Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

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STI Transmission

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The most common STI’s gay men face

Sexually Transmitted Infections, or STI’s, are commonly diagnosed in the Phoenix gay community – and a lot of people don’t know they have them. If you’re hooking up with multiple partners, or if the person you’re sleeping with has had multiple partners, the chances are high that you’ll likely contract and STI at some point while you’re sexually active. And don’t forget, if you’re on PrEP, PrEP only works to protect against HIV – it doesn’t have your back at all for STIs. The most effective way to prevent contracting an STI is to use condoms correctly.

Is it the end of the world?

It can be alarming, but not the end of the world. STI’s are typically much easier to contract that HIV, but in most cases, they’re highly treatable or curable. However, having an untreated STI can increase your chances of contracting HIV or transmitting HIV if you’re HIV positive. If you contract an STI because of barebacking or hooking up with multiple anonymous partners, thinking about how to prevent getting an STI again will also help decrease your chances of contracting or transmitting HIV, since the methods of transmission are often the same.

Here, you’ll find information about the most common STI’s, how you can get them, what symptoms you may see on you or the person you’re hooking up with, how you can get tested for them and what treatments and cures are available. We’ll also dive into how STIs open the door to HIV and how prevention or treatment of one may help prevent the other.

Chlamydia

ChlamydiaChlamydia is the most commonly reported STD in the United States.

NO VACCINE AVAILABLE
YOU CAN BECOME REINFECTED

Where you can get it:
Mouth, Penis, Anus, Vagina

How you get it:
When infected fluids from the discharge come in contact with your mucous membranes, or ‘pink-parts’ (inside the tip of your penis, throat, inside the anus, etc).

Symptoms:
If symptoms do present themselves in men, there may be:

  • A discharge from the penis
  • A burning sensation when you pee
  • Pain and swelling in one or both balls (although this is less common)

How we test for it:
Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS conducts FREE Chlamydia Testing in Phoenix by either of these methods:

  • Urine Specimen
  • Self-Collected Rectal Swabs (it’s not as bad as it sounds, boys!)

How it’s treated:
Chlamydia can be easily cured with antibiotics. HIV-positive persons with chlamydia should receive the same treatment as those who are HIV-negative. Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS provides FREE Treatment by appointment for Chlamydia in Phoenix.

The link with HIV:
Having an STI changes the cells lining the vagina, penis, rectum or mouth. This makes it easier for HIV to enter your body. If you already have an STI, you are MORE likely to get infected with HIV if you have sex with someone who has HIV and you don’t use a condom. If you feel you have an STI, you should also be tested for HIV if you believe you’re HIV negative.

Gonorrhea

GonorrheaAnyone who is sexually active can get gonorrhea. Gonorrhea can cause very serious complications when not treated, but can be cured with the right medication.

NO VACCINE AVAILABLE
YOU CAN BECOME REINFECTED

Where you can get it:
Mouth, Penis, Anus, Vagina

How you get it:
When infected fluids from the discharge come in contact with your mucous membranes, or ‘pink-parts’ (inside the tip of your penis, throat, inside the anus, etc).

Symptoms:
If symptoms do present themselves in men, there may be:

  • A burning sensation when you pee
  • A white, yellow, or green discharge from the penis
  • Pain and swelling in one or both balls (although this is less common)

How we test for it:
Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS conducts FREE Gonorrhea Testing in Phoenix by either of these:

  • Urine Specimen
  • Self-Collected Rectal Swabs (it’s not as bad as it sounds, boys!)

How it’s treated:
Gonorrhea can be easily cured with antibiotics. HIV-positive persons with gonorrhea should receive the same treatment as those who are HIV-negative. Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS provides FREE Treatment by appointment for Gonorrhea in Phoenix.

The link with HIV:
Having an STI changes the cells lining the vagina, penis, rectum or mouth. This makes it easier for HIV to enter your body. If you already have an STI, you are MORE likely to get infected with HIV if you have sex with someone who has HIV and you don’t use a condom. If you feel you have an STI, you should also be tested for HIV if you believe you’re HIV negative.

Syphilis

SyphilisSyphilis makes you 5 times more likely to contract HIV if you’re exposed to it because of the sores associated with Syphilis.

NO VACCINE AVAILABLE
YOU CAN BECOME REINFECTED

Where you can get it:
Mouth, Penis, Anus, Vagina

How you get it:
Direct contact with a Syphilis sore during sexual contact

Symptoms:
Symptoms in the first stage of Syphilis are:

  • A painless syphilis sore that can look similar to an ingrown hair, blister, zipper cut, or other seemingly harmless bump that will usually last 3-6 weeks

Symptoms in the second stage of Syphilis are:

  • A non-itchy body rash that develops on the palms of your hands and soles of your feet, all over your body, or in just a few places

How we test for it:
Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS conducts FREE Syphilis Testing in Phoenix by:

  • A single tube of blood

How it’s treated:
Syphilis can be cured with the right antibiotics. HIV-positive persons with Syphilis should receive the same treatment as those who are HIV-negative. Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS provides FREE Treatment by appointment for Syphilis in Phoenix.

The link with HIV:
Genital sores (chancres) caused by syphilis make it easier to transmit and acquire HIV infection sexually. There is an estimated 2- to 5-fold increased risk of acquiring HIV if exposed to that infection when syphilis is present.

Ulcerative STIs that cause sores, ulcers, or breaks in the skin or mucous membranes, such as syphilis, disrupt barriers that provide protection against infections. The genital ulcers caused by syphilis can bleed easily, and when they come into contact with oral and rectal mucous during sex, increase the infectiousness of and susceptibility to HIV. If you feel you have an STI, you should also be tested for HIV if you believe you’re HIV negative.

Herpes

HerpesAbout one out of every six people aged 14 to 49 years have genital herpes.

NO VACCINE AVAILABLE
YOU CAN BECOME REINFECTED

Where you can get it:
Mouth, Penis, Anus, Vagina

How you get it:
By having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the disease. Fluids found in a herpes sore carry the virus, and contact with those fluids can cause infection.

Symptoms:

  • Sores that usually appear as one or more blisters on or around the genitals, butt or mouth.
  • Blisters break and leave painful sores that may take weeks to heal.

How we test for it:
We don’t. Sorry guys. For testing, you’ll need to see your primary care doctor.

How it’s treated:
Sorry again guys, there’s no cure for herpes. However, there are medicines that can prevent or shorten outbreaks. One of these herpes medicines can be taken daily, and makes it less likely that you will pass the infection on to your sex partner(s).

The link with HIV:
Genital herpes can cause sores or breaks in the skin or lining of the mouth, vagina, and rectum. The genital sores caused by herpes can bleed easily. When the sores come into contact with the mouth, vagina, or rectum during sex, they increase the risk of giving or getting HIV if you or your partner has HIV. If you feel you have an STD, you should also be tested for HIV if you believe you’re HIV negative.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

HPVHPV is so common that nearly all sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives.

A VACCINE IS AVAILABLE
The vaccine is recommended for any man who has sex with men through age 26

Where you can get it:
Mouth, Penis, Anus, Vagina

How you get it:
By having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the virus. It is most commonly spread during vaginal or anal sex.

Symptoms:

In most cases, HPV doesn’t have any symptoms, goes away on its own and does not cause any health problems.

  • Some people find out they have HPV when they get genital warts or even cancer

How we test for it:
We don’t. Sorry guys. There is no test to find out a person’s “HPV status.” Also, there is no approved HPV test to find HPV in the mouth or throat.

How it’s treated:
Sorry again guys, there’s no treatment for the virus itself. However, there are treatments for the health problems that HPV can cause like genital warts.  See your primary care doctor or an urgent care clinic if you think you have HPV.

The link with HIV:
People with weak immune systems (including individuals with HIV/AIDS) may be less able to fight off HPV and more likely to develop health problems from it.