Objectives: Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) significantly impact the health of people living with HIV/AIDS, increasing HIV infectiousness and therefore transmissibility. The current study examined STIs in a community sample of 490 HIV-positive men and women.
Methods: Assessments were performed using confidential computerized interviews in a community research setting.
Results: Fourteen per cent of the people living with HIV/AIDS in this study had been diagnosed with a new STI in a 6-month period. Individuals with a new STI had significantly more sexual partners in that time period, including non-HIV-positive partners. Participants who had contracted an STI were significantly more likely to have detectable viral loads and were less likely to know their viral load than participants who did not contract an STI. Multivariate analysis showed that believing an undetectable viral load leads to lower infectiousness was associated with contracting a new STI.
Conclusions: Individuals who believed that having an undetectable viral load reduces HIV transmission risks were more likely to be infectious because of STI coinfection. Programmes that aim to use HIV treatment for HIV prevention must address infectiousness beliefs and aggressively control STIs among people living with HIV/AIDS.