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HIV link to other diseases.

Byline: Sophie Blakemore Health Correspondent

HIV sufferers with other sexually transmitted infections are more likely to pass on the virus to a partner than those who do not, Birmingham researchers have discovered.

Results of a study published today have shown a strong link between the presence of other sexual diseases, such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea, and the level of HIV in a sufferer's system.

Research led by Heartlands Hospital and the University of Birmingham shows that HIV positive men with another STI have up to five times higher levels of the HIV virus in their semen, compared with sufferers with no other infections.

Dr Stephen Taylor, consultant in HIV and genito-urinary medicine at Heartlands Hospital's department of sexual medicine, is due to present the findings at a major international HIV conference in San Francisco today.

He said the research - the first of its kind in the UK - robustly suggested that having a sexually transmitted disease increased an individual's HIV infectiousness.

'We have confirmed a relationship between a sexually transmitted infection and people having greater amounts of virus in their semen, which will have implications for the sexual transmission of HIV,' he said.

'What we are suggesting is that, because of big increases of sexually transmitted infections that are around and the increase in HIV, there is a synergy which means those with STIs are more infectious and therefore likely to pass the virus on.

'This relationship has been postulated as one of the causes of the rapid spread of HIV in the developing world but studies have never been done in the UK before, only in Africa.

'It is likely that the rise of STIs we are experiencing in the UK is driving HIV transmission on.

'In the UK at the moment, one third of individuals do not know they have HIV and it is possible they also have other STIs and therefore may be unwittingly transmitting HIV quite readily.'

The study looked at the effects the STIs gonorrhoea and chlamydia had on the behaviour of the HIV virus in 55 positive male patients at Heartlands Hospital and University College London.

Instead of looking at levels of the virus present in the blood, like the majority of HIV research, the study examined levels found in semen.

Normal levels of the virus in infected semen is about five to ten times lower than that found in the blood.

But previous research by the team found levels were higher in the semen of a small proportion of HIV sufferers.

The new research found that the men with sexually transmitted infections and HIV had much higher levels of HIV in their semen, compared with HIV positive men with no sexually transmitted infections.

When the patients with STIs were treated with antibiotics, the levels of HIV in their semen fell.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Feb 11, 2004
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