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April 8, 2024

STI Spotlight: HIV – What You Need to Know

As part of our series spotlighting STI’s, this month we’re looking at HIV.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are an infection that can be passed on between sexual partners during unprotected sexual contact. There are more than 25 STIs which can be spread by vaginal, anal or oral sex.

They are unfortunately common amongst all age groups, which is why it’s important to understand what they are, the symptoms you may experience and how they are treated.

It’s important to start breaking the stigma surrounding STIs by showing that they aren’t something to be embarrassed about and, in most cases, can be very simple and quick to get treated.

So, let’s have a look at what HIV is and what you need to know about it.

What Exactly is HIV?

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. Yep, it’s a virus, and it’s one that messes with your immune system, making it harder for your body to fight off other infections and diseases. The key thing to remember is that HIV is a manageable condition, especially with today’s advancements in medicine. It’s not the scary monster it once was considered to be, but still something to be aware of.

What are the Symptoms?

Here’s where it gets tricky. Initially, HIV can feel like a bad flu — fever, tiredness, swollen glands — stuff that makes you think, “Maybe I’m just run down?”  But sometimes, there might not be any symptoms at all, which is why it can sneak under the radar.

Some possible symptons are listed here below, as per the Mayo Clinic:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches and joint pain
  • Rash
  • Sore throat and painful mouth sores
  • Swollen lymph glands, also called nodes, mainly on the neck
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Cough
  • Night sweats

How Can You Get Tested?

Testing = knowledge = power! Getting tested for HIV is the only way to know for sure what’s up. It’s easy and confidential. You can get a blood test or even an oral swab at a clinic, and there are even home test kits available. No excuses, friends! Regular testing is key, especially if you’re active in the dating world. Visit our online Personal Health Record for free to order STI kits here.

What’s the Treatment Like?

Okay, so let’s say the test comes back positive. First thing: deep breath. It’s going to be okay. There’s no cure for HIV, but there’s something called antiretroviral therapy (ART), and it’s a game-changer. These meds keep the virus in check, helping you lead a normal, healthy life. And guess what? When taken properly, they can reduce the viral load in your body to undetectable levels, meaning it’s also untransmittable.

Prevention Tips

Let’s talk defense!

  • Condoms are your BFFs here (like, seriously, keep them handy). Get your free condoms via our eC-Card here.
  • Regular testing, because knowledge is your superpower.

If you’re at higher risk, look into PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) — a daily pill that significantly reduces the risk of HIV.

Wrap-Up

So, there you have it — the straight talk on HIV. It’s a part of our world, but it doesn’t have to be scary. With the right knowledge and tools, you can protect yourself and others.

Remember, we’re all about keeping you in the loop and safe. For more info or to get yourself checked out, hit up your local health service or visit a site like Essex Sexual Health Service. Stay informed, stay safe, and let’s keep the convo going. Health is wealth, and your wellbeing is everything

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