Is HIV the Only Incurable Sexually Transmitted Disease?

A lot of people think that if they (and their sexual partners) have tested negative for HIV, they no longer need to use condoms. Many people forget that HIV tests do not immediately detect an infection. In addition, many people think that HIV/AIDS is the only sexually transmitted disease (STD) that is incurable and potentially fatal. I have heard people say many times, "I do not care about the other STDs. They cannot kill you, and you can cure them." As you will see, this is not true. It is important to use condoms every time with every partner, if there is any chance that you or your partner has HIV or any other STD.

The following table summarizes some basic information about many STDs. Some STDs can be transmitted in non-sexual ways as well. This table will review:

  1. The Cause of the STD: Is it a virus, a bacteria, a parasite, or a fungal infection? Although we can cure STDs caused by bacteria, parasites and fungi, we cannot cure STDs caused by viruses!

  2. Is the STD Linked to Cancer: Some STDs are linked to certain types of cancer. Cancers can be fatal, especially if they are not detected and treated early.

  3. Is the STD Deadly: Certain STDs can sometimes be fatal. Although bacterial infections are curable, some bacterial infections can still kill you if they are not treated. Some complications of STDs can also be fatal. With the use of antibiotics, deaths from bacterial STDs are now rare in developed nations.

  4. Infertility: Some STDs can cause infertility in both men and women, especially if they are not treated early.

Even if an STD is not deadly or incurable, it may still be painful, unsightly, annoying, and embarrassing. For more information about STDs, visit the Body's Ask the Expert library of questions and answers on this topic (

STDCauseLinked to Cancer?Deadly?Causes Infertility?
ChlamydiaBacteriaNoYes (in women)2Yes
GonorrheaBacteriaNoYes2, 3Yes
Hepatitis AVirusNoNoNo
Hepatitis BVirusYes4YesNo
Hepatitis C5VirusYes4YesNo
LGV (Lymphogranuloma Venereum)BacteriaNoNoNo
Yeast infection11FungiNoNoNo

  1. Some of the opportunistic diseases linked to HIV/AIDS are cancers. Kaposi's sarcoma, a cancer sometimes seen in HIV-positive people with low CD4 counts, is now believed to be due to a sexually transmitted virus called HHV-8/KSHV.

  2. If not treated early, this infection can cause a serious complication in women called pelvic inflammatory disease, which can be fatal if it is left untreated.

  3. Left untreated, gonorrhea can get into the bloodstream causing a serious (and potentially fatal) complication known as disseminated gonococcal infection.

  4. This infection has been linked to liver cancer.

  5. This infection can be transmitted sexually, although this occurs only rarely. Recent Studies have shown a rise in sexually transmitted hepatitis C in men who have sex with men.

  6. Certain strains of this virus cause genital and anal warts. Certain strains have also been linked to cervical cancer, anal cancer, and rarely penile cancer. These cancers can occur in anyone with the virus, but are more likely to occur in persons with weakened immune systems.

  7. This infection is deadly when it causes cancer. However, genital warts and asymptomatic infections (no symptoms) are not life threatening.

  8. Generally speaking, this virus does not cause infertility. But, if a woman has cervical cancer, she may have to have a hysterectomy, which would make her unable to have children in the future.

  9. This virus can cause adult T-cell leukemia.

  10. Although syphilis does not directly cause infertility, it can cause spontaneous abortions and stillbirths (a baby being born dead).

  11. Genital yeast infections can sometimes be sexually transmitted through intercourse. Yeast infections can occur through non-sexual means as well. A yeast infection in the mouth (known as thrush) can be due to a weakened immune system, and other causes as well.

Do you want more information on HIV/AIDS, STDs or safer sex? Contact the U.S. Centers for Disease Control AIDS hotline, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 1-800-CDC-INFO. Or visit The Body's Safe Sex and Prevention Forum.

Until next time ... Work hard, play hard, play safe, stay sober!