"The BIG One" and How STIs Slip From the Conversation

I have heard so many friends and clients say time and time again that they are not worried about STIs, because they already have "the big one." I would always think to myself... I never understood why individuals in my community thought this way.

When they would say "the big one" they were expressing that they already had HIV. I can attest that early on in my diagnosis I also was very worried about HIV, but now that I have been living and thriving the last 9 years, I do not feel the same. What does still worry me is how prevalent sexually transmitted infections still are in my community.

I feel that the push for HIV testing is always around, but people leave out the discussion about STI testing and its importance.

Making the case: The importance of STI testing when living with HIV

I feel that if you are living with HIV, STI testing is still something that you should be doing. In my professional work, I have seen many community members find out that they are HIV positive by coming in for STI testing specifically.

Many of them come in worried about having things like syphilis, gonorrhea, or chlamydia, but end up finding out that they are living with HIV. In my own experience, many people are more worried about contracting HIV because once contracted, you will continue to live with it.

I have heard many friends tell me that getting an STI is okay simply because you can get a shot and get rid of it. I wanted to bring all this up because in the next month or so, HIV testing will be pushed out more than usual. I have advocated time and time again within my own organization that the conversation about STIs should not be erased when talking about HIV testing. Any conversation about ending the HIV epidemic should incorporate both STI and HIV testing.

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STI and HIV testing go hand and hand

If community increases STI testing, then they will be decreasing the chances of contracting an opportunistic infection. When someone has an opportunistic infection, it can lead to contracting HIV much easier. I make sure to get STI testing at least every 3 to 6 months whenever I am doing my lab work to ensure that I am still at an undetectable viral level. I want to continue to push the narrative of comprehensive STI testing, which includes a full panel of tests for HIV, syphilis, herpes, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and hepatitis B and C.

I want to highlight how important it is for individuals who are living with HIV to not only achieve an undetectable viral level, but to incorporate STI testing into their quarterly or semi-annual check-ups with their doctor.

Always remember that by prioritizing testing you can take control of your sexual health, as well as give yourself peace of mind and create healthier sexual behaviors. By normalizing the conversation about incorporating STI testing with HIV testing, we can encourage people to seek these services without fear of judgement.

Make sure to remember that if you are sexually active to always incorporate routine testing in your life.

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