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wellness

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by dr. bill blazey

What you need to know about STIs and HIV... Most people think that they will know if they have an STI, but did you know that many times a person can be infected without knowing it? Getting a rash or noticing a discharge typically makes people go to the doctor, however for many STIs, these symptoms can resolve even though the infection persists. People with an STI can transmit the infection to other people even when not having symptoms. Preventing infections by safer sex or abstinence is the most important step you can take; it is also important to get regularly tested for HIV and STIs.

HPV The most common STI in the United States is Human Papillomavirus (HPV), with most sexually active adults being infected during their lifetime. The CDC reports that there are about 14 million infections of HPV each year. HPV can be spread during oral or genital sex. In addition, adult toys can allow for transmission if not cleaned properly. It is important for women to have a PAP smear regularly to screen for early signs of cervical cancer and HPV. People who engage in anal sex should ask their doctor about having an anal PAP smear. Vaccines are available to prevent certain strains of HPV, so you can talk about these with your medical provide. CHLAMYDIA

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Chlamydia is the second most common STI, with about 1.5 million infections a year. Men and women between the ages of 15-24 account for most of the infections. Symptoms include discharge and pain with urination or sexual activity; most women, however, will not show any symptoms. A simple urine test can be performed to check for this infection. As an alternative, there is traditional testing with a swab. Early treatment with an antibiotic cures the infection, but your sexual partners need to be tested and treated as well to prevent you from being infected again.

In the time it takes for you to read this article, a person in the United States will be infected with HIV.

Know yourself and respect yourself by getting tested. Be proactive about preventing HIV and STIs, so you can keep living healthy! MORE ON PG. 10: LEARN ABOUT LIGALY AND THE CENTER’S HIV/STI SERVICES.

SYPHILIS While syphilis is fairly uncommon in the general population, the rates of infection have been rising rapidly in gay and bisexual men. The CDC has found that 72 percent of all new syphilis infections are in men who have sex with men, which is a shift from the 1990s when it was typically a disease in the heterosexual population. Without treatment, syphilis is often life threatening. If you are or had been sexually active, you should ask your doctor to test you for syphilis. Infection with syphilis increases your risk of acquiring HIV by up to five times. Using a condom correctly each time you have sex and/ or practicing mutual monogamy with an uninfected partner reduces your risk of getting syphilis.

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HEPATITIS Hepatitis is a viral disease that affects the liver and can cause severe disease, including liver failure and cancer. The CDC estimates about five percent of people in the United States will be infected with a form of hepatitis. Men who have sex with men are 10 times more likely to be infected with Hepatitis A or B than heterosexual men. The good news is that there are effective vaccines for both Hepatitis A and B, so all gay and bisexual men should make sure to be vaccinated. Hepatitis C does not have an available vaccine. The CDC recommends that all people born between 1945 and 1965 should be tested to check if they were infected. HIV Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection is estimated to affect 1.4 million people in the United States, with almost 56 percent of those being in gay and bisexual men. After many years of declining rates of new infections, recent CDC statistics are showing an increase in infections in gay and bisexual men between the ages of 13-24 years old, who accounted for 72 percent of new infections in their age group in 2010. Since the AIDS crisis began in the 1980s, more than 635,000 people have died; each year about 15,000 people die from AIDS. The CDC estimates that one in five gay men are HIV positive and 59 percent may not even know they are infected. Generally, everyone should be tested at least once a year; however testing every three to six months can be done if you engage in higher risk behaviors such as unprotected sex or IV drug use. Early diagnosis will allow your doctor to offer treatment and help decrease spreading this disease. There are many new treatments to prevent and treat HIV, but the first step is to know your status.

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about the author: William R. Blazey, D.O. is an assistant professor of Family Medicine at NYIT’s College of Osteopathic Medicine.

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Issue 7, Volume 1: June 2013, LI Pride Guide  
Issue 7, Volume 1: June 2013, LI Pride Guide  

60 pages of GLBT Pride: an exclusive interview with Melissa Etheridge, a Q&A with LI PrideFest headliner Debbie Gibson, top movie and music...

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