Many STIs can be easily cured, but some can be permanent and difficult to manage. Here is a brief rundown of what STIs are and how they can impact people living with and at risk for HIV.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) refer to a variety of different viruses and bacteria that can be transmitted from one or more partners during sexual activities. There are many different STIs, each of which is a bit different in terms of how it is transmitted, what testing and treatment options are available, and what the best prevention strategy is.
Getting an STI can be a relatively common experience, though that doesn’t mean it can’t impact your physical or mental well-being. Some STIs can be cured through treatment, like chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis, while some can only be managed through treatment, such as HIV, HPV and herpes.
If you have an STI and don’t treat it, your risk of becoming HIV-positive increases. If you’re sexually active, it’s important to be tested regularly for HIV and STIs. It is common for STIs to be present without any symptoms, so even if you don’t feel like you have an STI, it’s still important to be tested regularly. If you have an STI, you can pass it to someone else whether or not you are experiencing symptoms.
STI information for people living with HIV:
The impact of getting an STI when already living with HIV is not entirely clear. For many years it was thought that untreated STIs impacted viral load and the likelihood of onward transmission of HIV. However, recent research has called this belief into question.
Certainly, getting an STI while living with HIV has the potential to damage to your health. STIs can progress faster in people living with HIV and can increase the chance of getting serious complications such as cancer or lesions. If unsure, talk to your doctor or a sexual health counsellor about what strategy for preventing STIs is best for you. Also, getting tested for STIs each time you have your viral load checked is a convenient way to stay on top of your sexual health! If you do get an STI, be sure to talk to your doctor to find the best course of treatment, keeping in mind your ongoing HIV treatment.
Some other great resources on STIs:
- hep C and Sex for Gay, Bi and Queer Men
- STI 101 Fact Sheet
- telling Your Partner You’re Living with an STI
- safer Sex Guide
- clap back at Gonorrhea
CATIE’s resources on various STIs:
- what you need to know about chlamydia
- what you need to know about genital herpes
- what you need to know about gonorrhea
- what you need to know about hepatitis A
- what you need to know about hepatitis B
- what you need to know about human papillomavirus (HPV)
- what you need to know about syphilis