The rates of herpes simplex virus (HSV) infection is on the rise, with the highest prevalence among people infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). We review the relationship between these two infections. The presence of genital ulcers increases the transmission of HIV, and the presence of HIV adversely affects the natural history of HSV infection. The detection and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases such as genital herpes actually decrease the rates of HIV infection in groups studied.
What is genital herpes?
Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the herpes simplex viruses type 1 (HSV-1) and type 2 (HSV-2). Most genital herpes are caused by HSV-2. Most people have no or only mild symptoms or signs from HSV-1 or HSV-2 infection. When symptoms appear, they usually appear around the genitals or rectum or around the blisters. Blisters rupture, leaving soft ulcers (ulcers) that may take two to four weeks to heal for the first time they occur. Normally, another outbreak may occur weeks or months after the first, but it is almost always less severe and shorter than the first. Although infection can remain in the body indefinitely, the number of outbreaks tends to decrease over time. There is no cure for genital herpes. Once a person is infected with genital herpes, the infection persists throughout the individual’s life and is likely to recur. However, there are drugs that can reduce the severity and frequency of disease outbreaks and treatment to control symptoms.
What is HIV/AIDS?
HIV is short for “human immunodeficiency virus”. HIV is a virus that is transmitted through certain body fluids. It attacks the body’s immune system, especially CD4 cells, commonly known as T cells. Over time, HIV can destroy so many of these cells that the body cannot fight infection and disease. These special cells help the immune system fight off infection. Without treatment, HIV reduces the number of CD4 cells (T cells) in the body. This damage to the immune system makes it harder for the body to fight off infections and other diseases. Opportunistic infections or cancer take advantage of a very weak immune system and show that the person has AIDS. Sometimes, if the mother is HIV positive, the virus spreads between the mother and the baby. HIV is found in the body fluids of infected people, including semen, vaginal and anal fluids, blood and breast milk.
Genital Herpes and HIV Treatment Issues
It’s more difficult to treat genital herpes if you also have HIV. Higher doses of antiviral drugs are often needed to treat herpes in people with HIV. Also, many people with HIV have strains of the herpes virus that are resistant to treatment with the standard antiviral drugs. If you take antiviral drugs for genital herpes and the treatment isn’t working, your doctor can test the virus you have for resistance. If the virus is resistant, there are other possible treatment alternatives, including the drugs Foscarnet and cidofovir. If you have HIV, ask your doctor if you should be tested for genital herpes. If you already know that you have herpes and HIV, discuss treatment options with your doctor.