Viral STDs

Some STDs are caused by viruses. Many viruses can be managed with special drugs called anti-virals but they cannot be cured with antibiotics. A few viral STDs can be prevented with vaccines. The body’s immune system naturally gets rid of some viruses and others, like HIV, live in the body for a very long time.

HIV/AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome)

AIDS is caused by a virus called Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). HIV is in the blood, semen or vaginal fluids of an infected person. It can be spread during intercourse, or oral sex or anal sex. People who share needles for shooting drugs can spread infection.

A baby can get it from a mother who has the virus. It is not spread through casual contact.

HIV can get into another person’s blood stream through tiny breaks in the skin. Sores and the thin, wet skin in the genital area are easy ways for the virus to get in. People with other STDs that cause sores or rashes are at greater risk for getting HIV.

Often, HIV is spread by a person who doesn’t know they are infected. People can have it for a long time without looking or feeling sick. If they don’t know they have HIV, they can pass it on to their sex partners or to anyone who shares their needles.

The blood and organ transplants used in U.S. hospitals are tested and protected from HIV. Blood donation centers use disposable needles. They have never spread HIV. The virus slowly attacks white blood cells which are part of the body’s system for fighting germs. When this system is weak, harmful germs can take over. These infections can lead to AIDS, which is a very late stage of HIV.

Signs and Symptoms

People can have HIV for years without looking or feeling sick. Sometimes, when they first get HIV, they may feel flu-like symptoms but these quickly go away. Later, they may have a fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, severe weight loss, night sweats, diarrhea, swollen glands, cough, sores and yeast infections. If you have any of these symptoms for more than 2 weeks, you should see a doctor.

Testing for HIV (HIV RNA Early Detection Test & Antibody/Antigen Tests)

There are different types of tests. Most tests look for antibodies to the virus in a person’s blood. For most people these antibodies take 3 months after exposure to appear. So it is best to wait for at least 3 months after the last time you were at risk before taking the test. Sometimes it can take up to 6 months. It would be very unusual to take longer then 6 months to develop antibodies.

Early HIV Detection:There is also good news that HIV tests have improved considerably since the early days of HIV. Current testing technologies are getting better at detecting vast majority of HIV infections much earlier than many people realize. One such method is FDA-approved HIV RNA Early Detection test designed to detect HIV RNA in blood. RNA is the viral equivalent to human DNA.

Depending upon the type of test, it can take up to 3 weeks to get your results so it is very important that you do not risk further exposures to HIV or other STDs during this ime. And because you could be contagious, you should continue to be abstinent (not have sex) or use condoms.


There is no cure for HIV/AIDS right now. But, there are many different medicines that people can take to help the immune system. People with HIV usually take several at a time. Pregnant women with HIV can take drugs that lessen the chances of giving HIV to their babies. Because new treatments are announced frequently, you should talk with your doctor regularly about how they might help you.

People with HIV/AIDS who choose to have sex must always use condoms and tell their partners that they have HIV. Choosing not to practice safer sex puts other people at serious risk and increases your chances of getting another STD.

Hepatitis B (HBV)

Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. It can be caused by many things, including drugs, toxins, alcohol and viruses.

Hepatitis B (HBV) is a sexually transmitted virus that attacks the liver. Most people recover and their bodies get rid of the virus. But Hepatitis B may cause serious liver damage or even liver cancer. Fortunately, there is a vaccine that prevents HBV.

Some people who are carriers may have no symptoms, but they can spread the infection to others.

It is easy to get HBV if you have sex or share needles with an infected person. Touching an infected person’s sore or cut, or sharing a razor, toothbrush or nail clipper can put you at risk. Even tiny amounts of blood or other body fluids can spread the virus. You cannot get it through food, water or casual contact.

Women can pass this virus on to their babies during childbirth.

Signs and Symptoms

Many people with the virus have no symptoms at all, but are still contagious. Symptoms can include yellow color in the skin and eyes, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, joint pain and extreme tiredness.

Testing for Hepatitis B

Your health care provider will use a blood test to check for this disease.


There is a vaccine that prevents Hepatitis B, but it cannot be cured. There are drugs for people who have Hepatitis B that help decrease the chance of liver damage. Some of these drugs have serious side effects, so discuss them with your doctor.

It is recommended that all babies and teenagers get the Hepatitis B vaccine. Adults who have high risk sex, or have jobs (such as health care) or other factors that put them at risk should also get the shots.

Genital Herpes (HSV)

Herpes is a common infection caused by a virus. It can infect both the mouth and the genitals. Herpes Type 1 (HSV-1) causes most mouth sores that are called “fever blisters” or “cold sores.” Type 2 Herpes (HSV-2) causes most genital and anal sores. Both types can infect either place. Having one type does not mean you can’t get the other type.

Most herpes is spread by people who don’t know they have it because they have no symptoms or have very mild symptoms. It is passed on when sexual contact is made with the sores, but herpes can also be spread when there are no sores. This can happen through vaginal intercourse, or oral sex or anal sex.

Having herpes can make it easy to get other STDs, especially HIV. Condoms can help reduce the chance of getting other STDs or passing it on, but only if the infected area is completely covered by the condom. It is safest to never have sex when there are sores present.

It can be a serious problem if you get herpes for the first time while you are pregnant or have sores when you give birth. Tell your doctor if you or any of your sex partners have ever had herpes.

Signs and Symptoms

Not everyone has noticeable signs. Blister-like sores that itch, burn or tingle may appear 2–21 days after sex with an infected person. The sores can be very painful and sometimes people feel like they have the flu. The sores usually last from 1–3 weeks the first time that they appear. Scabs form and the sores heal but the virus stays hidden in the body.

More sores may appear later, but not always. It is different for every person. Later outbreaks are usually less painful, heal faster and there are fewer sores.

Testing for Herpes

The fluid from new sores is very easily tested. Blood tests can also be done.


Because it is a virus, herpes cannot be cured. It can be treated with medicine that reduces the number and severity of future outbreaks. These medicines should not be taken if you are pregnant, so be sure to talk with your doctor.

HPV (genital warts)

HPV is short for Human Papilloma Virus. It is a virus that lives on the skin and causes warts. There are many different kinds and they are spread by skin-to-skin contact with someone who has HPV. Some are passed on mostly through sex. It is very contagious, and even people with no visible warts can give them to others.

HPV can be a very serious STD for women because some types of HPV are linked to cervical cancer. Only a few women will develop cervical cancer but all women should have a regular Pap test to check for cell changes.

Recently, a vaccine became available that prevents the most common kinds of HPV in women, including the two that cause most cervical cancer. It is recommended for girls 11 or 12 years old, but it is available for females between the ages of 9 and 26. It is especially important for females to get vaccinated before their first sexual contact. Even if you have been diagnosed with HPV, you can still get the shots to prevent infection by other forms of the virus. Women and parents of girls should talk to their health care providers for more information.

The HPV vaccine is not available for males yet.

Signs and Symptoms

Few people notice any signs of infection. Genital warts can grow on or inside the penis, on the cervix, inside the vagina or anywhere in the genital area. They can also grow on the thighs, anal area or, more rarely, in the mouth. HPV can appear weeks, months or even years after contact with someone who is infected. Three months is the average.

Genital warts can look darker, lighter or the same as skin color. They can be raised, flat, soft, hard, small or large. They can appear as a single wart or in groups.

Testing for HPV

If there are visible warts, the doctor will look at them and decide if you should be tested for HPV or other conditions that can look like HPV.

All women who are or have been sexually active should have regular Pap tests, which involve taking some cells from the cervix to check for abnormal cells.


Because it is a virus, HPV cannot be cured, but the warts can be treated. About 25% of people who are treated will develop warts again, and 30% of all warts will disappear without any treatment.

There are several ways the warts can be treated. Choices include freezing or burning the warts, and surgery with or without lasers. Never try to treat warts yourself without seeing a health care professional first.