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Sexual Health: The 101 on HIV Transmission

Sexual Health: The 101 on HIV Transmission

asian couple lying in bed talking

Because having sex shouldn’t mean anything else

Remember Mean Girls, anyone?

Although pop culture has helped to ease some of the stigma on talking about such taboo subjects, there’s still a lot left to learn about sexual health. With 50,000 people becoming infected by HIV — the human immunodeficiency virus — it’s something worth talking about. We’ve got you covered: from basic information, health breakthroughs, and questions you may want to ask your doctor.

The Basics

  • HIV is a lifelong virus that attacks your immune system and can eventually progress into AIDS
  • It can be treated through antiretroviral therapy
  • There is no cure
  • It’s transmitted through bodily fluids: blood, semen, saliva, vaginal fluids, and breast milk

Wrap it, All of It

Despite what stereotypes you may have heard regarding sexually transmitted diseases, everyone that is sexually active is potentially at risk for contracting the HIV virus. The first reported case of woman-to-woman transmitted HIV was reported earlier this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to their report, the event was incredibly rare but confirmed after genetic testing.

The couple did admit that the infected partner had stopped taking her HIV treatment drugs that help to limit the risk of infection prior to intercourse, which led to the transmission. In the released editorial, the CDC explained that barrier methods for non-penile intercourse—such as dental dams—do exist although they do not work with oral sex or use of insertives. The CDC closed their release by advising all infected parties to remain on their daily antiretroviral drugs to reduce the risk of transmission.

In addition to using barrier methods and taking daily medication, the spread of HIV can be reduced by talking about it. Although this can be difficult, it’s important to inform your partners of your sexual history and the details of having HIV.

Take the Pill

We’re not talking about the Matrix here—we’re talking about your antiretroviral treatment for HIV. You’re not just risking transferring the virus to your partner, but also to your children. Because HIV can be transferred to the fetus during pregnancy through vaginal fluid, it’s important that expecting mothers with the infection keep up with their medication.

If the child is born with the infection, there may still be hope: a child born with the virus in Mississippi is no longer exhibiting symptoms. Just hours after delivery, the child began with three doses of antiretroviral drugs. Three years later, after being off of HIV medication for two years, the infection shows no signs of being present in her body. Since this incident is still being investigated, however, it’s better to be safe than sorry: take the medication.

Talk it Out

Although discussing your sexual history with a partner may not be your idea of breakfast conversation, it is important in keeping you both healthy and safe.  If you’re having trouble figuring out where to start, remember that you’re not alone: Christina Rodriguez, co-founder of SMART Youth, shared her story about discussing HIV—you can, too.

In addition to regularly getting tested and practicing safe sex methods, you may want to discuss your options with your doctor. There are a lot of questions surrounding the life-long virus, including how it impacts pregnancy and sexual health. For more information, contact us—we’re happy to help!