Where did HIV come from?

The first cases of AIDS were identified in the United States in 1981, but AIDS most likely existed for many years before that. Scientists have identified a type of chimpanzee in West Africa as the likely source of HIV infection in humans.

They believe that the chimpanzee version of the virus was most likely transmitted to humans and mutated into HIV when humans hunted these chimpanzees for meat and came into contact with their infected blood. Over the decades, the virus has slowly spread across Africa and to other parts of the world.

I just got back from the clinic and found out that I have herpes. I’m so depressed. What are the side effects of this disease?

You’re not alone with this disease. The U.S. has a huge problem with STDs, and over 9 million teens have been diagnosed with a new STD this year. More than half of sexually active people will get an STD by age 25.

Herpes is a disease that often has recurrent painful blisters that break out on your genitals, throughout the rest of your life. There is no cure, but the blisters can be treated. The treatment will help with the duration and intensity of the symptoms.

One in six people over age 12 are infected with herpes. Herpes is most contagious just before an outbreak of blisters, which a person may not even know about. Condoms don’t prevent transmission of herpes because it can be spread through skin-to-skin contact.

It can even be spread through oral sex, where it can show up on the face, mouth and throat.

Unfortunately, having herpes puts a person more at risk for other STDs, including HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS. Also, mothers with genital herpes can transmit the infection to their unborn baby, so it is important to get good prenatal care during pregnancy.

Common STDs: Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, HPV

Most teens do not think they are at risk for an STD. However, the data on STDs is shocking. There are 19,000,000 new STD infections every year in the U.S. About half of that number is among teens and young adults ages 15-24.

Chlamydia and Gonorrhea

Chlamydia and gonorrhea are two common bacterial STDs. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), the highest reported rates of Chlamydia and gonorrhea are among 15-19 year old females.

Chlamydia and gonorrhea symptoms are often mild, whereby they are often unnoticed. The symptoms could include an abnormal discharge from the vagina or penis, or pain and burning when urinating.

Antibiotics can cure Chlamydia and gonorrhea, but if they are not treated soon enough they create infections that can cause scarring in the reproductive tract. This could ultimately result in difficult or impossible for a woman to get pregnant. They could also cause an ectopic (tubal) pregnancy where pregnancy occurs outside of the uterus, often in the fallopian tubes. Ectopic pregnancies can be very dangerous.

Chlamydia and gonorrhea can also cause scarring making it impossible for men to get a woman pregnant naturally.

Note: Chlamydia and gonorrhea are also known to cause Pelvic Inflammatory Disease in women. PID can damage the fallopian tubes and tissues in and near the uterus and ovaries. Sexually active women in their childbearing years are most at risk, and those under age 25 are more likely to develop PID than those older than 25. This is because the cervix of teenage girls and young women is not fully matured increasing their susceptibility to the STDS that are linked to PID

Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

Infection with human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common STD in the U.S. Over 50% of people who have sex will get HPV at some point in their lives. Many will get HPV while they are a teen because of choices they make with sexual activity.

There are approximately 100 strains of HPV. Many strains do not have symptoms and the body can fight them on without treatment. However, some kinds don’t go away and have persistent infections. HPV is the main risk factor for cervical cancer.

Some strains of HPV produce genital warts. The warts can be treated, but there is no medical cure, and often the warts once treated will return. It is unclear how well condoms protect against HPV, but skin that is not covered by a condom can be exposed and infected with HPV.

Females who are sexually active are strongly encouraged to have regular pap testing because of the risk of cervical cancer, or pre-cancerous cells on the cervix.

Vaccines are available for both males and females ages 9 to 26 (before becoming sexually active) that can help prevent the risk of acquiring some of the most threatening strains of HPV. It is important to note that the vaccine against HPV will not completely protect a person from getting cervical cancer or genital warts because there are some strains of the virus that are not included in the vaccine.

Herpes

What herpes is:

It is a sexually transmitted disease that is common in both women and men. One in five Americans who are twelve or older has herpes.

The two types of herpes are HSV1 and HSV2. HSV2 is more commonly thought of as the sexually transmitted infection, but either type can be the cause of an infection or outbreak in the genital area.

HSV1 could be the cause of blister outbreaks around the mouth (cold sores or fever blisters) and not necessarily be a sexually transmitted infection. It can be passed on even without sexual contact (for instance, by sharing a cup or lipstick).

However, if a person had HSV1 on the mouth and performs oral sex, HSV1 could be transmitted to the genitals of the other person through this sexual activity. Also, HSV2 (or HSV1) could be passed from the genitals to the mouth in the same way.

Most people who have herpes don’t know it because many times there are no symptoms.

While herpes does not usually cause serious health problems, there is no cure for it, only treatments of the symptoms.

Symptoms and treatment of herpes:

Before and during an outbreak, flu-like symptoms may appear.

The most common symptoms are painful blisters and sores. This outbreak of blisters may last a few weeks then go away. But a person will likely have outbreaks like this several times a year, every year.

Herpes does not have a cure, only treatment of the symptoms.

A person may try to keep the outbreaks from lasting so long or from happening so often by taking medication prescribed by a doctor. This medication would need to be taken throughout a person’s whole life. The cost of this medication over a person’s lifetime could be quite high.

Other problems that herpes can cause:

Having herpes makes a person more at risk to get HIV if exposed to it.

Herpes in a pregnant woman can be passed on to the child, especially during the delivery. The doctor may do a C-section (cesarean section) deliver to reduce the risk to the baby. (Many women consider C-section delivery to be less desirable than vaginal delivery because of the added risks, discomfort and recovery time.)

How can herpes be passed on to me?

A person does not need to be in the middle of an outbreak to pass on herpes. Herpes can be passed on even if an infected person has no symptoms.

It can be passed on by any kind of sexual contact-vaginal sex, anal sex, or oral sex.

It can be passed on by skin to skin contact (touching the infected skin) of someone who has it.

It can be passed on by being in contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids, like saliva, semen, or vaginal secretions.

How can I avoid herpes?

The ideal situation for avoiding herpes is to not have sex until marriage and marry someone who is free from herpes and who is committed to being faithful to you.

(Never having sex would also work, but it is not necessary if a person chooses abstinence before marriage and faithfulness in marriage.)

Condom use can only reduce the risk, even with 100% correct usage 100% of the time. Herpes can be passed on to areas on the body that are not covered by a condom.

How do I know if I have herpes?

See a doctor for a blood test. A person can have herpes even if blisters or sores are not present.

What do I do if I have herpes?

Tell your current and past sexual partners. They will need to be tested also.

Since having an incurable STI can create feelings of anxiety, embarrassment, and depression, talking to a professional counselor may help some people.

Choose to stop being sexually active to avoid infecting others.

Honestly and carefully share your health information with a future possible marriage partner. This conversation will not be an easy one. But it is important to building a trusting, healthy relationship. Yes, that person may decide to end the relationship. But, that person may also decide to marry you, in spite of the health risk. Ultimately, it is right for that person to be given the information and the opportunity to choose.

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