STDs and HIV – CDC Fact Sheet

People who have STDs are more likely to get HIV, when compared to people who do not have STDs.

Are STDs related to HIV?

Yes. In the United States, people who get syphilis, gonorrhea, and herpes often also have HIV or are more likely to get HIV in the future.1-3  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 STD and HIV.  Finally, a sore or inflammation from an STD may allow infection with HIV that would have been stopped by intact skin.

STDs can increase the risk of spreading HIV.

HIV-infected persons are more likely to shed HIV when they have urethritis or a genital ulcer. When HIV-infected persons get another STD such as gonorrhea or syphilis, it suggests that they were having sex without using condoms. If so, they may have spread HIV to their partners.

Some STDs are more closely linked to HIV than others.

In the US, both syphilis and HIV are highly concentrated epidemics among men who have sex with men. Herpes is also commonly associated with HIV; a meta-analysis found persons infected with HSV-2 are at 3-fold increased risk for acquiring HIV infection.

Some activities can put people at increased risk for both STDs and HIV.

  • Having anal, vaginal, or oral sex without a condom;
  • Having multiple sex partners;
  • Having anonymous sex partners;
  • Having sex while under the influence of drugs or alcohol can lower inhibitions and result in greater sexual risk taking.

What can people do to reduce their risk of getting STDs and HIV?

The only way to avoid STDs is to not have vaginal, anal, or oral sex. If people are sexually active, they can do the following things to lower their chances of getting STDs and HIV:

  • Choose less risky sexual behaviors;
  • Use condoms consistently and correctly;
  • Reduce the number of people with whom they have sex;
  • Limit or eliminate drug and alcohol use before and during sex;
  • Have an honest and open talk with their healthcare provider and ask whether they should be tested for STDs and HIV.
  • Talk with their healthcare provider and find out if pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, is a good option for them to prevent HIV infection.