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Syphilis and AIDS/HIV correlation
Jul 8, 1996

I was wondering what the relationship between syphilis and HIV/AIDS was if any? I heard that having syphilis made it easier to contract HIV? Is this correct?

Response from Dr. Cohen

It has been well established that any sexually transmitted disease that leads to genital ulceration can make it easier to contract HIV. Syphilis, chlamydia, and herpes all cause genital ulcers. The most obvious reason for this increased risk of transmission is that there is a break in the skin, which usually serves as a barrier against HIV. Other factors may also play a role, however, including the high concentration of activated (and therefore easily infectable) inflammatory cells at the site of the ulcer. Female-to-male transmission occurs more easily in developing countries than in the United States and other industrialized nations, and in those areas the ratio of males to females with HIV infection is close to 1:1. It has been suggested that the reason for this difference is the higher prevalence of genital ulcers in those countries. In some studies looking at seroprevalence among patients at sexually transmitted disease clinics in the U.S., the female to male ratio is also close to 1:1, perhaps reflecting the importance of genital ulcers in increasing transmission to men here in the United States.

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