STDS and HIV
The rate of sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs or STIs) is increasing. Many sexually-transmitted diseases have no symptoms.
Preventing sexually-transmitted diseases and HIV
- Use condoms.
- Undergo STD and HIV screening if you have multiple partners, or if you are unsure of your partner’s sexual history.
- For most people, screening gonorrhea, chlamydia, HIV, syphilis, and type 2 herpes consists of a simple blood test and urine test.
- If you have not been vaccinated for human papilloma virus (HPV), and you are 18-45 years of age, make certain that you undergo the HPV vaccination series (three vaccinations).
- If you are at high risk for HIV, consider taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent you from contracting HIV.
PrEP (Pre-exposure Prophylaxis)
Florida has one of the highest annual rates of new HIV infection in the country. Most often it is passed through sexual transmission, especially among men who have sex with men. Safe sex practices and faithful condom use are essential, but clearly not practiced enough to stop all new cases. Sexually active individuals are still taking risks and getting HIV. Those at greatest risk are individuals with high numbers of anonymous sex partners, those that are receptive in anal sex (“bottoms”), those who are making poor decisions while high or drunk and those with a history of multiple STD’s. Those at increased risk also include those partnered with someone with HIV who may not be taking their medications faithfully or have developed resistance.
Another important fact about PrEP is that most patients can obtain it at little to no cost. It is covered by most insurances. The manufacturer, Gilead, provides cards to cover any additional insurance co-pays. Gilead also makes the medication available to those who are uninsured via a patient assistance program. Fear of cost is therefore not a reason to avoid PrEP.
Our PrEP visits include an initial HIV risk assessment and personalized recommendations for reduction of exposure. We then draw complete laboratory studies in our office to check baseline kidney function as well as to confirm a client is negative for both HIV and hepatitis B. These labs are covered by insurance as well. PrEP prescriptions are given at the first visit to be filled via pharmacy. Repeat assessments of risk and collection of lab tests are then collected every 3 months. We also highly recommend complete STD screening at the first and every follow-up visit.
PrEP does not need to be a long-term commitment. Individuals’ sexual practices and relationships change over time. If one is no longer at risk, PrEP can be discontinued. If things change and it is needed again, it can be resumed with not loss of effectiveness, upon discussion with your provider.