HIV and Opportunistic Infections, Coinfections, and Conditions

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HIV and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)

Last Reviewed: September 27, 2017

Key Points

  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are infections that spread from person to person through sexual contact, including anal, vaginal, or oral sex.
  • HIV is an STD. Chlamydia, gonorrhea, human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, and syphilis are examples of other STDs.
  • Having an STD can make it easier to get HIV. For example, an STD can cause a sore or break in the skin, which can make it easier for HIV to enter the body. Having HIV and another STD may increase the risk of sexual transmission of HIV.
  • To prevent STDs, including HIV, avoid risky sexual behaviors and use condoms every time you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex.
  • People with HIV should get tested for STDs at least once every year, and more often depending on individual risk factors or symptoms.

What is an STD?

STD stands for sexually transmitted disease. Sometimes STDs are called sexually transmitted infections (STIs). STDs are infections that spread from person to person through sexual contact, including anal, vaginal, or oral sex. STDs are caused by bacteria, parasites, yeasts, and viruses.

HIV is an STD. Chlamydia, gonorrhea, human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, and syphilis are examples of other STDs.

What is the connection between HIV and other STDs?

Behaviors that put people at risk for HIV also increase their risk for infection with other STDs. These risky behaviors include the following:

  • Having anal, vaginal, or oral sex without a condom.
  • Having sex with many partners.
  • Having sex while using drugs or alcohol. Using drugs and alcohol affects the brain, which can lead to poor decisions and risky behaviors.
Having an STD can make it easier to get HIV. For example, an STD can cause a sore or break in the skin, which can make it easier for HIV to enter the body. Having HIV and another STD may increase the risk of HIV transmission.

How can I reduce my risk of getting an STD?

Sexual abstinence (never having sex) is the only way to eliminate any chance of getting an STD. But if you are sexually active, you can take the following steps to lower your risk for STDs, including HIV.

Avoid risky behaviors.

  • Reduce the number of people you have sex with.
  • Don’t drink alcohol or use drugs before and during sex.
Use condoms every time you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex.
  • Use latex or polyurethane condoms.
  • Read this fact sheet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on how to use condoms correctly.

I have HIV. How can I prevent passing HIV to my partner?

To protect your partner from HIV, avoid risky behaviors and use condoms. In addition, take HIV medicines daily. Treatment with HIV medicines (called antiretroviral therapy or ART) helps people with HIV live longer, healthier lives. ART can’t cure HIV infection, but it can reduce the amount of HIV in the body. Having less HIV in your body will reduce your risk of passing HIV to your partner during sex.

Also talk to your partner about taking pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP. PrEP is an HIV prevention option for people who don’t have HIV but who are at high risk of becoming infected with HIV. PrEP involves taking one pill (an HIV medicine called Truvada) daily to prevent HIV infection. To learn more, read the AIDSinfo Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) fact sheet.

What are the symptoms of STDs?

Symptoms of STDs may be different depending on the STD, and men and women with the same STD can have different symptoms. Examples of possible STD symptoms include painful urination (peeing), unusual discharge from the vagina or penis, and fever.

Some STDs may not cause any symptoms. Even if a person has no symptoms from an STD, it is still possible to pass the STD on to other people.

Talk to your health care provider about getting tested for STDs and ask your sex partner to do the same. Sexually active individuals with HIV should get tested for STDs at least once every year, and more often depending on individual risk factors or symptoms.

To find STD information and testing sites near you, call CDC INFO at 1-800-232-4636 or visit CDC’s GetTested webpage.

What is the treatment for STDs?

STDs caused by bacteria, yeast, or parasites can be treated with antibiotics. There’s no cure for STDs caused by viruses, but treatment can relieve symptoms and help keep the STD under control. For example, although there’s no cure for HIV, ART can prevent HIV from advancing to AIDS.

Untreated STDs may lead to serious complications. For example, untreated gonorrhea in women can cause problems with pregnancy and infertility. Untreated HIV will eventually advance to AIDS and cause death.

How can I learn more about HIV and STDs?

Browse the resources below to learn more about HIV and STDs. This fact sheet is based on information from these sources.

From CDC:

From the Department of Health and Human Services: Guidelines for the Prevention and Treatment of Opportunistic Infections in HIV-Infected Adults and Adolescents:
From the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development:
From the National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus:

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