The Relationship Between HIV and Other STIs
Many relationships are complicated, but the link between HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is straightforward: You’re more likely to get HIV if you have another STI.
Plus, having HIV and another STI makes it easier to pass HIV on to others if you’re not receiving antiretroviral (ART) therapy. This treatment involves taking HIV medicines that lower the amount of virus in your blood, or viral load.
What increases your risk?
Anyone who’s sexually active can get HIV or other STIs, but some behaviors increase risk for infection. These include:
Using alcohol or drugs before or during sex
Not using condoms when having oral, vaginal, or anal sex
Having many sex partners
Having anonymous sex
While STIs won’t always cause symptoms, many of them can cause ulcers in or around the mouth and genitals. HIV can enter your body through these open sores and other breaks in the skin.
What can you do?
Talk openly with a healthcare provider about your risk for HIV and other STIs—and how to lower it.
Find out what tests you should have and how often to have them. The CDC says everyone should test for HIV at least once between ages 13 and 64. If you’ve been diagnosed with another STI or are a man who has sex with men, get tested for HIV at least once a year. To learn more and find free, confidential STD testing, call 800-232-4636 or visit the CDC’s website.
If you test positive, STIs caused by bacteria—such as syphilis and gonorrhea—can be cured with antibiotics. Viral infections like HIV and genital herpes can’t be cured but getting treatment can help with symptoms and reduce the odds you’ll pass them on to others. For people who have HIV, ART therapy is essential to prevent the disease from advancing to AIDs.