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The Link Between STDs and HIV

Increased Risk of HIV when You Have an STD

By

Updated January 19, 2009

According to information presented by D.T. Fleming and J.N. Wasserheit in 1999, significant biological evidence exists that links STDs and HIV. According to their research, the presence of STDs increases the likelihood of HIV transmission during sexual contact. In addition, a study in 1992 proved that people with HIV and an STD transmit their virus more readily than people infected with HIV alone.

It has been proven the presence of STDs makes the body more susceptible to HIV in several ways.

  • Some STDs cause open wounds or ulcers to form in the genital area. These openings provide a way for HIV to enter the blood stream.

  • While some STDs don't cause open wounds, the presence of the STD causes the body to increase the concentration of CD4 cells in the genital area. It has been shown that increased concentrations of CD4 cells in the genital area provides HIV with a favorable target for infection.

  • People infected with an STD have increased concentrations of HIV in their genital fluids, increasing the possibility of HIV transmission. One studied showed that men infected with HIV and gonorrhea have 10 times more HIV in their semen than men infected only with HIV.

Obviously if a person is diagnosed with an STD, they should receive treatment as soon as possible. There is some evidence that shows HIV transmission is less in people receiving treatment for an STD. Transmission is decreased in a couple ways.

  • During STD treatment, people shed less HIV virus and shed the virus less often. Both of these things results in decreased HIV transmission.

  • Safer sex education that comes as part of STD treatment is effective in decreasing unsafe sex practices, which in turn decreases HIV transmission.

So the data shows that there is a connection between STDs and HIV. In some circles, the thought is that STDs are no big deal; take some antibiotic and you're cured. That's not the case with herpes and syphillis; those STDs are forever. That fact along with the connection between HIV and STDs should be enough incentive for everyone to do what they must in order to protect themselves. The bottom line...use condoms each and everytime.

Key points:

  • The presence of an STD increases the chance of HIV transmission.
  • The presence of STDs and HIV makes a person more HIV infectious.
  • STD treatment can slow the spread of HIV.
  • Condoms are the key to reducing the risk of STDs and HIV.

References:

  • Fleming DT, Wasserheit JN. 1999. From epidemiological synergy to public health policy and practice: The contribution of other sexually transmitted diseases to sexual transmission of HIV infection. Sexually Transmitted Infections 75:3-17.

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