Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease that impacts nearly one-fifth of the U.S. population. Recent studies show that being infected with genital herpes can increase your chances of getting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Studies also show that genital herpes can contribute to some serious complications for people already infected with HIV.
Herpes is a sexually transmitted disease that comes in two varieties, HSV-1 and HSV-2. HSV-1 generally effects the oral area, although it can occasionally impact the genital area. HSV-2 primarily impacts the genital area and is generally considered the more problematic of the two varieties of herpes. HSV-1 and HSV-2 can both impact the genital area, and symptoms related to genital herpes include blisters or sores in the genital area. These sores generally present themselves in an initial outbreak shortly after the infected person contracts herpes. Some infected persons have subsequent outbreaks, but these outbreaks tend to be less severe than the original.
Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 have been linked to increasing the chances that infected persons my contract HIV, although HSV-2 seems to be more of a factor in increasing risk of HIV infection. HIV, of course, is a sexually transmitted immunodeficiency virus that negatively impacts the body’s ability to fight off infections. Once the body’s ability to fight illness is sufficiently compromised, the HIV infection is classified as AIDS. AIDS has been responsible for millions of deaths worldwide, as infected persons immune systems are unable to fight off other opportunistic infections.
Research indicates that genital herpes increases the risk of being infected with HIV, particularly during a herpes outbreak. A herpes outbreak is when the disease causes an eruption of blisters and sores in the genital area. When a person infected with genital herpes has an outbreak, that person’s immune system tries to heal the sores, thus concentrating many immune cells in one spot. These are the cells that HIV commonly infects. If, during sexual intercourse, blood, vaginal fluid or semen from a person infected with AIDS comes in contact with a herpes sore, the person with herpes runs a high risk of contracting HIV. Conversely, a person infected with HIV and herpes runs a larger risk of infecting his or her partner because sores may increase the partner’s exposure to the blood of the infected person.
People infected with HIV run a higher risk of being infected with herpes than the general population because of their weakened immune state as a result of the disease.
Herpes and HIV
If you have herpes and HIV, you can suffer from some very serious complications. According to research, herpes can worsen HIV, and vice versa. Studies show that active herpes infections can speed up the process of replication of the HIV virus. This means that the HIV will make copies of itself more quickly, destroying more of the body’s disease-fighting cells and hastening the onset of AIDS.
With regard to herpes, HIV can lead to more frequent and serious outbreaks. This happens because HIV weakens the immune system of the infected person, making outbreaks of herpes more likely, and limiting the body’s ability to quickly heal the sores and otherwise mitigate the effects of the virus.
A combination of HIV and herpes also raises some pretty significant treatment problems. For people with HIV and herpes, higher doses of antiviral drugs will be needed to treat herpes than those for people with just herpes. Compounding the problem is the fact that many people with HIV and herpes have strains of herpes that do not respond well to the usual antiviral drugs used to treat herpes.
Herpes treatments such as aciclovir have been shown to have an impact on slowing the replication of HIV. It is important to note, however, that herpes suppressive therapy does not lower chances of HIV infection, beyond removing some of the added risk involved with frequent herpes outbreaks.
One important way HIV and herpes infections can be reduced is by regular STD checks. Because both of these diseases can be asymptomatic for quite some time, people can go for years without knowing that they’re infected with one or the other. This increases the chances that these unknowingly infected persons can infect others. Frequent testing will keep people informed of their status with regard to HIV and herpes, and hopefully if people find out they have HIV, herpes or both, they’ll take steps to treat their illness and prevent it from spreading to others.
Because of the serious complications HIV and herpes can have when both are present, people with these diseases should consult carefully with their health care providers to manage their illnesses and prevent their further spread.