Since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, researchers have consistently noted a strong connection between HIV infection and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Those infected with an STD are at least two to five times more likely to acquire HIV if exposed to the virus through sexual contact, and an individual infected with HIV and another STD is more likely to transmit the HIV virus to an uninfected person. Given this connection, the strategy has been to treat STDs to combat HIV spread. But a recent clinical trial shows that ministering to those with STDs does not decrease the incidence of HIV.
The idea of controlling the spread of AIDS by controlling STDs received strong validation from the first randomized trial to explore the connection between the two. Begun in 1991 in the rural Mwanza region of Tanzania, the community-based trial focused on delivering drug therapy and training health care personnel to treat symptomatic STDs. Results, published in August 1995, were striking: the intervention group of communities had a 38 percent lower incidence of HIV than the control group did. The program also proved to be cost-effective, comparable to other public health programs, such as childhood vaccinations.