What you need to know about HIV and erectile dysfunction

What you need to know about HIV and erectile dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability to achieve or maintain an erection. This sexual health problem can be due to different factors, such as age, certain diseases and the use of certain medications.

If you are a man living with HIV, you should know that ED is more common in men with this virus than in those without it. This may be related to health circumstances derived from the virus or its treatment, or from psychological reasons as well, such as anxiety about having recently received your diagnosis or being concerned about transmitting the virus to your sexual partner or partners.

The causes of the problem

In men with and without HIV, ED can be caused by health problems such as diabetes, high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, smoking, obesity, and heart disease. All of these conditions make it difficult for blood to flow to the penis.

Aging, low testosterone levels, drug and alcohol use, and mental health problems such as depression and anxiety can also play a role.

In the case of men with HIV, there are specific factors that make ED appear more frequently, according to the specialized website aidsmap.com. It has been observed that the longer you have had HIV, the more likely you are to have the problem. Also, if your CD4 cell count was low at the time of your diagnosis, you are also more likely to have ED.

On the other hand, many men with HIV have a low testosterone level. Its symptoms include loss of vitality, low sexual drive, low bone mineral density and loss of muscle mass, but as you will see, they are not very specific symptoms and could also occur in men with normal testosterone levels. This is why it’s important for your doctor to investigate whether ED could be related to low testosterone.

ED treatments

The first drug to treat ED appeared more than 20 years ago. Currently, there are several drugs that act in similar ways, increasing blood flow to the penis and facilitating erection.

These medications have become easy to get even without a prescription, but remember that they should always be prescribed by your doctor, as they can interfere with your treatment to control HIV or other diseases, from infections to heart problems. At best, if not prescribed properly, ED drugs may simply not work.

When oral medications cannot be used or are not working as expected, there are other treatment options such as injections given into the penis or surgically implanted vacuum pumps.

In case ED is due to psychological reasons, such as depression, anxiety, stress, shame, or guilt, psychotherapy is the option. It can also be useful to resort to it in case the problem is physical, as it lightens the emotional burden that a sexual problem like this can bring.

If you live with HIV, you have the right to comprehensive health care. At AHF Latin America and the Caribbean we work to make this a reality. If you want to take a free HIV test, get condoms or learn more about the virus, come to our closest office in your country.