Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)

Article in METRO newspaper, June 14 2001. (Found by Helen Watters in 2001)


One in five teenagers has an undiagnosed sexually transmitted disease, say doctors in the US.
The figure was uncovered by doctors who sent home test kits for various infections to a random sample of female students, aged between 15 and 19 in Pennsylvania.
Ten per cent were found to have trichomoniasis, eight per cent had chlamydia and two per cent had gonorrhea.
The results, published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases, will worry health experts in the UK, where gonorrhea cases rose from 10,598 in 1995 to 16,470 in 1999, Syphilis diagnoses increased by 4 per cent and cases of genital warts rose by a fifth.

HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)

(Excerpts and modified content from It's Your Sex Life)

You've probably heard different things about STDs. It's worth finding out the right information, because being infected with an STD would have an impact on your life. The risk is serious: by age 24, at least one in three sexually active people will have contracted an STD. What is there to learn? Plenty. Here's what you need to know about the risks of unprotected sex.

Each year, there are 15 million new cases of STDs in the US, including 10 million cases among people aged 15-24. Many of these people who have been infected probably thought they didn't need to worry about protection. While a few STDs are curable, many others can have lasting effects on your health and sex life.

We all know that HIV is an incredibly deadly STD. In fact, half of all new HIV infections occur in people under 25, and HIV/AIDS is a leading cause of death among young people today. Fortunately, there are many new medications for HIV/AIDS that help people with HIV to live longer and healthier lives. But the drugs are hard to take (you have to take many each day), do not work for everyone, and sometimes have side effects. These drugs are not a cure.

Other STDs can cause recurrent symptoms, such as painful or itchy sores, and a select few can cause infertility (meaning you could never have children) and increase the risk of cancer or even death for both men and women.

And get this: Almost any STD increases your chances of contracting HIV. In fact, people who already have an STD, like herpes, gonorrhea or chlamydia, are more likely to become infected with HIV than someone who does not have an STD if they have unsafe sex with an HIV-positive partner.

It's a myth that you can tell if someone has an STD by the way he or she looks or acts. That wholesome-looking guy or woman may look safe and seem safe but appearances can be deceiving. After all, you're not just having sex with that person but with everyone they've ever had sex with... and everyone THEY'VE ever had sex with... and... well, you get the point. Because lots of STDs have no symptoms (or only subtle ones), your partner may not even know he or she has one. That's why if you have had unprotected sex in your life, you should get tested for STDs like chlamydia, and for HIV, even if you have no symptoms and are feeling just fine.

To be blunt about it: the only way to be sure you're having safer sex is to keep your partner's blood, semen, or vaginal fluids out of your body. Abstinence is, of course, the safest way. But, if you're going to have sex, always use condoms and dental dams.

How can you tell if you're infected with HIV or another STD?

A lot of times, you CAN'T tell you're infected - or if your partner is infected. Lots of serious STDs often have no symptoms - that's why it's so important to visit a health care provider and ask to be tested, and to always use protection if you have sex. You probably won't get tested for STDs as part of a routine exam unless you ask for it. Even a woman's annual gynecological exam doesn't usually include STD screening unless you request it. HIV testing is not a routine part of your care.

Sometimes there are symptoms from an STD. If, for example, you've been experiencing burning during urination; thick and/or, smelly discharge from the vagina, penis or anus; bumps, sores or itching in the genital area; pain or tenderness in the pelvic area; or other funky symptoms, you may have a sexually transmitted disease. In that case, you need to see a health care provider right away so you can get tested.

Why is it important to get tested early?

Because if you have an STD and don't know it - and so don't get treatment - you could pass it on to your partner and you could risk your health and your ability to have kids in the future. Not all STDs are curable, but even for ones that aren't, treatments are available that can help. If you have HIV, for example, finding out early means you can take advantage of new medications that are effective, even before you get sick.

If you are a woman and you've been experiencing cramping or persistent pain in the abdomen or back; abdominal tenderness with movement or going to the bathroom; abnormal vaginal discharge; pain during intercourse; or any of these symptoms with a fever - these may be signs of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). If you have these symptoms, see a doctor or go to a clinic or a hospital emergency room immediately; PID can lead to infertility in a woman if it's left untreated.

Possible STD Symptoms

Do you or your partner have any of these symptoms? If so, you can review the information on the corresponding pages, and consult your health care provider. These symptoms may be the sign of an STD infection.

Symptoms

Abdominal pain or tenderness Hepatitis B Virus
Bleeding from the vagina (other than your period) Chlamydia, Gonorrhea
Blisters on your genital area Genital Herpes
Discharge from the vagina or penis Gonorrhea, Trichomoniasis, Chlamydia
Irritation in the genital area Trichomoniasis, Gonorrhea, Chlamydia
Itching in the genital area Human Papillomavirus
Pain or burning while urinating Gonorrhea, Genital Herpes, Chlamydia
Painful intercourse Gonorrhea
Pelvic pain Gonorrhea, Chlamydia
Sores on the genitals Genital Herpes, Syphilis
Very dark urine Hepatitis B Virus
Warts or bumps on the genitals Human Papillomavirus
Yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes Hepatitis B Virus
Vaginal yeast infections (severe or recurring), persistent night sweats, flu-like symptoms, unexplained weight loss HIV

Preventing STD's

Most contraceptives, except the male and female condom, don't provide any protection against STDs. And even condoms don't provide complete protection from HPV and herpes which can be spread through skin-to-skin contact.

Now, To Get The Inside Scoop On The Most Common STDs

Chlamydia
Trichomoniasis
Gonorrhea
Human Papillomavirus
Genital Herpes
Syphilis
Hepatitis B Virus
HIV

Chlamydia

What is it?

A bacterial infection of the genital area.

How many get it?

About 3 million reported cases each year.

Signs?

There are no symptoms in most women and many men who have it. Others may experience abnormal vaginal bleeding (not your period), unusual discharge or pain during urination within one to three weeks of having sex with an infected partner.

How is it spread?

Through unprotected vaginal, oral, or anal intercourse.

Treatment?

Oral antibiotics cure the infection; both partners must be treated at the same time to prevent passing the infection back and forth, and both partners need to abstain from unprotected intercourse until the infection is gone.

Possible consequences?

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in women, tubal (ectopic) pregnancy, infertility, and increased risk of HIV infection.

Trichomoniasis ("Trich")

What is it?

A parasitic infection of the genital area.

How many get it?

As many as 5 million new reported cases each year.

Signs?

Often there are no symptoms, especially in men. Some women note a frothy, smelly, yellowish-green vaginal discharge, and/or genital area discomfort, usually within 4 days to one month after exposure to the parasite. Men may notice a discharge from the penis.

How is it spread?

Through unprotected vaginal intercourse.

Treatment?

Antibiotics can cure the infection. Both partners need to be treated at the same time to prevent passing the infection back and forth and both partners need to abstain from intercourse until the infection is gone.

Possible consequences?

Increased risk of HIV infection; can cause complications during pregnancy. Also, it's common for this infection to happen again and again.

Gonorrhea

What is it?

A bacterial infection of the genital area.

How many get it?

Approximately 650,000 new cases a year; teens have higher rates of gonorrhea than do sexually active men and women aged 20-44.

Signs?

Most women and many men who get it have no symptoms. For those who do get symptoms, it can cause a burning sensation while urinating, green or yellowish vaginal or penile discharge, and for women, abnormal vaginal bleeding or pelvic pain. Symptoms can appear 2 to 10 days after infection.

How is it spread?

Through unprotected vaginal, oral, or anal sex.

Treatment?

Oral antibiotics. Both partners need to be treated at the same time to prevent passing the infection back and forth - and both partners need to abstain from intercourse until the infection is gone.

Possible consequences?

PID, tubal (ectopic) pregnancy, sterility, increased risk of HIV infection. The infection can spread into the uterus and fallopian tubes. It can also cause complications during pregnancy (including stillbirth) or infant blindness or meningitis (from an infected mom during delivery).

Human Papillomavirus (HPV, Genital Warts)

What is it?

A viral infection with more than 100 different types, primarily affecting the genital area, both the outer and inner surfaces.

How many get it?

An estimated 5.5 million new cases each year; at least 20 million people already have it.

Signs?

Soft, itchy warts in and around the genitals (vagina, penis, testicles, and anus) may appear two weeks to three months after exposure. Many people, however, have no symptoms but may still be contagious.

How is it spread?

Through unprotected vaginal, oral, or anal intercourse, or by touching or rubbing an infected area (infected areas may not always be noticeable).

Treatment?

There is no cure. Warts can be removed through medication or surgery. Even with such treatments, the virus stays in the body and can cause future outbreaks.

Possible consequences?

Increased risk of genital cancer for men and women. Some virus types cause the most common form of cervical cancer in women.

Genital Herpes

What is it?

A viral infection of the genital area (and sometimes around the mouth).

How many get it?

About 1 million new cases each year; an estimated 45 million cases already exist.

Signs?

There are two kinds of herpes. Herpes 1 causes cold sores and fever blisters on the mouth but can be spread to the genitals; Herpes 2 is usually on the genitals but it can be spread to the mouth. Nearly two-thirds of people who are infected with herpes don't even realize it. An outbreak can cause red bumps that turn into painful blisters or sores on the vagina, penis, buttocks, thighs, or elsewhere. During the first attack, it can also lead to flu-like symptoms, including fever, headaches, and swollen glands. Symptoms usually appear within two weeks of infection but can take longer in some cases. The first outbreak is usually more severe than later recurrences.

How is it spread?

By touching an infected area or having unprotected vaginal, oral, or anal intercourse. Warning: some people may be contagious even when they don't have symptoms.

Treatment?

There is no cure. An antiviral drug can help the pain and itching and also reduce the frequency of recurrent outbreaks.

Possible consequences?

Recurrent sores (the virus lives in the nerve roots and keeps coming back), as well as increased risk of HIV infection. Transmission of herpes to newborns is rare. Most mothers with a history of herpes have normal vaginal deliveries. However, an infant who gets herpes can become very ill, so some precautions are advisable.

Syphilis

What is it?

An infection caused by small organisms, which can spread throughout the body.

How many get it?

About 70,000 new reported cases each year.

Signs?

In the first phase, sores (chancre) may appear on the genitals or mouth several weeks to three months after exposure, lasting for one to five weeks. Often, however, there are no noticeable symptoms. In the second stage, up to 10 weeks after the initial sore has disappeared, a variety of symptoms can appear, including a rash (often on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, or genital area).

How is it spread?

Through unprotected vaginal, oral, or anal sex - and also through kissing if there is a lesion on the mouth.

Treatment?

Antibiotic treatment can cure the disease if it's caught early, but medication can't undo damage the disease has already done. Both partners must be treated at the same time.

Possible consequences?

Increased risk of HIV infection. If syphilis is left untreated, the symptoms will disappear, but the germ will remain within the body and progress into the third stage, which may seriously damage the brain, heart, and nervous system, and possibly cause death. It can also seriously harm a developing fetus during pregnancy.

Hepatitis B Virus (HBV)

What is it?

A viral infection primarily affecting the liver.

How many get it?

About 77,000 new reported cases a year through sexual transmission; about 750,000 people are already infected with Hepatitis B as a result of sexual transmission.

Signs?

Many people don't have any symptoms. Others may experience severe fatigue, achiness, nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, darkening of urine, or abdominal tenderness, usually within one to six months of exposure. Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (called jaundice), and darkening of the urine can occur later.

How is it spread?

Through unprotected vaginal, oral, and anal sex. It can also be transmitted through sharing contaminated needles, or through any behavior in which a person's mucus membranes are exposed to an infected person's blood, semen, vaginal secretions, or saliva. (Don't worry... the chance of getting Hepatitis B through kissing is slim, unless your partner likes to bite!).

Treatment?

Most cases clear up within one to two months without treatment, during which complete abstinence from alcohol is recommended until liver function returns to normal. Some people are contagious for the rest of their lives. A three-dose vaccine is now available to prevent this STD.

Possible consequences?

Chronic, persistent inflammation of the liver and later cirrhosis or cancer of the liver; plus, if you're pregnant, your baby must be immunized at birth.

HIV

What is it?

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the cause of AIDS.

How many get it?

An estimated 40,000 Americans are infected with HIV each year, most of whom were infected sexually, and an estimated 800,000 - 900,000 people in the U.S. are living with HIV/AIDS.

Signs?

Many people who have HIV don't even know it because symptoms may not appear for 10 years or longer. Others experience unexplained weight loss, flu-like symptoms, diarrhea, fatigue, persistent fevers, night sweats, headaches, mental disorders, or severe or recurring vaginal yeast infections.

How is it spread?

Through body fluids such as blood, semen, vaginal fluids and breast milk -in other words, during vaginal, oral or anal intercourse; by sharing contaminated needles; or via pregnancy or breast-feeding. During vaginal intercourse, the risks of becoming infected are higher for women than for men, because HIV is more easily transmitted from man to woman.

Treatment?

There is no cure and AIDS is considered fatal. Several new antiviral medications can slow progression of the infection and delay the onset of AIDS symptoms. Early treatment can make a big difference.

Possible consequences?

It is the deadliest STD of all and can weaken the body's ability to fight disease, making someone with HIV vulnerable to certain cancers and infections such as pneumonia. Babies born to HIV-positive mothers may become infected with HIV if the mother is not receiving treatment, but treatment can reduce that rate significantly.