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Scientists have long known that someone with a herpes infection was at increased risk of getting HIV. While it had been thought that the two to three-fold increase in risk was due to the presence of sores and lesions on the skin which can increase the chance for HIV to get into the blood stream, scientists discovered last year that even people whose lesions had been treated are still at higher risk.
New research published in the journal Nature Medicine reveals that changes in the immune-cell environment at the location of these lesions persist and render the skin at these areas more permeable to HIV.
"HSV-2 infection provides a wide surface area and long duration of time for allowing HIV access to more target cells, providing a greater chance for the initial 'spark' of infection," the authors write.
Herpes simplex 2 is one of the most common STDs found in the U.S., with an estimated 45 million people infected, according to the CDC. Because many people have only mild symptoms, experts recommend herpes testing for people who may be at risk. Blood tests can detect the disease even when there are no symptoms.
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