Which viral STIs are curable and which are incurable?

Herpes and HIV:
These are the only two viral STIs which are always chronic. Even though people with herpes or HIV cannot currently be cured, their symptoms can be treated. At this time, there are no available vaccines to prevent Herpes or HIV. However, there are medications available to help prevent the HIV virus from causing infection in the sexual partners of HIV positive people.1

About 9 out of 10 sexually active people will become infected with the human papillomavirus at some point in their lives. Up to 90% of HPV infections are cleared by the body’s immune system within 12-24 months of detection.2 Some types of HPV are low-risk for cancer, but can cause genital warts. Those who are infected with high-risk (cancer-causing) HPV types and do not clear their infection quickly are at risk for persistent infection. There is no cure for persistent HPV. Persistent HPV infection is a risk factor for development of cervical cancer and oral cancer in men. All women should have routine pap smears by age 21.

There are currently two available vaccines to help prevent HPV infections. The most recent vaccine, Gardasil 9, protects against 9 different strains of the HPV virus, including most of the cancer-causing types and most of the wart-causing types. Both girls and boys are encouraged to be immunized with the vaccines. The vaccine can be given as early as age 9.3

Hepatitis B:

In the U.S., babies usually get there first does of hepatitis B vaccine at birth and then two more doses of the vaccine by the time they are 18 months old. Adults who were born before 1991 may not have received the vaccine. They should be vaccinated if they are at risk for Hepatitis B exposure.4

Most adults who are infected with hepatitis B virus (HBV) recover from their infections; the rest develop chronic infections.  Each year 2,000-4,000 people in the U.S. die from cirrhosis or liver cancer caused by hepatitis B.4

Hepatitis C:
There is no vaccine to prevent Hepatitis C. About 75%-85% of people infected with Hepatitis C will develop chronic hepatitis C and 60-70% will develop chronic liver disease.5 Hepatitis C is spread through the blood, but can be sexually transmitted.

Hepatitis C can be cured with medication, especially if the treatment begins within 6 months of getting the disease. Since 2013, more medications have been approved for use in chronic hepatitis C, resulting in increasing cure rates.6


1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines, 2015,” MMWR Reomm Rep 2015; 64(no. RR)
2. Grimes, Jill (Editor) Sexually Transmitted Disease: An Encyclopedia of Diseases, Prevention, Treatment, and Issues, 2014GREENWOOD, Santa Barbara, Ca.(Vol. 1)
3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccine Safety,” http://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/vaccines/hpv-vaccine.html
4. Medline Plus,”Hepatitis B Vaccine,                                                                                                                    http ://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginf/meds/a607014.html                                                          5. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “Hepatitis C FAQs for Health Professionals,”
http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/HCV/HCVfaq.htm  Accessed May 2016                                                      6. AASLD/IDSA, “Recommendations for testing, managing, and treating Hepatitis C,”
http://www.hcvguidelines.org Accessed May 2016


Updated: Nov. 2016.