STD Awareness: What You Need to Know
What is an STD?
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are infectious diseases that are spread through the sexual contact between two people. These are also sometimes referred to as sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
STDs are caused by viruses such as the HIV virus, hepatitis B, herpes complex and human papilloma virus. Bacteria can also cause STDs such as gonorrhea, Chlamydia and syphilis.
Who is at Risk?
STDs can affect both males and females of all ages and races. Anyone who has engaged in unprotected sexual intercourse or even contact risks contracting and transmitting an STD. Some groups are at a higher risk than others. You’re more likely to contract an STD if you fall into one or more of the following categories:
• Commercial sex workers
• Have more than one sex partner
• Your partner has had more than one sex partner
• If you don’t use condoms during sexual activity
Types of STDs:
There are almost 20 different kinds of known infections that are sexually transmitted
If any of these STDs sound familiar, it is because they are named after the viruses or bacterium that they are caused by. Here is all about some of the most common STDS:
It is caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. It is transmitted through all types of sexual contact with an infected person, including vaginal, anal and oral sex.
In most cases, there are not symptoms associated with chlamydia but some may experience fevers, pain in the abdomen and unusual discharge. When left untreated, it can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in women. The STD progresses and moves to other parts of the woman’s reproductive system. This can later result in damage to the reproductive organs, serious life-threatening conditions during pregnancy and even infertility.
When detected early, chlamydia can easily be treated by antibiotics taken by mouth.
It is caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae. This bacteria is especially serious since it quickly multiplies in the moist atmosphere of the reproductive tract. Common symptoms include painful urination and discharge from penis or vagina.
Similarly to chlamydia, gonorrhea can lead to serious long-term problems for women including PID, complications during pregnancy and infertility. If infected during pregnancy, the fetus is also at risk of contracting gonorrhea.
In addition to infecting the mouth, throat and rectum, gonorrhea becomes life-threatening if is spread onto the bones and joints.
Gonorrhea can also be treated by oral antibiotics.
It is cause by two types of herpes simplex virus (HSV); type 1 and type 2. Although most cases are cause by type 2, both are the cause of genital herpes.
Very substantial numbers of people with genital herpes do not experience any symptoms. In other cases, the symptoms of HSV-1 include blisters and cold sores on the lips that may also appear in the genital region. The symptoms of HDV-2 are more painful, in the form of watery blisters on or around the genitals and anus.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for either type of genital herpes. The virus appears in the body’s nerve cells, even for those who are not experiencing symptoms.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the virus that causes acquire immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). The virus kills the blood cells that fight infection, in turn deteriorating and even completely destroying the body’s immune system. The AIDS stage is considered to have been reached when a substantial portion of these cells have been destroyed and the body no long has the ability to fight off or recover from infections.
AIDS is primarily transmitted through unprotected sexual activity but can also be passed on from a mother to her child during pregnancy.
There are 31 antiretroviral drugs (ARV) that treat HIV infections to suppress the virus but it cannot be cured.
Image via GHP Online
If you’re experiencing any of the before mentioned symptoms, seeing a doctor is crucial. If not treated as soon as possible, an STD can have serious long-term consequences. Not to mention, you’ll be spreading the disease to your current sexual partner(s) without even knowing it.