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Research Shows STDs Increase Chance of HIV Infection

Wednesday Jan 30, 2019

In an article published this week in "Sexually Transmitted Diseases,"* researchers found that 10 percent of all new HIV cases among men-who-have-sex-with-men in the U.S. are caused by gonorrhea and chlamydia infections, the two most common reportable infections in the US. This supports research that shows risk for both acquiring and transmitting HIV is increased by having an STD. This is due to biological and behavioral reasons.

STDs cause inflammation and a route into and out of the body for HIV. And, the same risk behaviors associated with getting or transmitting an STD, such as condom-less sex, are associated with HIV. This study was performed using a mathematical model, but the researchers expressed confidence that their findings paint an accurate real-world picture, and indicate that that STD testing, treatment, and prevention could reduce new HIV cases.

"This study highlights a clear need for a federal investment in the STD field and serves as a stark reminder that HIV and STD prevention must go hand-in-hand," says David C. Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD).

Tremendous advancements have been made toward the goal of ending the HIV epidemic in the U.S. — a drop of over 13 percent in new HIV cases over eight years — as the result of sustained federal investment in HIV prevention and the advent of biomedical advances like PrEP. Unfortunately, this progress is not mirrored in the STD field. New STD cases have ballooned to all-time highs, and federal investment in STD prevention has been cut over the last 15 years.

"The historic levels of STDs imperil our progress towards ending HIV. We can't hope to end HIV without also addressing STDs," says Harvey.

NCSD is requesting an additional $70 million from Congress for CDC's STD prevention program to jumpstart a response to the dramatic STD increases. Now funded at $157.3 million, this program has seen a 40 percent reduction in buying power since 2003, resulting in high and growing STD rates.

"STDs lead to serious health problems, and now this study shows two of our most common STDs can cause HIV. This is a wakeup call to our country to respond to the real and growing threat of STDs," Harvey adds.

*Research was conducted collaboratively through Emory University, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and University at Albany.

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