Why Fight Curable STDs? Because They Increase the Risk of Incurable STDs

By Melissa Lafsky | September 8, 2008 4:43 pm

condomsThings are looking up for STDs these days. On the side of the newly-revitalized Christian right, you have abstinence doctrines strangling sex education and disease prevention efforts in schools (and celebrating the teen pregnancies that result). On the left, you have the “demystification” of non-lethal diseases like chlamydia, gonorrhea and HPV, sending the message that unprotected sex (and the infections that result) are “really no big deal.” Mix them together, and you’ve got a spike in U.S. infection rates, after years on the decline.

Granted, given that diseases like chlamydia and gonorrhea can be cured with antibiotics, and non-curables like herpes controlled with medication, it’s worth asking: Why are non-lethal STDs so dangerous?

Well, for one, because they can leave your body with permanent and serious damage.

And secondly, because they increase your risk of contracting far worse diseases, like HIV. We’ve known this for a while, and now a new study by Flemish researcher Teunis Geijtenbeek at the VU University Medical Center has figured out why. Using model replicas of human skin and vaginal cells, he found that gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydia, as well as yeast and bacterial vaginal infections, caused a change in Langerhans cells (LCs), which capture HIV. In disease-free skin, the LCs captured HIV but didn’t efficiently transmit the virus to T cells, thereby decreasing the chances of infection. But if the LCs were “activated by inflammatory stimuli” from an STD or other infection listed above, they became far better at capturing and passing on HIV.

Just how big was the HIV transmission increase? Geijtenbeek told DISCOVER that, while his results showed at least a tenfold rise, “the epidemiological data suggest that [the] chance of infection is increased ten- to one hundred-fold.” The risk jump lasts from the time of infection through the end of treatment.

And as for the argument that “HIV is no big deal these days“—if you seriously believe that, then there’s not much else to say. Just be sure to take those meds for the rest of your likely-shortened life—and have fun with those side effects.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health Care, Science & Religion
MORE ABOUT: HIV, stds

Comments (1,461)

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  1. STD Screens Plano | September 11, 2009
  1. zac

    What i have to say is why did it get this bad??
    why did std’s grow this much what have have 40 some now and 30 years ago we only had a hand full….i think its crazy but thats just me

  2. LRae

    My husband gave me HSV-2 even though we haven’t been intimate in 13 years. I have not been with anyone but him in our 23 years of marriage. For years I noticed he had these blister like lesions on his thighs. I asked him to check it out, but he never did. I know he was unfaithful a couple of times during the course of our marriage. So at my last check up I asked to be tested for HSV. It came back positive for antibodies and that it’s an old infection whatever that means. I have never had any symptoms except some sever itching about 4 years ago. I think that is when I contracted it from him just touching me! Anyway, I am 49 and am very distraught that my life will be shortened by this virus. It really depresses me to know I will never have an intimate relationship with anyone again and that I could die from this due to other complications. Just the other month my liver was inflamed, the doctor didn’t know why. This was before I was diagnosed with HSV2. My liver is fine now but I wonder how many times during the year it gets inflamed due to this virus. I pray they find a cure. There has to be some easy way to get rid of it permanently from the body. And I know there are millions of people out there who have this disease and don’t know it and are passing it on to others. I think this is a silent epidemic.

  3. Increasing numbers of chlamydia infections have made it the most widespread STD in the USA. In 1997 there were 537,904 reported diagnoses, corresponding to a rate of 205.5 per 100,000 population. However, by 2007 the annual total had more than doubled to 1,108,374 and the rate per 100,000 had risen to 370.2.

  4. STD’s are rising faster than ever. It is common sense to simply take a home test if you have had unprotected intercourse.

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