There are certain factors that can put a person at higher risk for contracting HIV. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have identified several of these factors. For example, men who have sex with other men are at a significantly higher risk for HIV as well as people who participate in intravenous drug usage. Additionally, certain groups of people such as the African-American community and Latin-American countries are more adversely affected by HIV. Did you know that having another STD, such as chlamydia, puts you at higher risk for HIV?
Recently, we wrote about the connection between syphilis and HIV. Some parts of the United States have seen an increase of this co-infection. Co-infection does not stop at syphilis. In fact, according to the CDC, “if you get an STD you are more likely to get HIV than someone who is STD-free.”
This is because the same behaviors and circumstances that may put you at risk for getting an STD can also put you at greater risk for getting HIV. In addition, having a sore or break in the skin from an STD may allow HIV to more easily enter your body. Furthermore, having an STD can compromise your immune system making it more likely to contract another infection, including HIV.
If you are already living with HIV and contract another STD, you may be putting your sexual partners at a higher risk for contracting HIV as well. For this reason, the CDC recommends taking measures to prevent the spread of HIV to your partner(s). This may include anti-retroviral therapy, or ART, or having your partner take pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP. The CDC also recommends the use of latex condoms when engaging in sexual activity to help deter the spread of STDs and HIV.
Sometimes, having an STD may go unnoticed because STDs do not always show signs or symptoms of infection. For this reason, it is important to get tested regularly. STD testing is convenient and affordable. There are many testing options all around the country. Since having STD can put you at higher risk for HIV, you should test for both STDs and HIV together. This will give you a full view of your current sexual health status.