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By: RSC Editorial Team

September 1, 2023

Can Trichomoniasis Cause HIV?

Some patients who test positive for trichomoniasis ask, “Can trichomoniasis cause HIV?” While infection by the parasite Trichomonas vaginalis can increase the risk of transmission of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), coinfection is due to increased risk factors and is not caused directly by trichomoniasis.

Understanding appropriate prevention techniques and treatment methods can improve your and your partner’s chances of avoiding infection by practicing safe sex and getting tested regularly. Trichomoniasis is a common STI (sexually transmitted infection) typically affecting women’s health, while men are largely asymptomatic. Transmitted during sexual activity, trichomoniasis increases the risk of HIV infection.

Differentiating Between Trichomoniasis and HIV

There are many differences between a trichomoniasis infection and an HIV infection, including the method of infection, symptoms, and treatment. While trichomoniasis, caused by a parasite, is treatable with antibiotics, HIV requires antiretroviral therapy (ART) to reduce the viral load to undetectable levels.

But what are the differences between trichomoniasis and HIV that make coinfection of both conditions likely if a patient already has one of these infections?

What Is Trichomoniasis?

According to the CDC, while trich can spread from vaginal, anal, or oral sex, infection of the mouth, hands, or anus is rare compared to infection of the penis or vagina. Most people (approximately 70%) never have symptoms. Of those who experience symptoms, AFAB (assigned female at birth) individuals experience symptoms much more often than AMAB (assigned male at birth) individuals.

Symptoms of trich infection in AMAB men include:

  • Penile discharge
  • Itching or burning in the urethra
  • Burning with urination or ejaculation

Symptoms of trich infection in AFAB women include:

  • Itching, redness, inflammation, soreness, or burning of the vaginal opening
  • Discomfort, difficulty, or burning during urination or intercourse
  • Increased thin vaginal discharge, sometimes white, yellow, or green, with an unpleasant fishy odor

Severe cases or untreated trichomoniasis can lead to genital ulcers, inflammation of the cervix, and other breaks in the skin around the urogenital areas or internal mucus membranes that can increase the risk of coinfection by other STIs, including HIV. Women who have sex with women can also spread trichomoniasis through vaginal contact.

Certain groups have higher vulnerability, particularly African American women when compared to white and Hispanic women. Additionally, the risk increases with the number of sexual partners an AFAB person has over their lifetime.

What Is HIV?

Can trichomoniasis cause HIV? No, although infection with trich can increase risk factors for HIV transmission. HIV is a viral infection that attacks your body’s immune system, sometimes progressing to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) when a patient’s CD4 count falls below 200.

Symptoms of HIV infection include flu-like symptoms two to four weeks after infection. The only way to know for sure if you have HIV is to get tested. A rapid STD test can determine whether you have HIV. Symptoms at initial infection can include:

  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Rash
  • Muscle aches
  • Fatigue
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Chills
  • Mouth ulcers

Can Trichomoniasis Increase the Risk of HIV?

Trichomoniasis can increase the risk of contracting HIV by weakening the immune system and increasing the likelihood of viral transmission through genital contact during sexual activity. A reduced immune response due to trichomoniasis can increase the risk of HIV transmission, especially if you have multiple sexual partners or don’t use barrier protection (e.g., condoms).

While a 10-panel STD test can indicate whether you already have trichomoniasis or HIV, testing positive for infection by trichomoniasis can increase the chance of contracting HIV in the future if you don’t treat it quickly and begin using safe sex practices.

An infection of trichomoniasis can affect the body’s ability to actively fight infections across mucus membranes in the urogenital area for both AMAB and AFAB individuals. Although women are more likely to contract trichomoniasis and develop symptoms, even asymptomatic men can transfer trichomoniasis to a partner.

Treatment for trichomoniasis is essential to reduce your risk of coinfection with HIV or other STIs. Treatment for trichomoniasis includes a full regimen of antibiotics. Common antibiotic treatments for trich include metronidazole and tinidazole.

Will your doctor recommend treating trichomoniasis with amoxicillin or penicillin? It is unlikely, as neither of these antibiotics is effective against the parasite that causes trich. Instead, your doctor will likely prescribe one of the antibiotics mentioned above unless you or your partner have a known allergy to either medication or its ingredients.

You should also have a second prescription to give to your partner for them to take. In the meantime, you and your partner(s) should abstain from sexual contact until you both finish your antibiotics. Take the full dose of pills as prescribed to completely eradicate the parasite, even if you begin feeling better earlier.

Having trich can also affect a pregnancy. If you are pregnant with trich, you may deliver early, or your baby could have a low birth weight. In addition, there is a low chance of your baby contracting trich as it passes through the birth canal during delivery. Luckily, trichomoniasis is treatable during pregnancy with no known adverse effects.

Reinfection with trich is common for many patients. Doctors often recommend abstaining an additional seven to ten days after completing your antibiotics and testing again before having sex again, just in case either partner needs a second dose of antibiotics.

Prevention Against Trichomoniasis and HIV

Contact with bodily fluids across mucus membranes can lead to infection by trichomoniasis. Contact with ejaculatory fluids, vaginal discharge, and pre-ejaculatory and biolubricating fluids through direct genital contact or contact with sex toys can all lead to infection by trichomoniasis.

To prevent spreading trichomoniasis, you can:

  • Always use condoms and put the condom on before urogenital contact
  • Use a dental dam for vaginal contact between AFAB partners
  • Get tested regularly for trichomoniasis and other common STIs/STDs
  • Take antibiotics as instructed to treat trichomoniasis and get a prescription for your partner
  • Abstain from sexual contact during trich treatment to prevent re-exposure
  • Communicate clearly with partners about your STI history and current status
  • Use condoms on sex toys and wash sex toys thoroughly between uses

HIV can spread through bodily fluids, including blood. Besides sex, HIV can be transmitted through sharing needles during recreational drug use. To prevent spreading HIV, you can:

  • Always use condoms and put the condom on before urogenital contact
  • Use a dental dam for vaginal contact between AFAB partners
  • Get tested regularly for HIV and other common STIs/STDs
  • Take pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent spreading HIV to your partner(s)
  • Take post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) to prevent contracting HIV if you suspect you’ve been exposed to the virus
  • Communicate clearly with partners about your HIV history and current status
  • Use condoms on sex toys and wash sex toys thoroughly between uses
  • Don’t share needles for medical or recreational drug use

Preventing the spread of STDs and STIs is essential for protecting your overall health and well-being. Regular testing and trich and HIV treatment can help prevent the spread of STIs to partners.

Get Tested and Learn More About Prevention With Rapid STD Testing Centers

So, can trichomoniasis cause HIV? No, but it can increase your risk of contracting HIV if not discovered and treated. You can find solutions for same-day STD testing at Rapid STD Testing centers nationwide or online. Just enter your ZIP code into the find a lab tool to look for a clinic nearby or order tests online to test at home with Rapid STD Testing.

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By: RSC Editorial Team
September 1, 2023

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