Promoting sexual health nowadays is all about reviewing the full scope of options and seeing what works best for you. You can have an active sex life and still protect your sexual health, and how you do that is no longer a one-size-fits-all approach.
Below you will learn about HIV and STD prevention/treatment services offered by Ochsner’s leading medical providers in the field of sexual health and wellness.
HIV PrEP – a Revolution in HIV Prevention
PrEP stands for “pre-exposure prophylaxis.” If you are not HIV positive, it’s a once-a-day pill you can use to prevent HIV infection that is transmitted in semen, vaginal fluids, blood and breast milk. When taken daily, PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV by over 90 percent. Since it’s approval in 2012 by the FDA, PrEP has helped to dramatically reduce the spread of HIV.
Who Should Use PrEP?
Anyone 18 years or older who is likely to be exposed to HIV can use PrEP. Teens age 12 to 17 may also benefit from PrEP but it may be more complex to get because of health care laws for minors.
An important first step is to ask a knowledgeable medical provider about PrEP. They can then help you determine if PrEP is right for you and help you overcome barriers to getting on PrEP.
Undetectable = Untransmittable (U=U)
If you are HIV positive, getting and staying on treatment not only provides immediate health benefits to you but also to current or future partners. Twenty years of science shows that people living with HIV who take their medicines until they have an undetectable viral load have no risk of spreading the virus to sexual partners.
Call the Ochsner Scheduling Line at 1-866-624-7637 for confidential support to schedule with a provider for HIV treatment.
HIV & STDs – Know Your Options. Play Smart.
You can have an active sex life and still protect yourself from HIV and other STDs. Having a candid discussion with a health care provider about your sex life is the first step toward promoting better sexual health and finding out what prevention strategies might work best for you including how often you should check in for STD screening.
Should You Get Tested More Frequently?
Well, it all depends. Your health care provider will ask about different kinds of sexual practices you enjoy and help determine what tests should be done and how often.
Massage and mutual masturbation are lower risk for acquiring HIV and some STDs. Oral sex is low risk for HIV infection but not for bacterial STDs like syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia. Vaginal sex without a condom is higher risk for most STDs. Anal sex without a condom, especially if you are the receptive partner or “bottom” is the highest risk for most STDs.
Discuss HIV Status
Your risk of HIV infection also depends on whether your partner knows their HIV status.
If positive and your partner is on daily meds with an undetectable viral load, there is no risk of acquiring the infection from sexual contact. So if a partner discloses they are HIV positive, the conversation is not over. Ask about whether their virus is undetectable. Also, share your status and know that if your partner is consistently on meds, you have a high level of protection from HIV. If your partner is struggling to stay on meds, support them in getting back into care and soon they too will have an undetectable viral load.
Expanding Your Options
Sex is often spontaneous, and planning ahead to have a condom and lubricant on demand may not be possible. For a variety of reasons, if you haven’t been consistent about sex with condoms, PrEP could be a good fit to protect you from HIV.
Sometimes it’s hard to have an open discussion about STDs and HIV with new sex partners, but keep practicing! It gets easier.
Even if you don’t know much about the sexual health of a partner, there are steps you can take to promote sexual health. Advocating for condom use offers a high degree of protection from most STDs. If consistent condom use is hard to put into action, PrEP is a great option because unlike condoms, you don’t need to negotiate with a partner about whether you should take PrEP. The choice is yours.
Promoting Sexual Health – Mind and Body
Pleasure and intimacy are integral parts of sexual health but sometimes things can get in the way of attaining these goals. Past traumas, anxiety, depression or struggles with drugs can lead to sexual difficulties. Opening up to your provider about these issues can help you start on the path to overcoming these challenges.