A new variant of HIV with higher virulence was recently discovered by researchers at the University of Oxford. The strain has been circulating in the Netherlands for several years, infecting over one hundred individuals. Fortunately it is treatable with the standard antiretroviral medicines available today.
It is important to routinely test for STDs if you are sexually active, as most individuals do not experience any symptoms when infected. Identifying if you have an STI or STD early allows you to receive timely treatment and avoid long-term complications.
What to Know about the New HIV Variant
The new HIV variant is associated with a higher viral load, meaning that there are more viral particles inside the individual. This makes the person more infectious with increased transmissibility and immunodeficiency compared to other HIV variants. Luckily, the new variant is receptive to antiretroviral therapy which allows infected individuals to not only survive, but live their lives with HIV/AIDS. Antiretroviral therapy also prevents the transmission of the virus so it doesn’t spread to others.
Still, there are 10 million untreated individuals living with HIV today. The virus’s ability to mutate quickly is a huge obstacle in the development of an HIV vaccine. The discovery of the new variant puts pressure on the global HIV response to prevent a resurgence of the disease and treat those who have not been treated yet.
HIV is the deadliest pandemic of recent times with 680,000 people dying of AIDS-related illnesses in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic has further disrupted HIV prevention efforts, highlighting the need for increased STD testing.
Importance of Getting Tested for STIs/STDs
Getting tested is often the only way to know if you have a sexually transmitted disease. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are the earlier stage of a sexually transmitted disease (STDs) and often show no symptoms. Screening regularly for STIs allows for earlier detection and treatment which can reduce long-term health complications.
STIs are very common, with more than 1 million people contracting an STI every day – most of which are asymptomatic. Many STIs/STDs are curable and the ones that are not can be treated by managing the symptoms with antibiotics or antiviral medications.
When to Get Tested for STDs
If you are sexually active, you should be tested once a year for STDs. If you have unprotected sex and/or multiple partners, you should get tested more frequently ranging from every 3 to 6 months. If one of your partners has tested positive for an STI/STD it is important to get tested immediately.
Screening recommendations vary based on age, sexual behavior, and sex. Below is a graphic displaying CDC recommendations of when and who should get screened for six STDs.
Erica graduated from Emory University in Atlanta with a BS in environmental science and a minor in English and is on track to graduate with her Master's in Public Health. She is passionate about health equity, women's health, and how the environment impacts public health.