exposed to high concentrations of the virus. When a person is newly infected with HIV, the virus multiplies very rapidly within that person. A newly infected person is especially infectious to others in the first few weeks and months immediately following infection. This is why anyone who has had a risk of HIV infection should be especially careful to practice abstinence or safe sex or not share needles until they get a definitive HIV test.
Can I get HIV from casual contact?
No, HIV is a fragile virus and dies within seconds when exposed to light and air (oxygen). Therefore HIV can only be transmitted when an HIV-negative person comes into contact with one of these four bodily fluids: blood, semen, vaginal fluid or breast milk. HIV is most often transmitted through unprotected sex and sharing needles. HIV can NOT be transmitted from hugging, kissing, shaking hands, sharing towels, sharing eating utensils, swimming in public pools, or using public restrooms.
Can mosquitoes transmit HIV?
No. Numerous studies by the CDC and other programs have shown no evidence of HIV transmission through mosquitoes. These studies showed that transmission via mosquitoes is not possible because:
- Mosquitoes do not ingest enough HIV-infected blood to transmit HIV to another person. The small amount of the virus ingested by mosquitoes is not substantial enough to cause HIV infection in another person.
- Mosquitoes digest HIV. The virus cannot survive inside the insect and it cannot be passed on to the mosquito’s next host.
- Mosquitoes are not flying hypodermic needles. A mosquito’s complex feeding apparatus does not involve any exchange of blood between the mosquito and host.
Are condoms effective in preventing HIV transmission?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that correct and consistent use of a latex barrier for protection during sex greatly reduces the risk of transmitting HIV. Condoms can protect the mouth, vagina or rectum from HIV-infected semen. Male condoms protect the penis from HIV-infected vaginal fluids and blood in the mouth, vagina, or rectum. Female condoms can be inserted into the vagina or rectum to prevent HIV transmission. They also reduce the risk of spreading other sexually transmitted diseases.
Latex is the most common material for condoms. Viruses cannot get through it. Never use oil-based lubricants like Vasoline, salad oil or hand or body lotion. These can cause tears and leaks in the latex causing it to break. Instead, use a water-based lubricant such as K-Y Jelly. Polyurethane is an option for people who are allergic to latex. Lambskin or natural condoms have pores small enough for HIV to pass through; they do NOT prevent the spread of HIV.
Condoms must be stored, used and disposed of correctly. Also, observe the expiration date on the package and tear it open carefully. Avoid opening by tearing the package with your teeth or using a scissors as tiny cuts may be made in the condom. Never use a product that has been previously used or exposed to extreme temperatures.
Nonoxynol-9 is a chemical that kills sperm and is used in the vagina along with condoms or other birth control methods to help prevent pregnancy. It should not be used as a way to prevent HIV infection because many people are allergic to it. For some, their sexual organs can become irritated from Nonoxynol-9 and develop small sores that actually make it easier for HIV, if present in the other partner, to enter their system.
Is abstinence the only way to prevent the sexual transmission of HIV?
Abstaining from sexual activity with others can eliminate the risk of becoming infected with HIV. Be aware that using drugs or alcohol can impair judgment and make it difficult to maintain abstinence or ultimately practice safer sex. Learn about sexual activities that can reduce the risk of HIV transmission by avoiding exposure to semen or vaginal fluid. For many abstinence is a practical and useful choice, however for others it is not an option so learning about the correct and consistent usage of condoms and latex barriers during sex greatly reduces the risk of contracting HIV.
Even for those who have chosen abstinence as their prevention technique, at some point most adults will enter into a sexual relationship with someone else, thus learning about safer sex prior to that encounter will aid in understanding how to remain HIV-free.
Can I get HIV from unprotected oral sex?
There have been very few documented cases of transmission through solely oral sex thus the risk is extremely low.
HIV is not transmitted through saliva. Sexual transmission of HIV requires the presence of HIV infected blood, semen or vaginal fluid. The risk of transmission is increased by the presence of open cuts or sores in the mouth or on the genitals. Having other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can also increase the risk of HIV transmission. Specifically, the sores associated with syphilis and herpes can assist with HIV transmission.
Reduce the risk of HIV during oral sex by using a latex or polyurethane barrier such as a condom or dental dam.
It is important to remember that some other STDs, unlike HIV, can be easily transmitted during oral sex. The barriers above can also reduce this risk.
What if I have another Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD)?
Research has shown that HIV transmission is 2-5 times more likely to occur when another sexually transmitted disease is present. If the STD causes sores or irritation in the skin it can be easier for HIV to enter the body. Even if the STD does not cause open sores or irritation it can stimulate an immune response that can make HIV transmission more likely. Most STDs can be detected by testing within a few weeks after exposure, and many are treatable or curable.
How is HIV transmitted through injecting drug use?
Sharing needles is a high risk behavior for HIV since a contaminated syringe can pass blood directly from one person’s bloodstream to another. Blood can enter a syringe when it is placed into the vein. Some of this blood remains in the syringe after use and can enter to bloodstream of others if the needle is shared. Sharing needles is also a high risk for hepatitis transmission.
An injection drug user who has never shared syringes or other drug paraphernalia cannot become infected with HIV from clean (sterile) syringes regardless of his or her drug use. The exchange of blood from sharing contaminated syringes causes transmission, not the drug use itself.
If you have additional questions, or you would like to schedule a test, please contact us. Live Chat and Phone Calls are always confidential.