Background: There has been an increase in high-risk sexual behaviour and sexually transmitted diseases (STD) during the time period when highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) became widely available. We examined whether taking HAART increased the risk of acquiring an STD--an epidemiological marker of unsafe sex--in people with AIDS.
Methods: We did a computerised match of people in the San Francisco STD and AIDS registries. People with AIDS who were diagnosed before 1999 and alive in November, 1995, or later, were classified as having had an STD after AIDS diagnosis or not having had an STD after AIDS diagnosis. We used a Cox proportional hazards model to see whether use of antiretroviral therapy was associated with acquiring an STD after AIDS, after adjustment for sex, age, race, HIV-1 risk category, and CD4 count at AIDS diagnosis.
Findings: People with AIDS who had had HAART showed an independent increase in the risk of developing an STD (hazard ratio 4.10; 95% CI 2.84-5.94). Americans of African origin, younger age, and higher CD4 count at AIDS diagnosis were also associated with acquiring an STD after AIDS. The number of people living with AIDS who acquired an STD increased over time from 60 (0.66%) in 1995 to 113 (1.32%) in 1998 (p<0.001).
Interpretation: We have shown that people on HAART are more likely to develop an STD, an epidemiological marker of unsafe sex. More intensive risk-reduction counselling and STD screening for people with AIDS is needed.