Let's Talk About Safe Sex

can herpes turn into hiv

By: RSC Editorial Team

October 1, 2023

Can Herpes Turn Into HIV?

Talking about sexual health and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) is often taboo, but this only contributes to their spread. Like any injury or disease, left untreated, an STD can only worsen. When you’re sick, you rest and hydrate. Why wouldn’t you also care for your body when you have an STD?

Two common STDs are herpes simplex virus (HSV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). These STDs can have similar symptoms, which leads some to believe they are related. So, we are here to address the question: Can herpes turn into HIV? 

If you think you may have herpes or HIV, you should get tested as soon as possible. Try a rapid STD test for quick results.

Understanding the Relationship Between Herpes and HIV

While herpes and HIV are diseases that spread through sexual transmission, they are two distinct viruses with their own treatments. Herpes results from the herpes simplex virus (HSV), while HIV refers to the human immunodeficiency virus. Herpes is spread through the skin-to-skin contact that occurs during sex, while HIV spreads through an exchange of bodily fluids.

You can also transmit both STDs through used or infected needles, as well as through birth if the mother is infected. 

What Is Herpes?

Herpes is an STD that causes painful blisters or sores around the infected area. You can contract two types of herpes: HSV-1 and HSV-2. HSV-1 is spread through oral contact and infects your throat, nostrils, gums, and the roof of your mouth. HSV-2 is spread through genitalia and infects your genitals or anus. 

Regardless of their location, these lesions usually start as a numb or tingling sensation, then develop into small bumps, which turn into painful blisters. 

While there is no cure for herpes, you can use antiviral treatment to manage symptoms. You can reduce outbreaks or, at the very least, their severity. Common antiviral medications for HSV include the following: 

  • Acyclovir
  • Famciclovir
  • Valacyclovir 

Sometimes, you can have herpes unknowingly. It doesn’t always present symptoms. Without regular testing, you might never know you’re participating in the viral shedding of herpes. This is why it’s so important to test routinely, especially if you’re sexually active with multiple partners. You can even use same-day STD testing for fast results. 

What Is HIV Infection?

You can transmit HIV through any bodily fluids, including:

  • Blood
  • Semen
  • Vaginal fluid
  • Breast milk

HIV targets your immune system. This makes it very difficult for your body to fight off other diseases, making you more susceptible to serious health issues. Like herpes, HIV doesn’t have a cure, but you can manage its symptoms with antiviral medication. This STD also exists asymptomatically. However, when it does present signs, HIV symptoms may include:

  • Fevers
  • Chills
  • Rashes
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sore throat 

When HIV goes untreated, it can progress into acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). This chronic, life-threatening condition is the late stage of HIV, leaving your immune system extremely vulnerable to other infections it would normally be able to fight off. 

How Herpes Increases the Risk of HIV Transmission

Now that you understand the differences between HIV and herpes, we can return to our original question: Can herpes turn into HIV?

No, herpes cannot turn into HIV. Some people believe that herpes progresses into HIV the way HIV progresses into AIDS, but this is a misconception. Herpes can, however, make you more susceptible to HIV. In 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that 30% of new HIV infections were likely attributable to HSV-2 infections. 

When you have herpes, you suffer from frequent outbreaks of blisters in the infected area. When those blisters are open, you increase your risk of contracting HIV. You can contract HIV from any exchange of bodily fluids, and an infected partner’s fluids can enter your body through your open sores. The more breaks in the skin, the more entry points there are for HIV.

Note that HSV doesn’t have to be symptomatic to increase your chances of contracting HIV. Even if you do not have an active outbreak of sores, the virus is acting internally. It activates the cells your body uses to fight off infection, breaking their protective epithelial layer. This makes it easier for HIV to infect you.

Just as having HSV makes you more susceptible to HIV, having HIV makes you more susceptible to HSV. When you contract HIV, it infiltrates the mucous membranes through open cuts or sores to reach CD4 cells. These are glycoproteins found on the surface of immune cells. The higher your CD4 count is, the more your body can fight off infections. HIV destroys these cells, leaving you vulnerable. HSV, like a flu or stomach bug, is an infection. If your body doesn’t have the strength to fight it off, you are more likely to catch HSV.

This is especially true if you have HIV that is going untreated. Treatments like antiretroviral therapy (ART) help rebuild your immune system and prevent the virus’s progression into AIDS. ART also helps you work toward an undetectable viral load, which means you cannot pass it on to anyone else. This medication protects your body against other viruses, like HSV.

When these viruses co-exist, it can exacerbate your symptoms of both. HSV causes HIV to replicate more, and HIV may lead to more frequent HSV outbreaks. It also prevents your body from being able to fight off infections in your open blisters. HIV additionally causes more HSV viral shedding, which poses an increased danger for any of your sexual partners. 

Minimize the Risk of HIV When You Have Herpes 

You should always be aware of your sexual health. Practicing safe sex is always important, but even more so if you have an STD. Sometimes, you can do everything right and still find yourself infected. The shame associated with STDs often keeps people from being open about this issue and seeking treatment. This only makes the problem worse, as it allows the virus to spread. 

Remember that HIV and herpes can be asymptomatic. This means you should be aware of risk factors. Anyone sexually active can contract an STD, but there are ways to be safer. Protection, whether that be a dental dam or a condom, is vital. You never know when you or your partner are infected. Similarly, sharing needles increases your risk of infection. Limiting exchanges of bodily fluids is essential in preventing HIV.

Ensure you and your partners test frequently. Use a 10-panel STD test to cover all of your bases at once. Having open conversations about testing with your partners is crucial. If you test positive for HIV, herpes, or any other STD, contact your recent partners immediately. While this can be an embarrassing conversation, it’s an important one. Be sure to speak clearly and encourage them to test as soon as possible. This is how you break the infection cycle.

When you have any questions or concerns about your sexual health, it’s always a good idea to contact a healthcare provider for personalized information. While you can find general information online, everyone’s experiences and needs are unique. 

Turn Questions Into Answers With Rapid STD Testing

Can herpes turn into HIV? No, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t treat them promptly. 

There’s no way around it: Anticipating an STD diagnosis is scary. Testing is the hardest part. Once you have your answer, you can take action. If you think you or your partner may have an STD, you should test immediately. Visit a healthcare provider or testing center near you today for more facts about sexual health.


Get Tested for STDs and HIV Privately and Conveniently

No embarrassing exams, long waiting lines, or multiple visits. Just a quick lab visit for fast results.



By: RSC Editorial Team
October 1, 2023

Discover a lifestyle-focused approach to quality content at RapidSTDtesting.com. Unlike others, we don't rely on gimmicks or fabricated data to lure visitors. Our commitment goes beyond clicks – we're dedicated to answering the questions you search for online. With a team comprising medical experts and content specialists, our articles are meticulously crafted to promote STD testing, educate, and dismantle social stigmas.

Embrace a confidential atmosphere with our private testing options, ensuring your privacy is paramount. Every article is meticulously fact-checked and approved by medical advisors, guaranteeing accuracy and reliability. Our team, comprised of doctors and medical professionals, ensures that each piece of content serves a purpose – to inform, educate, and promote awareness.

Join us as we bridge the gap between medical expertise and lifestyle choices. RapidSTDtesting.com is your trusted source for informative, medically vetted content.