Sexually Transmitted Diseases Can Increase the Risk of HIV

Even though most sexually transmitted diseases can be cured, they can cause an increased risk of HIV transmission.

A sexually transmitted disease (STD) can be painful and cause permanent damage. Some STD’s infect only reproductive organs, while others can cause general body infections. Sometimes a person can have a STD with no signs or symptoms. Other times symptoms of an STD can go away without being treated. Either way, that person still has the STD until they treated and cured. Even though most STD’s can be cured, their damage can be permanent because they increase a person’s chances of becoming infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

STD’s are spread during close sexual activities that include oral, vaginal, and anal sex. Some STD’s are also spread by contact with infected blood. Most STD germs need to live in warm and moist areas. This is why STD’s will often infect the mouth, rectum and sex organs such as the vagina, vulva, penis, and testes.

An STD can increase the risk of becoming infected with HIV because sores and lesions caused by STD’s provide ports of exit and entry for HIV to leave the body of one person and enter the body of another. STD’s greatly increase the amount of HIV in sexual fluids, and increase the amount of white blood cells at the site of infection. These white blood cells are the target cells that HIV will seek to infect. STD’s fall into one of two categories; pathogens that are bacteria or viruses. Regardless of the category they belong in, some STD’s increase the level of risk for HIV more so than others.

Chlamydia is a bacteria transmitted typically during sexual activity when direct contact is made with discharge, genital secretions, or infected mucous membranes. Mucous membrane is areas that stay moist and include genitals, anus, throat, and eyes. Contaminated fingers can pass the Chlamydia organism from infected mucous membrane of the genital region to the eyes. When used correctly, barriers such as latex condoms and dental dams can prevent the spread of Chlamydia. It is curable with a specific type of antibiotic treatment. Studies have shown Chlamydia increases the risk of HIV transmission two to five times.

Genital Herpes (HSV) is virus that is transmitted through direct contact with infected skin, mucous membrane, blisters, or sores. Most often, the blisters and sores caused by Herpes are found on, in, or around the genitals, anus, or mouth. There is no cure for Herpes. Some medications can relieve pain and duration of symptoms. Herpes probably has a higher risk for transmitting HIV because the open sores and blisters provide a gateway for HIV to enter the body if exposed to infected blood, semen, or vaginal discharge of a sex partner.

Gonorrhea is a bacteria transmitted by direct contact with discharge from, or infectious mucous membranes of genital areas. Contaminated fingers can pass the organism from genital areas to the eyes. Gonorrhea can also be transmitted from the throat to the urethra of the penis during oral sex. When used correctly, barriers such as condoms and dental dams can prevent the spread of Gonorrhea. Even though it can be cured with antibiotics, Studies have shown Gonorrhea can increase the risk of HIV by two to four times.

Syphilis is a bacteria transmitted during sexual activity or contact with infected blood. It is often referred to as the “Great Masquerader” because symptoms can be mistaken for other illnesses. Syphilis is somewhat harder to define than other STD’s in terms of HIV transmission but can have an increased risk because of two reasons; in addition the sores or lesions it can cause, Syphilis can also lower the body’s immunity which make it easier for HIV to develop. Studies have shown Syphilis can increase the risk of HIV by three to five times.

Alcohol and drug use can also increase the risk of HIV. The influence of alcohol and drugs will lower a person’s inhibitions, causing them to act with reckless disregard and do things they normally would not do. In addition, drugs or alcohol may cause a person to have rougher sex over a longer period of time. This type of activity can cause abrasions in mucosal lining of the genital area, which provides the port of exit or entry for HIV.

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