http://www.ashasexualhealth.org Mon, 18 Jun 2018 14:36:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://www.ashasexualhealth.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/cropped-site_icon-32x32.jpg http://www.ashasexualhealth.org 32 32 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) http://www.ashasexualhealth.org/national-youth-risk-behavior-survey-yrbs/ Mon, 18 Jun 2018 14:27:16 +0000 http://www.ashasexualhealth.org/?p=5584 The latest YRBS reports some positive health trends for American youth but points out nagging disparities still persist with sexual minorities. The 2017 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows fewer young people in the U.S. are having sex and using drugs but cautions that […]

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The latest YRBS reports some positive health trends for American youth but points out nagging disparities still persist with sexual minorities.

The 2017 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows fewer young people in the U.S. are having sex and using drugs but cautions that a number of troubling risks remain for youth in at-risk groups.
The report finds that between 2007-2017 the percentage of high school students who say they’ve ever had sex dropped from 47.8% to 39.5%. Condom use during last sexual experience also dipped from 61.5% to 53.8%. The percentage of students using illicit drugs declined from 22.6% in 2007 to 14% in 2017.
Of concern, though, is that Gay, lesbian, bisexual and questioning youth were far more likely to report having experienced violence and bullying. In the press release outlining the findings Jonathan Mermin, M.D., director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention said ““Today’s youth are making better decisions about their health than just a decade ago. But, some experiences, such as physical and sexual violence, are outside their control and continue at painfully high levels. Their experiences today have powerful implications for their lives tomorrow.”

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Men’s Health Month http://www.ashasexualhealth.org/mens-health-month/ Fri, 01 Jun 2018 15:30:30 +0000 http://www.ashasexualhealth.org/?p=5572 Each year in June we put a special focus on the health needs of boys and men. Sexual health is important across the entire lifespan and involves more than just sex! Body image, relationships, understanding sexual anatomy (and keeping it healthy) are all a big part of a guy’s overall health. ASHA has an array […]

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Each year in June we put a special focus on the health needs of boys and men. Sexual health is important across the entire lifespan and involves more than just sex! Body image, relationships, understanding sexual anatomy (and keeping it healthy) are all a big part of a guy’s overall health. ASHA has an array of sexual health resources developed just for men at all stages of life.

Health is Power!

The Health Is Power toolkit is designed for organizations to better promote sexual health among young African American men (ages 18-30). The toolkit is designed mainly for heterosexual men, but also includes imagery and messaging that can be used with gay and bisexual men.

Men’s Health Podcast

We ruminate on men and sexual health in this episode with Dr. Abe Morgentaler of Men’s Health Boston and ASHA’s vice president for strategic partnerships Kay Phillips.hips Kay Phillips. Both offer their insights and we highlight the tools and resources ASHA offers for men (and organizations serving them).

 

Health & Wellbeing for Young Males

This self-assessment tool is designed for young male patients, roughly ages 14-18, to help provide a picture of overall health and wellbeing. This assessment can be shared with a healthcare provider, who can answer any questions you might have about the questions covered.

Anatomy 101

There’s more to it than what you see. Although most of the male reproductive organs are external, it’s important to understand how all your sex organs—external and internal—work together.

Sexual Difficulties in Men     

Sexual difficulties in middle age are just as natural to the aging process as a change in hearing, vision, or physical strength. While it’s important to understand why most men over 40 experience some form of sexual difficulty, it’s more important to understand that sexual difficulties in middle age (and beyond) can be managed.

Take Ten

Talking to a healthcare provider about your sexual health can be intimidating. You might feel embarrassed about the questions that you have; you might not want to admit to certain feelings or fears about your health. However, being able to talk to your healthcare provider about your physical health as it relates to your sexual health is absolutely crucial. Ten Questions to Ask has tools for finding the right provider and talking with them once you do.

Sexual Health TV

Sexual Health TV (SHTV) is your one stop for a wide range of sexual health programming including men’s health videos like Myths and Facts about Erectile Dysfunction.

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Hepatitis B Virus: Five Things to Know http://www.ashasexualhealth.org/hepatitis-b-virus-five-things-know/ Fri, 25 May 2018 19:12:51 +0000 http://www.ashasexualhealth.org/?p=5565 Hepatitis B is a virus that causes inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis B virus (HBV) can be experienced as an “acute” infection causing mild illness for a few weeks or months or as a more serious “chronic” infection lasting a lifetime. Chronic HBV infection can cause complications such as cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) and […]

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Hepatitis B is a virus that causes inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis B virus (HBV) can be experienced as an “acute” infection causing mild illness for a few weeks or months or as a more serious “chronic” infection lasting a lifetime. Chronic HBV infection can cause complications such as cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) and even lead to liver cancer.

Hepatitis B is More Common Than You Think
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates as many as 2.2 million persons in the U.S. are living with chronic hepatitis B.
Hepatitis B Is Most Commonly Transmitted Through Sexual Contact
Hepatitis B is transmitted through contact with infected body fluids such as semen, vaginal secretions, and blood. HBV is most often transmitted through sexual contact but can also be contracted when injecting drug users share needles and other injecting equipment. Mothers with HBV can also pass the virus to their infants during birth.

But Most Don’t Know They Have It
Adults often have few – if any- symptoms. When they occur, symptoms can be mistaken for the flu (nausea and vomiting, malaise, loss of appetite and abdominal pain). Some people with hepatitis B also experience jaundice, a yellowing of the eyes or skin.

The Only Way to Know is to Get Tested
The only way to know for sure is to test! Ask your health care provider if a test for HBV or other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are right for you. Special blood tests are used that can detect either HBV particles or antibodies (proteins in the blood your body produces against infections). Blood tests can determine if someone with hepatitis B has an acute or chronic infection.

It’s Easy to Prevent
Use male or female condoms (sometimes called external or internal condoms) each time you have sex. While they don’t provide 100% protection against hepatitis B and other STIs, when used consistently and correctly condoms are one of the best ways to reduce your risk for hepatitis B and other STIs. Those sharing households with someone diagnosed with HBV should contact with infected blood or other body fluids directly or on objects such as needles, razors, toothbrushes, and the like. Clean surfaces contaminated with blood or other body fluids with a solution of 1 part household bleach and 10 parts water.

There is a vaccine that can prevent hepatitis B! CDC recommends hepatitis B vaccination for sex partners of anyone who has hepatitis B; anyone who is sexually active but not in a long-term, monogamous relationship; those treated for STD/STIs; and men who have sex with men. Others may benefit from vaccination against HBV so ask your health care provider what is recommended for you.

For more on HBV and other STIs visit www.ASHAsexualhealth.org and follow us at #ISpeakSexHealth.

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Women’s Health Month http://www.ashasexualhealth.org/womens-health-month-2/ Tue, 01 May 2018 14:38:52 +0000 http://www.ashasexualhealth.org/?p=5525 Every year in May we shine an especially bright spotlight on the unique health needs of girls and women. New policies and programs make quality healthcare accessible for millions and we want to make sure you take advantage of all that’s available. You deserve to be well cared for in mind and body! Sexual Health […]

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Every year in May we shine an especially bright spotlight on the unique health needs of girls and women. New policies and programs make quality healthcare accessible for millions and we want to make sure you take advantage of all that’s available. You deserve to be well cared for in mind and body!

Sexual Health Across the Lifespan

Menopause is a normal, natural event—not a disease!
Menopause isn’t a one-size-fits-all event and affects each woman differently. Some women reach natural menopause with little to no trouble; others may experience symptoms that can hamper their lives. And when menopause starts suddenly as a result of surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation, the adjustment can be tough.

Self Assessment Tool for Young Females
These self-assessment tools are designed for young female patients – one for ages 9-14 and the other for ages 15-young adult years – to help provide a picture of overall health and wellbeing and to get them thinking about a number of health topics as they prepare for a visit to their health care provider.

Pleasure is Healthy

Beyond the Big “O” 
Sexual pleasure is good for you! Listen to the ASHA podcast as Dr. Logan Levkoff dishes on everything from not only having more sex but better sex, and why sexual pleasure doesn’t need to involve a partner!

 

Sexual Pleasure 101
If you’re wondering why your sex life isn’t playing out like a steamy love story, it’s good to remind yourself that your sexual-response triggers are unique to you! So just how will you experience sexual pleasure?

Women and Sexual Health Care

Yes Means Test
 A happy and healthy sex life starts by saying #YESmeansTEST. It’s as easy as having a chat with your healthcare provider. They can help you figure out which tests for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are right for you. At a minimum, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that sexually active women under age 25 get tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea every year.

Preventive Care and the ACA
Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a number of preventive care health services are now available for women without cost sharing–in other words, nothing out of pocket! See which services are covered and learn what it means for you .

Take Ten
Talking to a healthcare provider about your sexual health can be intimidating. You might feel embarrassed about the questions that you have; you might not want to admit to certain feelings or fears about your health. However, being able to talk to your healthcare provider about your physical health as it relates to your sexual health is absolutely crucial. Ten Questions to Ask has tools for finding the right provider and talking with them once you do.

Relationships

R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Listen to Aretha! Truly good relationships take time and energy to develop, and should be based on respect and honesty. This is especially important when you decide to date someone. While it’s important that dating partners care for each other, it’s just as important that you take care of yourselfHealthy Relationships gets you started towards the relationships you deserve.

For Your Viewing Pleasure

Sexual Health TV

Sexual health TVSexual Health TV (SHTV) is your one stop for a wide range of sexual health programming including our library of women’s health videos. Check out one of our most popular videos, How Well Do You Know Your Partner?

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HPV: What’s the Real Story? http://www.ashasexualhealth.org/hpv-whats-real-story/ Thu, 05 Apr 2018 17:04:37 +0000 http://www.ashasexualhealth.org/?p=5495 Featuring video interviews from ASHA staff and a National Cervical Cancer Coalition chapter leader, this series tells you what you need to know about how a common infection sometimes leads to cancer and the way vaccination can protect you or your children. ASHA developed this program in collaboration with WebMD Education and the Yellow Umbrella […]

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Featuring video interviews from ASHA staff and a National Cervical Cancer Coalition chapter leader, this series tells you what you need to know about how a common infection sometimes leads to cancer and the way vaccination can protect you or your children. ASHA developed this program in collaboration with WebMD Education and the Yellow Umbrella Organization.

These short educational episodes include:

  • HPV: What’s the Real Story?
  • HPV Infection Is Cancer Prevention
  • HPV Infection Prevention: Not Just for Girls
  • HPV: Why It Matters

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Sexually Transmitted Diseases Awareness Month 2018 http://www.ashasexualhealth.org/sexually-transmitted-diseases-awareness-month-2018/ Thu, 29 Mar 2018 20:19:12 +0000 http://www.ashasexualhealth.org/?p=5477 #STDMonth18 Each April ASHA recognizes STD Awareness Month. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): • There are 20 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases (also referred to as sexually transmitted infections) in the U.S. every year • The medical costs for these new cases are $16 billion • Adding the […]

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#STDMonth18

Each April ASHA recognizes STD Awareness Month. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

• There are 20 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases (also referred to as sexually transmitted infections) in the U.S. every year
• The medical costs for these new cases are $16 billion
• Adding the new cases each year with existing infection, there are an estimated 110 million total STDs among Americans.

People may not know they have an STD because many do not have symptoms, and they can cause serious health consequences if they are not detected and treated appropriately. For example, chlamydia left untreated can put a woman at risk for pelvic inflammatory disease, a condition that can lead to infertility.

 

To spread the message about the importance of STD testing ASHA is continuing the “YES Means TEST™” initiative to educate and empower young
adults who say “YES” to sexual activity also to say “YES” to getting tested for STDs.
STD testing can be confidential and free or low-cost, and common STDs, such as chlamydia or gonorrhea, are usually effectively treated with antibiotics. For more information about STDs, “YES Means TEST” or how and where to get tested, visit www.yesmeanstest.org. Join the conversation online with #YESmeansTEST.

Talking about STIs and Sexual Health

Reduce Your Risk

  • Your Safer Sex Toolbox has the scoop on the different types of condoms (and how to use them), lubricants and more

Take Charge of Your Sexual Health

  • Sexual Health TV: ASHA’s videos give you the facts about STDs and condoms
  • Learn about STI tests and find a clinic near you
  • Say Yes To PrEP: along with condoms, pre-exposure prophylaxis (or PrEP) is an HIV-prevention option for those at higher risk that involves taking a pill once daily. Visit #SayYesToPrEP to find out if PrEP is right for you and search for clinics in your area.

We’ll add new items all month long so check back often. Also join our #STDMonth18 Twitter chat on Thursday, April 12th at 2:00 pm ET. We’ll highlight tons of resources and answer YOUR questions (Tweet them to us @infoASHA).

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March is Sexual Pleasure Month http://www.ashasexualhealth.org/march-sexual-pleasure-month/ Fri, 02 Mar 2018 18:34:27 +0000 http://www.ashasexualhealth.org/?p=5450 It’s on! March is Sexual Pleasure Month and the focus is #PleasureIsHealthy! Pleasure has many benefits: sex helps you sleep better, reduces stress and increases happiness. Sex and orgasm actually release chemicals that our bodies love. We can experience the benefits of pleasure with or without a partner, too, so here’s a plug for masturbation […]

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It’s on! March is Sexual Pleasure Month and the focus is #PleasureIsHealthy! Pleasure has many benefits: sex helps you sleep better, reduces stress and increases happiness. Sex and orgasm actually release chemicals that our bodies love.

We can experience the benefits of pleasure with or without a partner, too, so here’s a plug for masturbation as a normal, natural, healthy practice! There’s no one “right way” to have sex and we hope you’ll use some of our resources this month and beyond to explore the many approaches to pleasure and satisfaction we believe you so richly deserve. Enjoy!

Sexual Pleasure beyond the Big “O”

Listen in as Dr. Levkoff dishes on everything from not only having more sex but better sex, and why sexual pleasure doesn’t need to involve a partner!

In this episode we chat with Dr. Logan Levkoff on the value of pleasure not only in a relationship but as part of our overall well-being. Whether alone or with a partner, sexual pleasure is good for you! Listen in as Dr. Levkoff dishes on everything from not only having more sex but better sex, and why sexual pleasure doesn’t need to involve a partner!

Sexual Pleasure 101

We’re all different. What turns you on (or off)? What are your fantasies? Take a look at our #PleasureIsHealthy overview page for tips on having great sex with or without a partner.

 Breathing New Life into Your Sexual Relationship

In this episode of the ASHA podcast we talk with sexuality and relationship expert Walker Thornton about reigniting the spark in your sex life and enhancing pleasure for you and your partners.

Sex and Relationships

There are all kinds of relationships we can choose to enter. What are you looking for? Committed or non-committed? Friendly or romantic? Our primer on sex and relationships covers the range from casual relationships to life partnerships.

Talking about Sex

This is a big one. Communication is key in getting the sex and pleasure you want and there is much to talk about with your partners. How do you start the conversation? Read on!

Your Safer Sex ToolboxTalking about condoms

Pop the latch on this toolbox and get the scoop on male and female condoms, choosing the right type of lube and so much more. It’s about safer sex, sure, but we show you how these tools can add spice to your sex life and boost the pleasure factor.

 

Sexual Difficulties

Sexual difficulties are common for both men and women and the good news is there are solutions. It’s smart to ask for help when needed and this episode of ASHA’s Sexual Health TV shows you just how to begin.

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Female Condoms: A Woman-Centered Option http://www.ashasexualhealth.org/female-condoms-woman-centered-option/ Thu, 22 Feb 2018 18:57:43 +0000 http://www.ashasexualhealth.org/?p=5420 In honor of National Condom Month, ASHA asked our colleagues at the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE) to help us educate about female condoms. Kate Segal (Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Policy Analyst, Global Health Corps Fellow) and Beirne Roose-Snyder (Director of Public Policy) share their thoughts on this woman-centered contraceptive option. […]

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In honor of National Condom Month, ASHA asked our colleagues at the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE) to help us educate about female condoms. Kate Segal (Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Policy Analyst, Global Health Corps Fellow) and Beirne Roose-Snyder (Director of Public Policy) share their thoughts on this woman-centered contraceptive option.

When women and girls dictate a prevention agenda, they account for their own unique prevention and pleasure needs that stem from their lived realities. What technologies exist that can both prevent unintended pregnancy and HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs)? Are these products easy to access? Do they make sense for women and girls’ bodies? Do they feel good—and maybe even enhance sex?

Woman-centered contraceptive options, which are designed with these questions in mind, promote the right to a safe, full, and enjoyable sex life—one where women and girls can make free and informed decisions about their sexuality without coercion, violence, or discrimination, through access to the information and interventions necessary for their sexual and reproductive health. Plus, sex can be pleasurable. Women and girls want and should have control over interventions that allow sex to be pleasurable for them while reducing unwanted or unintended outcomes.

Female condoms, also known as internal condoms, are one tool that achieves these objectives. They are the only dual-protection method designed for women to initiate that effectively protects against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), HIV, and unintended pregnancy. They can be used by people of all genders who participate in receptive vaginal or anal sex. Studies have shown that female condoms have pregnancy1 and STI prevention2 rates comparable to male condoms.

Female condoms promote safety, particularly for women and girls. Unlike male condoms, female condoms can be inserted hours ahead of foreplay and intercourse. This feature provides women with options when they may not be able to safely negotiate male condom use, such as sex workers who are at risk of violence or whose clients refuse condom use3, or women who experience intimate partner violence.

For women living with HIV, female condoms are vital to their health and the health of their sexual partners, as they protect compromised immune systems from STIs and decrease the per-act probability of HIV transmission by over 90 percent.4

With the spread of the Zika epidemic, U.S. agencies have recommended including female condoms in Zika virus prevention efforts. While many people in Zika-affected countries know that the Zika virus is spread by mosquitoes, fewer are aware that the Zika virus is also sexually transmissible. Female condoms simultaneously prevent the sexual transmission of the Zika virus, including for pregnant women, and unintended pregnancies for women at risk of contracting Zika.

In addition to practical, female condoms are pleasurable. The outer ring of the condom covers the labia, which can lead to extra stimulation while reducing the risk of transmitting skin-to-skin STIs. Female condoms serve as an essential resource for women to plan pregnancies and have safe, healthy, and enjoyable sex.5

While female condoms should be made widely available among a comprehensive array of contraceptive methods, they face multiple barriers to access. Uptake of female condoms can be difficult to generate due to their unfamiliarity and misuse. According to a 2005 study by the Guttmacher Institute, the female condom slipped out the first time for 11 percent of women. Educating women on how to insert female condoms is essential and empowering.

Availability of female condoms in the United States also remains limited. The FC2 is currently the only female condom brand approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). But this could change soon. In December, the FDA proposed reclassifying the female condom to a “Class II medical device,” the same classification as the male condom. The government agency also recommended changing the name from “female” to “internal.” Proponents argue that this move could broaden access to female condoms because they would not need pre-market approval.

Globally, female condoms are often procured in smaller quantities along with male condoms by ministries of health and donor governments, without the necessary investment in programming and demand creation. Otherwise hindered by much of the same stigma and politicization as other aspects of women’s sexual health, female condoms can thrive in environments with open discussion of their insertion and use, peer education, and ready access. After all, health commodities don’t normalize themselves. With more work and investment in generating excitement around woman-centered options that recognize their diverse needs and experiences, women and girls will be empowered to decide what prevention means to them. Better, safer sex awaits.

References

  1. James Trussell, Contraceptive Efficacy, in CONTRACEPTIVE TECHNOLOGY 747, 750 (19th rev. ed., Robert Hatcher et al., eds., 2009). See also Julia Matthews & Teresa Harrison, An Update on Female-Controlled Methods for HIV prevention: female condom, microbicides, and cervical barriers, 7 S. AFR. J. HIV MED. 7, 7 (2006)
  2. P.P. French et al., Use Effectiveness of the Male Condom in Preventing Sexually Transmitted Disease in Women, 30 SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASES 433, 433 (2003); Paul Feldblum et al., Female Condom Introduction and sexually transmitted infection prevalence: results of a community intervention trial in Kenya, 15 AIDS 1037, 1043 (2001); Arnaud Fontanet et al., Protection against sexually transmitted diseases by granting sex workers in Thailand the choice of using the male or female condom: results from a randomized control trial, 12 AIDS 1851, 1858 (1998)
  3. Holly Swan & Daniel O’Connell, The Impact of Intimate Partner Violence on Women’s Condom Negotiation Efficacy, 27 J. INTERPERSONAL VIOLENCE 775, 788 (2012); Thulile Mathenjwa & Pranitha Maharaj, ‘Female condoms give women greater control:’ A qualitative assessment of the experiences of commercial sex workers in Swaziland, EUR. J. CONTRACEPTION & REPROD. HEALTH CARE 383, 389-90 (2012).
  4. James Trussell, Contraceptive Efficacy, in CONTRACEPTIVE TECHNOLOGY 747, 750 (19th rev. ed., Robert Hatcher et al., eds., 2009). See also Julia Matthews & Teresa Harrison, An Update on Female-Controlled Methods for HIV prevention: female condom, microbicides, and cervical barriers, 7 S. AFR. J. HIV MED. 7, 7 (2006)
  5. Alice Welbourn, Sex, life and the female condom: some views of HIV-positive women, 14 REPROD. HEALTH MATTERS 32, 32 (2006).

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HSV Rates Dropping http://www.ashasexualhealth.org/hsv-rates-dropping/ Tue, 13 Feb 2018 19:09:58 +0000 http://www.ashasexualhealth.org/?p=5396 Rates of herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2 (HSV-1 and HSV-2) dipped between 1999 and 2016 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Among those in the U.S. ages 14-49 the prevalence of HSV-2 in 2016 (all of those with HSV-2 in the age range being studied) was 12%, down from […]

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Rates of herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2 (HSV-1 and HSV-2) dipped between 1999 and 2016 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Among those in the U.S. ages 14-49 the prevalence of HSV-2 in 2016 (all of those with HSV-2 in the age range being studied) was 12%, down from 18% in 1999. Approximately 1 in 8 individuals in this age group have HSV-2, which is almost always experienced as a genital infection. Most individuals with genital herpes are undiagnosed and not aware they have the virus.

HSV-1 prevalence also dropped during the same period, from 59% in 1999 to 48%. HSV-1 is typically experienced as an oral infection (cold sores) but research suggests HSV-1 is found with nearly half of all new genital herpes infections.

The data were collected as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and reported in Prevalence of Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 and Type 2 in Persons Ages 14-49: United States, 2015-2016 (McQuillan et al). NHANES is a series of continuing studies assessing the health of adults and children in the U.S.

For more on HSV including testing and prevention visit ASHA’s Herpes Resource Center.

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February 7th http://www.ashasexualhealth.org/hiv/ Tue, 06 Feb 2018 18:26:05 +0000 http://www.ashasexualhealth.org/?p=5373 HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is the virus that causes AIDS. AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. HIV can be transmitted through the blood, sexual fluids, or breast milk of an HIV-infected person. Over time, infection with HIV can weaken the immune system to the point that the system has difficulty fighting […]

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HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is the virus that causes AIDS. AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. HIV can be transmitted through the blood, sexual fluids, or breast milk of an HIV-infected person.

Over time, infection with HIV can weaken the immune system to the point that the system has difficulty fighting off certain infections. These types of infections are known as opportunistic infections. These infections are usually controlled by a healthy immune system, but they can cause problems or even be life-threatening in someone with AIDS.

A blood test can determine if a person is infected with HIV. Too many people don’t know they have HIV. In the United States, nearly 1.1 million people are living with HIV, and almost one in five don’t know they are infected. Getting tested is the first step to finding out if you have HIV. If you have HIV, getting medical care and taking medicines regularly helps you live a longer, healthier life and also lowers the chances of passing HIV on to others.

If a person tests positive for HIV, it does not necessarily mean that the person has AIDS. A diagnosis of AIDS is made by a physician according to the CDC AIDS Case Definition. A person infected with HIV may receive an AIDS diagnosis after developing one of the CDC-defined AIDS indicator illnesses. A person with HIV can also receive an AIDS diagnosis on the basis of certain blood tests (CD4 counts) and may not have experienced any serious illnesses.

FAQs

Where did HIV come from?
There are many theories about the origin of HIV. The first known case was found in a blood sample collected from man from Kinshasha, Democratic Republic of Congo in 1959. Genetic analysis of this blood suggests that the origin of HIV came from a single strain of HIV-1 in the 1940s or 1950s. In the U.S. the virus is known to have existed since the mid 1970s. Symptoms of rare types of what are now known as opportunistic infections began manifesting themselves between 1979-1981. HIV was first isolated by scientists in 1983. The virus was at first called HTLV-III/LAV (human T-cell lymphotropic virus-type III/lymphadenopathy- associated virus) by an international scientific committee. This name was later changed to HIV (human immunodeficiency virus).

What is AIDS?
A diagnosis of AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) is made by a physician. An HIV-infected person may be diagnosed with AIDS if he or she meets certain clinical criteria. Criteria include becoming sick with an illness defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as an AIDS-indicator illness (illnesses that take advantage of the body’s weakened immune system) and/or by taking a blood test that shows that the person’s immune system is severely damaged.

What are the symptoms of HIV?
Most people infected with HIV do not know that they have become infected, because they do not feel ill immediately after infection. However, some people do experience a illness with fever, rash, joint pains and enlarged lymph nodes. If an immune reaction to HIV occurs, it usually takes place between 1 and 6 weeks after HIV infection has happened. A person with HIV may look healthy and feel good, but they can still pass the virus to you, especially during the initial infection period. You cannot tell if someone has HIV by just looking at them. The only way to determine whether HIV is present in a person’s body is by testing.

How does HIV become AIDS?
AIDS is a disease caused by HIV. HIV infects cells of the human immune system and destroys or impairs their function. Infection with this virus leads to slow destruction of a persons’ immune system making them more susceptible to many kinds of infections. Once a person with HIV develops any one of a number of rare infections or cancers – tuberculosis, pneumonia, candidiases or tumors – they are said to have AIDS. This most often occurs 10-15 years after a person becomes infected with HIV.

How long does it take for HIV to cause AIDS?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), prior to 1996, scientists estimated that about half the people with HIV would develop AIDS within 10 years after becoming infected. This time varied greatly from person to person and depended on many factors, including a person’s health status and their health-related behaviors.

Since 1996, the introduction of powerful anti-retroviral therapies has dramatically changed the progression time between HIV infection and the development of AIDS. There are also other medical treatments that can prevent or cure some of the illnesses associated with AIDS, though the treatments do not cure AIDS itself. Because of these advances in drug therapies and other medical treatments, estimates of how many people will develop AIDS and how soon are being recalculated, revised, or are currently under study.


How common are HIV and AIDS?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 1 million persons in the United States are living with diagnosed or undiagnosed HIV/AIDS. CDC estimates there are over 41,000 new HIV infections in the United States each year.

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) estimates that, since the beginning of the epidemic, almost 60 million people worldwide have been infected with HIV and 25 million people have died of HIV-related causes. UNAIDS estimates that about 33.4 million people worldwide were living with HIV in 2008.


Who does HIV affect?
There are various risk factors that make some people more at risk for contracting HIV than others. Most people, however, run some risk of contracting HIV as they share in one or more of the following risk factors:

  • Unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex
  • Early age of first sexual activity—It is common for youth to engage in sexual activity before receiving information about HIV prevention
  • Heterosexual sex–Women and minorities are particularly vulnerable to HIV infection
  • Men who have Sex with Men (MSM)–Stigma and discrimination make it more difficult for MSM to access testing and counseling services
  • Sexually transmitted infection (STIs)–The presence of other STIs can greatly increase the likelihood of HIV transmission
  • Unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex
  • Exchange sex for money
  • Substance abuse—Chronic and intermittent substance users are more likely to engage in high-risk behaviors while using. Injection drug users also run the risk of being infected by HIV while sharing unclean needles.
  • Poverty—Socioeconomic factors can directly and indirectly influence a person’s vulnerability to HIV infection. For many people poverty prevents access to quality health care.
  • Out-of-school youth—Those that drop out of school are more likely to become sexually active younger and less likely to use condoms and other types of contraception.
  • Lack of awareness—Many people, particularly youth, don’t recognize the ways in which they are vulnerable to HIV infection, making them more likely to behave in ways that put them at risk.


How safe is the U.S. blood supply?
The U.S. blood supply is one of the safest in the world. Infection through blood transfusion and other blood products is rare. Since 1985, the blood supply has been ELISA tested for HIV. According to the CDC, an estimated 1 in 450,000 to 1 in 660,000 donations per year are infectious for HIV but are not detected by current antibody screening tests. In 1995, blood banks also began testing with P24 tests along with ELISA, to detect infection with HIV during this window period. As technology advances, the blood supply will become even safer.

How is HIV transmitted?
HIV can be transmitted through the blood, sexual fluids (semen, preseminal fluid, or vaginal fluid) or breast milk of an HIV-infected person. People can get HIV one of these fluids enters the body by way of the mucous membranes (the soft, moist skin found in any opening of the body) or the bloodstream. The virus can be passed during unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex with a HIV-infected person. An HIV-infected mother can transmit HIV to her infant during pregnancy, delivery or while breastfeeding. People can also become infected with HIV when using injection drugs through sharing needles and other equipment (or works) including cookers and cottons with someone who is infected.

The risk of transmission varies with the type of exposure (e.g. sexual, needle sharing, etc.) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers a table quantifying the this HIV transmission risk that comes from different types of exposures. See the table and explanation at the CDC website.


How effective are latex condoms at preventing HIV?
Studies have been done to test how well latex condoms work for preventing HIV transmission. This research has shown that latex condoms are highly effective at protecting a person from transmitting or becoming infected with the virus. The studies were done on HIV-negative individuals at high-risk for the disease because there partners were HIV-positive. Latex condoms used consistently and correctly were effective 98-100% of the time.

While not having sex or to having sex with a long-term mutually monogamous partner who is not infected with HIV or other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is the only way to protect yourself completely, latex condoms used consistently and correctly are highly effective in preventing HIV and many other STIs.


Can I get HIV from casual contact?
HIV is not transmitted by day-to-day contact in social settings, schools or in the workplace. You cannot be infected by shaking someone’s hand, by hugging someone, by using the same toilet or drinking from the same glass as an HIV-positive person, playing sports with or by being exposed to coughing or sneezing by anyone living with HIV. There is no evidence that HIV is spread through kissing. So you should not be fearful of interacting with persons who are living with the disease.

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