Health Frequently Asked Questions FAQ

The Most Important Thing In Life Is Taking A Proactive Approach to Your Health In Real Time.

A healthy lifestyle with accurate knowledge cannot only prevent chronic diseases and long-term illnesses, but improve longevity, improve self-esteem, self-image and overall health.

What can I do to prevent getting STDs and HIV?

The only 100% effective way to avoid STDs is to not have vaginal, anal, or oral sex. If you are sexually active, you can do the following things to lower your chances of getting STDs and HIV:

    • Choose less risky sex activities;
    • Use a new condom, consistently and correctly, for every act of vaginal, anal, and oral sex throughout the entire sex act (from start to finish);
    • Reduce the number of people with whom you have sex;
    • Limit or eliminate drug and alcohol use before and during sex;
    • Have an honest and open talk with your healthcare provider and ask whether you should be tested for STDs and HIV;
    • Talk to your healthcare provider and find out if either pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, or post-exposure prophylaxis, or PEP, is a good option for you to prevent HIV infection.
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If I already have HIV, and then I get an STD, does that put my sex partner(s) at an increased risk for getting HIV?

It can. If you already have HIV, and then get another STD, it can put your HIV-negative partners at greater risk of getting HIV from you.

Your sex partners are less likely to get HIV from you if you

  • Get on and stay on a treatment called antiretroviral therapy (ART). Taking HIV medicine as prescribed can make your viral load very low by reducing the amount of virus in your blood and body fluids. HIV medicine can make your viral load so low that a test can’t detect it (an undetectable viral load). If your viral load stays undetectable, you have effectively no risk of sexually transmitting HIV to HIV-negative partners, even if you have other STDs.
  • Choose less risky sex activities.
  • Use a new condom, consistently and correctly, for every act of vaginal, anal, and oral sex throughout the entire sex act (from start to finish).

The risk of getting HIV also may be reduced if your partner takes PrEP medications, as prescribed, after discussing this option with his or her healthcare provider and determining whether it is appropriate. When taken as prescribed, PrEP medications are highly effective for preventing HIV from sex. PrEP is much less effective if it is not taken consistently. Since PrEP does not protect against other STDs, use condoms the right way every time you have sex.

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Will treating STDs prevent me from getting HIV?

No. It’s not enough.

If you get treated for an STD, this will help to prevent its complications, and prevent spreading STDs to your sex partners. Treatment for an STD other than HIV does not prevent the spread of HIV.

If you are diagnosed with an STD, talk to your doctor about ways to protect yourself and your partner(s) from getting reinfected with the same STD, or getting HIV.

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Are some STDs associated with HIV?

Yes. In the United States and Globally, people who get syphilis, gonorrhea, and herpes often also have HIV or are more likely to get HIV in the future

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Risks for Genital Herpes

Genital herpes is a common STD, and most people with genital herpes infection do not know they have it.   You can get genital herpes from an infected partner, even if your partner has no herpes symptoms.  There is no cure for herpes, but medication is available to reduce symptoms and make it less likely that you will spread herpes to a sex partner.

More information: http://www.cdc.gov/std/Herpes/STDFact-Herpes.htm

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Risks for Genital Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

HPV is so common that most sexually active people get it at some point in their lives. Anyone who is sexually active can get HPV, even if you have had sex with only one person. In most cases, HPV goes away on its own and does not cause any health problems. But when HPV does not go away, it can cause health problems like genital warts and cancer. HPV is passed on through genital contact (such as vaginal and anal sex). You can pass HPV to others without knowing it.

More information: http://www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/the-facts/default.htm

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Risks for Chlamydia

Most people who have chlamydia don’t know it since the disease often has no symptoms.  Chlamydia is the most commonly reported STD in the United States.  Sexually active females 25 years old and younger need testing every year. Although it is easy to cure, chlamydia can make it difficult for a woman to get pregnant if left untreated.

More information: http://www.cdc.gov/std/chlamydia/the-facts/default.htm

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Risks for Gonorrhea

Anyone who is sexually active can get gonorrhea, an STD that can cause infections in the genitals, rectum, and throat. It is a very common infection, especially among young people ages 15-24 years. But it can be easily cured.  You can get gonorrhea by having anal, vaginal, or oral sex with someone who has gonorrhea. A pregnant woman with gonorrhea can give the infection to her baby during childbirth.

More information: http://www.cdc.gov/std/Gonorrhea/STDFact-gonorrhea.htm

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Risks for Syphilis

Any sexually active person can get syphilis. It is more common among men who have sex with men. Syphilis is passed through direct contact with a syphilis sore. Sores occur mainly on the external genitals, anus, or in the rectum. Sores also can occur on the lips and in the mouth. Pregnant women with syphilis can give the infection to their unborn babies.

More information: http://www.cdc.gov/std/Syphilis/STDFact-Syphilis.htm

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What is syphilis?

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection that can cause serious health problems if it is not treated. Syphilis is divided into stages (primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary). There are different signs and symptoms associated with each stage.

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How is syphilis spread?

You can get syphilis by direct contact with a syphilis sore during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. You can find sores on or around the penis, vagina, or anus, or in the rectum, on the lips, or in the mouth. Syphilis can spread from an infected mother to her unborn baby

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What does syphilis look like?

Syphilis is divided into stages (primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary), with different signs and symptoms associated with each stage. A person with primary syphilis generally has a sore or sores at the original site of infection. These sores usually occur on or around the genitals, around the anus or in the rectum, or in or around the mouth. These sores are usually (but not always) firm, round, and painless. Symptoms of secondary syphilis include skin rash, swollen lymph nodes, and fever. The signs and symptoms of primary and secondary syphilis can be mild, and they might not be noticed. During the latent stage, there are no signs or symptoms. Tertiary syphilis is associated with severe medical problems.  A doctor can usually diagnose tertiary syphilis with the help of multiple tests. It can affect the heart, brain, and other organs of the body.

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What are the signs and symptoms of syphilis?

Symptoms of syphilis in adults vary by stage:

Primary Stage

During the first (primary) stage of syphilis, you may notice a single sore or multiple sores. The sore is the location where syphilis entered your body. Sores are usually (but not always) firm, round, and painless. Because the sore issyphilis palmar rash (on hands) painless, it can easily go unnoticed. The sore usually lasts 3 to 6 weeks and heals regardless of whether or not you receive treatment. Even after the sore goes away, you must still receive treatment. This will stop your infection from moving to the secondary stage.

Secondary Stage

During the secondary stage, you may have skin rashes and/or mucous membrane lesions. Mucous membrane lesions are sores in your mouth, vagina, or anus. This stage usually starts with a rash on one or more areas of your body. The rash can show up when your primary sore is healing or several weeks after the sore has healed. The rash can look like rough, red, or reddish-brown spots on the palms of your hands and/or the bottoms of your feet. The rash usually won’t itch and it is sometimes so faint that you won’t notice it. Other symptoms you may have can include fever, swollen lymph glands, sore throat, patchy hair loss, headaches, weight loss, muscle aches, and fatigue (feeling very tired). The symptoms from this stage will go away whether or not you receive treatment. Without the right treatment, your infection will move to the latent and possibly tertiary stages of syphilis.

syphilis rash on back

Secondary rash from syphilis on torso.

Latent Stage

The latent stage of syphilis is a period of time when there are no visible signs or symptoms of syphilis. If you do not receive treatment, you can continue to have syphilis in your body for years without any signs or symptoms.

Tertiary Stage

Most people with untreated syphilis do not develop tertiary syphilis. However, when it does happen it can affect many different organ systems. These include the heart and blood vessels, and the brain and nervous system. Tertiary syphilis is very serious and would occur 10–30 years after your infection began.  In tertiary syphilis, the disease damages your internal organs and can result in death.

Neurosyphilis and Ocular Syphilis

Without treatment, syphilis can spread to the brain and nervous system (neurosyphilis) or to the eye (ocular syphilis). This can happen during any of the stages described above.

Symptoms of neurosyphilis include

  • severe headache;
  • difficulty coordinating muscle movements;
  • paralysis (not able to move certain parts of your body);
  • numbness; and
  • dementia (mental disorder).

Symptoms of ocular syphilis include changes in your vision and even blindness.

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Can syphilis be cured?

Yes, syphilis can be cured with the right antibiotics from your health care provider. However, treatment might not undo any damage that the infection has already done.

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I’ve been treated. Can I get syphilis again?

Having syphilis once does not protect you from getting it again. Even after you’ve been successfully treated, you can still be re-infected. Only laboratory tests can confirm whether you have syphilis. Follow-up testing by your health care provider is recommended to make sure that your treatment was successful.

It may not be obvious that a sex partner has syphilis. This is because syphilis sores can be hidden in the vagina, anus, under the foreskin of the penis, or in the mouth. Unless you know that your sex partner(s) has been tested and treated, you may be at risk of getting syphilis again from an infected sex partner.

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Risks for Bacterial Vaginosis

BV is common among women of childbearing age. Any woman can get BV, but women are at a higher risk for BV if they have a new sex partner, multiple sex partners, use an intrauterine device (IUD), and/or douche.

More information: http://www.cdc.gov/std/BV/STDFact-Bacterial-Vaginosis.htm

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What is trichomoniasis?

Trichomoniasis (or “trich”) is a very common sexually transmitted disease (STD). It is caused by infection with a protozoan parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. Although symptoms of the disease vary, most people who have the parasite cannot tell they are infected.

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How do people get trichomoniasis?

The parasite passes from an infected person to an uninfected person during sex. In women, the most commonly infected part of the body is the lower genital tract (vulva, vagina, cervix, or urethra). In men, the most commonly infected body part is the inside of the penis (urethra). During sex, the parasite usually spreads from a penis to a vagina, or from a vagina to a penis. It can also spread from a vagina to another vagina. It is not common for the parasite to infect other body parts, like the hands, mouth, or anus. It is unclear why some people with the infection get symptoms while others do not. It probably depends on factors like a person’s age and overall health. Infected people without symptoms can still pass the infection on to others.

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What are the signs and symptoms of trichomoniasis?

About 70% of infected people do not have any signs or symptoms. When trichomoniasis does cause symptoms, they can range from mild irritation to severe inflammation. Some people with symptoms get them within 5 to 28 days after being infected. Others do not develop symptoms until much later. Symptoms can come and go.

Men with trichomoniasis may notice:

  • Itching or irritation inside the penis;
  • Burning after urination or ejaculation;
  • Discharge from the penis.

Women with trichomoniasis may notice:

  • Itching, burning, redness or soreness of the genitals;
  • Discomfort with urination;
  • A change in their vaginal discharge (i.e., thin discharge or increased volume) that can be clear, white, yellowish, or greenish with an unusual fishy smell.

Having trichomoniasis can make it feel unpleasant to have sex. Without treatment, the infection can last for months or even years.

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What is the treatment for trichomoniasis?

Trichomoniasis can be treated with medication prescribed by a doctor. These pills are taken by mouth. It is safe for pregnant women to take this medication.

People who have been treated for trichomoniasis can get it again. About 1 in 5 people get infected again within 3 months after receiving treatment. To avoid getting reinfected, all sex partners should get treated with antibiotics at the same time. Wait to have sex again until everyone has been treated and any symptoms go away (usually about a week). Get checked at 3 months to make sure you have not been infected again, or sooner if your symptoms come back before then.

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How can trichomoniasis be prevented?

The only way to avoid STDs is to not have vaginal, anal, or oral sex.

If you are sexually active, you can do the following things to lower your chances of getting trichomoniasis:

  • Be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and has negative STD test results;
  • Use latex condoms the right way every time you have sex. This can lower your chances of getting trichomoniasis.

Another approach is to talk about the potential risk of STDs before you have sex with a new partner. That way you can make informed choices about the level of risk you are comfortable taking with your sex life.

If you or someone you know has questions about trichomoniasis or any other STD, talk to a health care provider.

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Risks for HIV

The most common ways HIV is transmitted in the United States is through anal or vaginal sex or sharing drug injection equipment with a person infected with HIV. Although the risk factors for HIV are the same for everyone, some racial/ethnic, gender, and age groups are far more affected than others.

More information: http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/risk/index.html

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What Is HIV?

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It weakens a person’s immune system by destroying important cells that fight disease and infection. There is currently no effective cure for HIV. But with proper medical care, HIV can be controlled.

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Health Behavior and Risk?

Your health behaviors also affect your risk. You can get or transmit HIV only through specific activities. HIV is commonly transmitted through anal or vaginal sex without a condom or sharing injection and other drug injection equipment with a person infected with HIV. Substance use can increase the risk of exposure to HIV because alcohol and other drugs can affect your decision to use condoms during sex. To learn more about your HIV risk and ways to reduce these risks, visit: https://wwwn.cdc.gov/hivrisk/

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Get tested and treated for other STDs and encourage your partners to do the same?

All adults and adolescents from ages 13-64 should be tested at least once for HIV and high-risk groups get tested more often.  STDs can have long-term health consequences.  They can also increase your chance of getting HIV or transmitting it to others. It is important to have an honest and open talk with your healthcare provider and ask whether you should be tested for STDs.  Your healthcare provider can offer you the best care if you discuss your sexual history openly. Find an HIV/STD testing site.

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How do HIV, Viral Hepatitis, and STDs relate to each other?

Persons who have an STD are at least two to five times more likely than uninfected persons to acquire HIV infection if they are exposed to the virus through sexual contact. In addition, if a person who is HIV positive also has an STD, that person is more likely to transmit HIV through sexual contact than other HIV-infected persons.

Hepatitis B virus (HBV) and HIV are bloodborne viruses transmitted primarily through sexual contact and injection drug use. Because of these shared modes of transmission, a high proportion of adults at risk for HIV infection are also at risk for HBV infection. HIV-positive persons who become infected with HBV are at increased risk for developing chronic HBV infection and should be tested. In addition, persons who are co-infected with HIV and HBV can have serious medical complications, including an increased risk for liver-related morbidity and mortality.

Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) is one of the most common causes of chronic liver disease in the United States. For persons who are HIV infected, co-infection with HCV can result in a more rapid occurrence of liver damage and may also impact the course and management of HIV infection.

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Less Risky Sexual Behavior

Oral sex is much less risky than anal or vaginal sex for HIV transmission. Anal sex is the highest-risk sexual activity for HIV transmission. If you are HIV-negative, insertive anal sex (topping) is less risky for getting HIV than receptive anal sex (bottoming). Sexual activities that do not involve the potential exchange of bodily fluids carry no risk for getting HIV (e.g., touching).

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What activities can put me at risk for both STDs and HIV?
  • Having anal, vaginal, or oral sex without a condom;
  • Having multiple sex partners;
  • Having anonymous sex partners;
  • Having sex while under the influence of drugs or alcohol can lower inhibitions and result in greater sexual risk-taking.
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How can I prevent getting HIV from sex?
Learn about your HIV risk and how to lower it.

Choose Sexual Activities With Little to No Risk

  • Choose sex that is less risky than anal or vaginal sex. There is little to no risk of getting HIV through oral sex.
  • You can’t get HIV from sexual activities that don’t involve contact with body fluids (semen, vaginal fluid, or blood).
  • Learn more about how HIV is and is not transmitted.
condoms

Use Condoms the Right Way Every Time You Have Sex

  • Condoms are highly effective in preventing HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), like gonorrhea and chlamydia.
  • Use water-based or silicone-based lubricants to help prevent condoms from breaking or slipping during sex.
  • Learn the right way to use an external condom (sometimes called a male condom) and an internal condom (sometimes called a female condom).
icon of a bottle of pills

Take PrEP

  • PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is medicine people at risk for HIV take to prevent HIV.
  • If taken as prescribed, PrEP is highly effective for preventing HIV from sex.
  • PrEP is much less effective when it is not taken as prescribed.
  • Find out if PrEP is right for you.

Decide Not to Have Sex

  • Not having sex (also known as being abstinent) is a 100% effective way to make sure you won’t get HIV through sex.
  • You can be abstinent at different times in your life for different reasons that may change over time.
  • Not having sex also prevents other STDs and pregnancy.

Get Tested and Treated for Other STDs

  • If you have another STD, you are more likely to get HIV. Getting tested and treated for other STDs can lower your chances of getting HIV.
  • Many people with an STD may not know they have one because they don’t have symptoms.
  • Find a testing site near you.
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What are condoms?

Most condoms are highly effective in preventing HIV and certain other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), like gonorrhea and chlamydia.

Condoms provide less protection against STDs that can be transmitted through sores or cuts on the skin, like human papillomavirus, genital herpes, and syphilis.

Condoms help prevent HIV for higher-risk sexual activities like anal or vaginal sex, and for lower-risk activities, like oral sex and sharing sex toys.

You can buy condoms at many stores or online, and you can sometimes get them for free from clinics or health departments.

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What are the main types of condoms?
condom icon

There are two main types of condoms: condoms used externally and condoms used internally.

An external condom (sometimes called a male condom or just a condom) is worn over the penis during sex. It is a thin layer of latex, plastic, synthetic rubber, or natural membrane.

  • Latex condoms provide the best protection against HIV.
  • Plastic (polyurethane) or synthetic rubber condoms are good for people with latex allergies. Note: Plastic condoms break more often than latex condoms.
  • Natural membrane (such as lambskin) condoms have small holes in them and don’t block HIV and other STDs. These should not be used for HIV or STD prevention.

An internal condom (sometimes called a female condom) is used in the vagina or anus during sex. It is a thin pouch made of a synthetic latex product called nitrile. HIV can’t travel through the nitrile barrier.

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How do I use an external condom?
condom icon

To use an external condom

  • Carefully open and remove the condom from the wrapper.
  • Place the condom on the tip of the hard penis. If uncircumcised, pull back the foreskin first.
  • Pinch the air out of the tip of the condom. While holding the tip, unroll the condom all the way down the penis.
  • After sex but before pulling out, hold the bottom of the condom and carefully pull out the penis.
  • Carefully remove the condom and throw it in the trash.

If you feel the condom break any time during sex, stop immediately, pull out the penis, take off the broken condom, and put on a new condom.

Use water-based or silicone-based lubricants during sex to help keep the condom from tearing. Don’t use oil-based lubricants because they can weaken the condom and cause it to break.

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How do I use an internal condom?
condom icon

To use an internal condom

  • Carefully open and remove the condom from the package.
  • While holding the condom at the closed end, squeeze the sides of the inner ring together and insert it into the vagina or anus.
  • Use your finger to push the inner ring up until it rests against the cervix in the vagina or as far into the anus as it can go.
  • Be sure the condom is not twisted. The thin, outer ring should remain outside the vagina or anus.
  • Guide your partner’s penis into the opening of the condom.
  • After sex, gently twist the outer ring and pull the condom out.
  • Carefully throw the condom in the trash after using it one time.

Stop intercourse if you feel the penis slip between the condom and the walls of the vagina/anus or if the outer ring is pushed into the vagina/anus.

Use lubricant during sex to help keep the condom from slipping or tearing. It is safe to use any lubricant with an internal condom.

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How can I prevent transmitting HIV to my baby?

Get Tested for HIV As Soon As Possible to Know Your Status

  • The earlier HIV is diagnosed and treated, the more effective HIV medicine will prevent transmission to your baby.
  • If you or your partner engage in behaviors that put you at risk for HIV, get tested again in your third trimester.
  • You should also encourage your partner to get tested for HIV.
icon of a bottle of pills

Take Medicine to Prevent HIV if You Do Not Have HIV But Are at Risk

  • If you have a partner with HIV and are considering getting pregnant, talk to your health care provider about PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis).
  • PrEP may be an option to help protect you and your baby from getting HIV while you try to get pregnant, during pregnancy, or while breastfeeding.
  • Find out if PrEP is right for you.
icon of a pregnant woman

Take Medicine to Treat HIV

  • If you have HIV and take HIV medicine as prescribed throughout pregnancy and childbirth, and give HIV medicine to your baby for 4 to 6 weeks after giving birth, your risk of transmitting HIV to your baby can be 1% or less.
  • After delivery, you can prevent transmitting HIV to your baby by avoiding breastfeeding, since breast milk contains HIV.
  • If your partner has HIV, encourage your partner to get and stay on treatment. This will help prevent your partner from transmitting HIV to you. People with HIV who take HIV medicine as prescribed and get and keep an undetectable viral load have effectively no risk of transmitting HIV to an HIV-negative partner through sex.
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How can I prevent getting HIV after a recent possible exposure, like if a condom breaks or I’m sexually assaulted?

There is a medicine you can take to prevent getting HIV after recent exposure. Talk to your health care provider, an emergency room doctor, or an urgent care provider right away about PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis).

  • PEP must be started within 72 hours after a possible exposure.
  • The sooner you start PEP, the better. Every hour counts.
  • If you’re prescribed PEP, you’ll need to take it daily for 28 days.
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Can male circumcision prevent HIV?

Talk to your health care provider about the risks and benefits of male circumcision.

  • Male circumcision does decrease the risk of getting HIV in some situations, but it doesn’t decrease the risk of HIV as much as other HIV prevention options.
  • Circumcised men are less likely than uncircumcised men to get HIV from vaginal sex with a partner with HIV.
  • Male circumcision does not decrease a woman’s risk of getting HIV.
  • The benefits of circumcision for gay and bisexual men are unknown.
  • Circumcised men should take other actions to prevent getting HIV or to protect their partners.
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