By Gary Minter
Washington, D.C. has the highest AIDS diagnosis rate of any state in the nation.
At a recent class on sexually-transmitted diseases at Thrive DC, some interesting and frightening facts about HIV/AIDS and other STDs were revealed.
1. HIV is most contagious in the first days and weeks of infection, when standard AIDS antibody tests are still negative.
2. Up to 50 percent of men carry HPV, Human Papilloma Virus, but most are unaware because symptoms are not obvious. These men infect their sex partners with HPV. Some types of the virus can cause cervical cancer in females.
3. Many adults are infected with strains of herpes viruses, some of which cause cold sores (HSV1) and fever blisters, some of which cause painful genital lesions (HSV2).
The AIDS virus is most commonly transmitted through sex, including vaginal and anal sex. Oral sex can cause HIV infection but less frequently than vaginal or anal sex. Sharing drug needles is extremely contagious if one person in the group has HIV. Blood transfusions, organ transplants, and receiving clotting factor for hemophilia are far less risky than during the 1970s and 1980s, when HIV became widespread in the gay male community and among prostitutes and drug addicts. However, there are still some cases of people being infected by organ transplants if the donor tested negative during the early stages of HIV infection, the “window period,” when the virus is most highly contagious.
Mothers can transmit HIV to their babies, in utero, during childbirth, or by breastfeeding. Anti-AIDS drugs can lower the risk of transmission but not eliminate it.