We all know that using condoms during anal and vaginal sex greatly reduces our risk for contracting HIV. And getting tested regularly is also a powerful tool in getting people on treatment and to reduce the likelihood of unknowingly infecting others.
But here’s something that you may not have known.
Another way to combat HIV infection is to get tested and treated for any existing sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Having an untreated STD can make HIV transmission two to five times more likely.
Having an untreated STD such as gonorrhea, chlamydia and trichomoniasis can create inflammation, the immune system’s protective response to infections. But the problem with inflammation is that these protective immune cells (white blood cells), is exactly where HIV likes to attach itself. So the more white blood cells concentrated in these areas, the more targets that HIV has to hit.
What’s really important is that in many people, especially men, STDs don’t show any symptoms. So unless a doctor or gynecologist is testing you for STDs, you could have one of these diseases and have no clue.
African-American teens and young people, especially young Black women, bear the brunt of the STD epidemic in the U.S. According to a 2009 CDC study on STD rates among young people:
— Forty-eight percent of African-American female teens have been diagnosed with an STD.
— Gonorrhea rates among African-Americans are higher than any other racial or ethnic group and 20 times higher than that of whites.
— Blacks accounted for about 71 percent of reported gonorrhea cases and almost half of all chlamydia and syphilis cases.
— Among women, Black women 15 to 19 years of age had the highest rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea, followed by Black women ages 20 to 24.
The key to fighting these infections is using condoms regularly and consistently. It’s also important to take sexual health seriously and doing your best to get tested for STDs each year whether it’s through your primary doc or a local clinic such as Planned Parenthood.
To learn more about STDs and how to prevent them, go here.
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(Photo: David McNew/Getty Images)
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