If you have HIV or another STD, will it ever go away? Are there any treatments? Are there vaccines that can prevent you from getting HIV or other STDs in the future? You’ll find answers to these questions below.
Is there a cure for STDs and HIV?
Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, and Syphilis
Yes; these STDs can be treated and cured with antibiotics. But be careful, because you can get them again from an untreated partner or a new partner who is infected!
No. There is currently no treatment or cure for HPV. But there are ways to treat the health problems caused by HPV in men. See more info on this in the next section.
No. There is research underway to search for a cure, but at this time, there is no cure for HIV or AIDS. The current reality is that once you have HIV, you will always have it. However, when taken properly, antiretroviral treatments (ART) can keep HIV from damaging your immune system—but they won’t make it go away. The earlier you start treatment, the more it can help you take charge of your health.
What treatment is available?
Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, and Syphilis
Antibiotics are often used to treat gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis. When taking antibiotics, it’s really important to finish ALL of your medicine. It’s NOT a good idea to share your medicine with anyone or to skip any doses. You need all of it. If you still have symptoms after treatment, go back to see your provider.
If you don’t treat STDs, they can lead to serious long-term health problems! Untreated STDs can even increase your risk of getting HIV.
When it comes to syphilis, one shot of penicillin (an antibiotic) will usually cure a person who has had syphilis for less than a year. However, you may need to take more doses if you’ve had syphilis for longer than a year.
There is currently no treatment for HPV. But there are ways to treat the health problems caused by HPV in men. Genital warts can be treated with medicine, removed (surgically), or frozen off. Some of these treatments involve a visit to the doctor. Others can be done at home by the patient himself. No one treatment is better than another. But warts often come back within a few months after treatment—so several treatments may be needed. Treating genital warts may not necessarily lower a man’s chances of passing HPV on to his sex partner. Because of this, some men choose not to treat genital warts. If they are not treated, genital warts may go away on their own, stay the same, or grow (in size or number). They will not turn into cancer or threaten your health.
According to the American Cancer Society, there are many tumors that may form on the anus but not all of them are cancerous. Increasingly, anal pap smears for men are being used to identify cancerous and pre-cancerous cells that may be an early warning of anal cancer. According to Project Inform, high rates of human papilloma virus (HPV) in HIV-positive men may lead to abnormal anal cells, also known as anal dysplasia. While the effectiveness of the use of the anal pap spear is still uncertain, it is an additional tool to help provide early detection of anal cancer.
Penile and anal cancers can be treated with surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Often, two or more of these treatments are used together. You should decide with your doctor which treatment is best for you.
People living with HIV are often treated with antiretroviral therapy (ART). ART uses different kinds of medications to keep HIV from growing and multiplying in your body. Most people on ART take a combination of several medications prescribed by their doctors to keep their HIV disease under control.
The goal of ART is to lower the amount of HIV in your body, so that your immune system can stay strong and healthy. Some ART drugs keep the virus from reproducing and some block HIV from entering your body’s cells. ART works best when you and your doctor can find a combination of drugs and a treatment plan that will keep your HIV in check and have the fewest side effects. Ask your provider what kind of medication is best for you!
What does an undetectable viral load mean?
A lot of guys talk about being “undetectable.” Undetectable refers to their viral load. Your doctor may measure the level of HIV in your blood. That‘s your viral load. Knowing this number helps your provider to monitor your HIV, decide when to start treatment, and determine whether your HIV medications are working once you begin taking them. In general, your viral load will be declared “undetectable” if it is under 40-75 copies in a sample of your blood (the exact number depends on the lab test used). While there are some studies that say being “undetectable” may make it harder to give HIV to another person, it does not make it impossible.
Viral load testing looks for the number of virus particles in a milliliter of blood. These particles are called copies. The goal of HIV treatment is to help move your viral load down to undetectable levels. Even if you have an undetectable viral load you should keep taking any medications your provider has asked you to take, otherwise, it might go up again if not treated properly.
Are any vaccines available?
At this time, there no vaccines available for HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia, or syphilis.
Research is underway to develop a vaccine for HIV. In order to do this, researchers need volunteers to participate in vaccine trials. If you’re interested in learning more about vaccine trials for HIV, check out the HIV Vaccine Trials Network:
As for HPV, there is currently a safe and effective vaccine (Gardasil) to protect males against the HPV types that cause most (90%) of genital warts. The vaccine is available for boys and men, ages 9 through 26 years. It is given in three shots over six months. Ask your doctor if it makes sense for you to take it.