STDs and HIV?

People who have an STD may be at an increased risk of getting HIV. One reason is the behaviors that put someone at risk for one infection (not using condoms, multiple partners, anonymous partners) often put them at risk for other infections. Also, because STD and HIV tend to be linked, when someone gets an STD it suggests they got it from someone who may be at risk for other STDs and HIV. Finally, a sore or inflammation from an STD may allow infection with HIV that would have been stopped by intact skin..

Additional Information and Facts

CDC Fact Sheet on STDs and HIV/AIDS

Testing and Treatment

Does treating STDs prevent HIV?

Not by itself. Given the close link between STD and HIV in many studies, it seems obvious that treating STDs should reduce the risk of HIV.  However, studies that have lowered the risk of STD in communities have not necessarily lowered the risk of HIV.  Risk of HIV was lowered in one community trial, but not in 3 others.

  • In Mwanza (Tanzania), improved STD treatment lowered 2-year HIV incidence by 40% in the intervention towns (1.2%) compared to other towns (1.9%).
  • In Rakai (Uganda), a more intensive intervention (mass treatment and improved STD control) was done, leading to lower rates of syphilis and trichomoniasis, but the incidence of HIV was the same in intervention and comparison towns (1.5% per year).
  • A third community trial found no difference in HIV incidence when behavioral plus STD control interventions were compared to usual services (Incidence rate ratio = 1.00), despite lower rates of syphilis (rate ratio 0.52) and gonorrhea (rate ratio 0.25).
  • A fourth community trial found HIV incidence was slightly higher in communities that received a combination of interventions including improved STD treatment when compared to control communities (incidence rate ratio 1.27, not statistically significant).
Treating individuals for STDs has also not necessarily lowered their risk of acquiring HIV.
  • One study found there was slightly lower risk of HIV seroconversion among female sex workers who had monthly exams for STD (5.3%) compared to sex workers who were examined when they had symptoms (7.6%, P=0.5); their rates of infection were lower for trichomonas (14% vs 7% P=0.07) but not for gonorrhea, chlamydia, or genital ulcers.17
  • A second trial in female sex workers found a slightly higher incidence of HIV among women who received monthly treatment with azithromycin (4%) compared to women who did not (3.2%, P=0.5) despite major differences in the incidence of infection with gonorrhea (relative risk RR 0.46), chlamydia (RR 0.38), and trichomoniasis (RR 0.56).18

Screening for STDs can help assess a person’s risk for getting HIV. Treatment of STDs is important to prevent the complications of those infections, and to prevent transmission to partners, but it should not be expected to prevent spread of HIV.

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Page last updated 12/12/2018

Content source: Division of STD Prevention, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention