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Apr 16, 1997

I have a question about the relative ease of contracting an STD as opposed to HIV. Are my chances easier or harder to contract an STD rather than HIV. Any type of information will be greatly appreciated.

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question.

This is actually a complicated question to answer, since Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD's) are a group of diseases, rather than just one disease. Some STD's are more easily transmitted than others.

The STD's that are most infectious are those that are transmitted by direct physical contact (usually genital-to-genital, genital-to-anal, and genital-to-oral contact). These diseases can include syphilis, chancroid, herpes, genital warts (due to the HPV virus), and Molluscum Contagiosum. There does not necessarily have to be intercourse for these diseases to be transmitted. Lice and scabies can also be transmitted through sexual contact (direct body-to-body contact), although these two diseases can also be transmitted by non-sexual means.

There are other diseases that are easier to get than HIV, but usually involve more intimate contact than those above. These include Chlamydia and Gonorrhea. Intercourse (vaginal, anal, and oral) is usually required for transmission of these infections to take place.

Relatively speaking, HIV is actually harder to get than many of the other STD's. This is because the HIV virus must get directly into the bloodstream in order for infection to take place. If it doesn't get into the bloodstream, infection will not occur. There are diseases that are transmitted the exact same way as HIV. These diseases include Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and HTLV-I. Hepatitis B is however 100 times more infectious than HIV (since it is in much higher concentrations in body fluids like the blood). Hepatitis C is primarily transmitted by blood-to-blood contact, but is also occasionally transmitted through sexual contact as well. HTLV-I causes a type of leukemia, and is often confused with the HIV virus.

I have only named some of the major STD's out there in this question. There are others as well. Keep in mind that some of these other STD's are also incurable (like Genital Warts, Herpes, Hepatitis B etc.). Some are also potentially life-threatening as well (like Syphilis, Hepatitis B, HTLV-I etc.). Also some STD's are linked to various forms of cancer (Hepatitis B can cause liver cancer, HPV can cause cervical and anal cancers, HTLV-I can cause leukemia etc.). Therefore, everyone should avoid infection with all of the STD's, not just HIV. Many of the STD's are actually much easier to get than HIV. If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide).

Unprotected oral sex ????

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