Erectile Dysfunction Drugs Linked to Higher Rates of HIV, Chlamydia
Researchers have found a link between men using drugs to treat erectile dysfunction (ED) and higher rates of the sexually transmitted diseases HIV and Chlamydia. Men who use drugs like Viagra, Cialis and Levitra may also be engaging in high risk behavior suggest the scientists. Findings from a study of more than 1.4 million men revealed two to three times the rate of sexually transmitted disease among men who request drugs for erectile dysfunction, with HIV being the most prevalent STD.
Study author Dr. Anupam B. Jena, an internal medicine resident at Massachusetts General says, “Our findings suggest is that just by virtue of asking for an ED drug, these men are identifying themselves as being at two to three times higher risk of STDs." The authors suggest that physicians counsel men taking drugs for erectile dysfunction about safe sex practices. The study did not take into account sexual preferences.
The researchers also say most physicians don’t counsel older men who take drugs for erectile dysfunction about STD risk and safe sex, reserving those talks for younger men. The authors obtained the information from insurance records examined between 1997 and 2006 that included approximately 34,000 male beneficiaries.
After the first prescription for erectile dysfunction was filled, the men studied were found to have a two to three time higher rate of sexually transmitted disease compared to men over 40 not using ED drugs. The most common STD among men using ED drugs was HIV, followed by Chlamydia.
One of the reasons HIV was the most prevalent disease linked to men using ED drugs may because symptoms of HIV drive them to their healthcare provider. Dr. Jena explains, “The symptoms that are associated with a primary HIV infection are the kinds of things that make men more likely to show up to a doctor, rather than go to a free clinic where they know they can get tested for an STD anonymously."
Dr. Peter Leone, a professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina and board chair of the National Coalition of STD Directors says the findings are no surprise. Doctors have suspected it’s not just men with erectile dysfunction taking the likes of Viagra, Cialis and Levitra. Dr. Leone says, “… they're also men in high risk groups who take it to enhance sexual activity."
He suggests that physicians should screen men who use erectile dysfunction drugs for sexually transmitted diseases, adding that repeated follow up for STD testing is also important unless men are using condoms or in a monogamous relationship. He also says it’s not erectile dysfunction drugs leading to higher rates of the STD’s HIV and Chlamydia – “it’s really the other way around”. The study concluded, “Men who use ED drugs have higher rates of STDs, particularly HIV infection, both in the year before and after use of these drugs.”