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While You're Away: STDs

AIDS sign STDs stands for sexually transmitted disease. There is no shortage and availability of these in the tropics. Aside from the well known HIV and hepatitis B, there is also syphilis, genital herpes, genital warts, gonorrhea, chlamydia, scabies, lymphgranuloma venereum, chancroid, granuloma inguinale, and maybe more!

HIV is transmitted via:

  • Unprotected sexual intercourse
  • Contact with blood and blood products (transfusions, needles, acupuncture, etc.)
  • From mother to child during pregnancy
  • It is not transmitted via toilet seats, casual contacts or insects.

Measures that can be taken to avoid HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases include:

  • Be celibate
  • Be monogamous with someone whose HIV status you know
  • Use latex condoms... all of the time
  • Get immunized against hepatitis B
  • Know your blood type
  • Carry your own medical kit (e.g the STERI AID kit)
  • Avoid local doctors and their needles
  • Wear protective equipment, e.g. gloves, where appropriate
  • Avoid increasing your risk of requiring medical care, e.g. drunk driving
  • If travelling for long, find out in advance where to receive safe medical care.
  • Carry good medical insurance so that you can be evacuated to safe medical care if necessary.
HIV If you are providing medical care in a lesser-developed country with a high prevalence of HIV, you should be aware of PEP. This stands for Post Exposure Prophylaxis. This consists of a combination of two or three drugs, given for one month, to lessen the risk of HIV infection should you have been exposed through a needlestick injury or other blood contact. For this regiment to be effective, it must be started within 72 hours of your exposure. Find out about the availability of this treatment before you travel if you are in a high risk situation, or consider taking a few days’ worth for a start (it is quite expensive) from home.
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Content (c) Mark Wise
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