HIV and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
- Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are infections that spread from person to person through sexual activity, 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 a 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.
- To prevent STDs, including HIV, choose less risky sexual behaviors and use condoms correctly every time you have sex.
STD stands for sexually transmitted disease. STDs are sometimes called sexually transmitted infections (STIs). STDs are infections that spread from person to person through sexual activity, including anal, vaginal, or oral sex. STDs are caused by bacteria, parasites, and viruses.
- Having sex without a condom.
- Having sex with many partners, especially anonymous partners.
- Having sex while using drugs or alcohol. Using drugs and alcohol can affect a person's judgement, which can lead to risky behaviors.
Sexual abstinence (never having vaginal, anal, or oral 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.Choose less risky sexual behaviors.
- Reduce the number of people you have sex with.
- Don't drink alcohol or use drugs before and during sex.
- Visit this website from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to learn how to use condoms correctly.
Take HIV medicines daily. Treatment with HIV medicines (called antiretroviral therapy or ART) helps people with HIV live longer, healthier lives. One of the goals of ART is to reduce a person's viral load to an undetectable level. An undetectable viral load means that the level of HIV in the blood is too low to be detected by a viral load test. People with HIV who maintain an undetectable viral load have effectively no risk of transmitting HIV to their HIV-negative partner through sex.
If your viral load is not undetectable—or does not stay undetectable—you can still protect your partner from HIV by using condoms and choosing less risky sexual behaviors. Your partner can take medicine to prevent getting HIV, which is called pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP. PrEP is an HIV prevention option for people who don't have HIV but who are at risk of getting HIV. PrEP involves taking a specific HIV medicine every day to reduce the risk of getting HIV through sex or injection drug use. To learn more, read the Clinicalinfo Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) fact sheet.
STDs may not always cause 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.
To find STD information and testing sites near you, call CDC-INFO at 1-800-232-4636 or visit CDC's GetTested webpage.
Untreated STDs may lead to serious complications. For example, untreated gonorrhea in women can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, which may lead to infertility. Without treatment, HIV can gradually destroy the immune system and advance to AIDS.
- Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs): Diseases & Related Conditions
- STDs and HIV
- HIV and Substance Use in the United States
- HIV Prevention
- Living With HIV: Protecting Others