Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), also sometimes referred to as STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) are passed from person to person from vaginal, oral or anal sex.
STIs are common and vary in severity. While some symptoms are mild and can be easily treated, other STIs can make permanent marks on our lives, leading to health and fertility problems later down the line.
It is important to remember it is not necessary to have a disease, or any symptoms at all, in order to be contagious. Many people who are infected with STIs that have not yet progressed to STDs have gone on to infect other people.
A sexually transmitted infection is something that develops in your body when a bacteria, virus, or parasite is passed on to you through sexual contact with a person who has an STI. This can happen through:
Most people start to feel the urges and temptations of attraction during adolescence. Why should we chastise each other for acting on them and then experiencing some of the things that come with having sex?
Sex is a natural part of our normal human interaction, and it’s okay, however, we need to be responsible about it. That responsibility includes taking a stand for your sexual health – safer-sex and loads of communication – being sexually healthy.
STDs are a ‘part and parcel’ risk to sex, whether you’re being sexually healthy or not. We’ve seen that anyone can contract one. Therefore, they don’t make someone a bad person. It’s not a big deal to date someone with this matter but proper precautions should be taken.ss
Proper research and education can help one grow the knowledge and remove the stigma around it. Just because someone has an STD, it does not make them a slut, dirty, or any of the multitude of shameful names out there. It happens to all kinds of people. You deal with it, and you move on.
Gonorrhea, otherwise known as "the clap," is another common bacterial STD. It generally infects the same organs as chlamydia and has similar long-term effects.
Symptoms of gonorrhea include burning when urinating and, in men, white, yellow, or green discharge from the penis. Just as with chlamydia, many people with gonorrhea don't have symptoms.
Be aware, too, that gonorrhea can also infect the throat and be passed via oral sex. Currently, one of the biggest concerns about gonorrhea is treating it as there is a growing problem of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea.
Syphilis is a common STD with a notorious history.4 Caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum, it can lead to serious complications if left untreated.
Syphilis is transmitted by direct contact with syphilis sores, which can appear on the external genitals and the mouth, as well as in the vagina or rectum.
That means it can be transmitted by oral sex, as well as vaginal or anal intercourse. In fact, some scientists think that oral sex is responsible for the rise of syphilis in men who have sex with men.
The small painless sores (chancres) of early syphilis may heal by themselves, but that doesn't mean the disease is gone. It's just become more difficult to detect and treat.
In 2007, a prominent study of U.S. adolescents found that a little-known STD called Mycoplasma genitalium (MG) had surpassed gonorrhea in prevalence. Furthermore, MG, like gonorrhea and chlamydia, is starting to emerge as a major cause of cervicitis in women and nongonococcal urethritis in men.
Why did it take so long to recognize the importance of this now common STD?
Because most cases of MG don't cause symptoms and it was difficult to identify until the new technology became available. There is still no diagnostic test of MG that is cleared by the FDA for use in the United States.
Trichomoniasis is the most common curable STD, with infection more common in women than in men.
Some women may mistake this infection for a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis since the symptoms are similar: frothy discharge, strong vaginal odor, pain during intercourse, irritation, and itching.
Human papilloma virus (HPV) is quite possibly the most common STD. Older studies from before the HPV vaccine was available estimated that three-quarters of the sexually active population had HPV at some point during their lives.
HPV may be known as "the cervical cancer virus," but only a few types of HPV are linked to cancer, and they're linked to more than just cervical cancer. Others cause genital warts, other warts, or no symptoms at all.
HIV is the virus associated with AIDS. It can only be transmitted by an exchange of bodily fluids, including semen, vaginal secretions, breast milk, and blood. It cannot be transmitted by casual contact.
Currently, most people with HIV are treated with a combination of drugs known as highly active anti-retroviral therapy (HAART), or combined anti-retroviral therapy (cART).
Although these therapies cannot cure the disease, they can reduce the likelihood that infection will progress to AIDS.
"Crabs" are a form of lice that live on the hair in the genital area and occasionally on other coarse-haired areas of the body, such as the armpits or the eyebrows. They are usually spread by sexual contact, although they also can occasionally be transmitted by infested linens and clothing.
Symptoms include itching in the genital area and visible lice or eggs.
It also simply isn't true that you have to shave off all your pubic hair if you get infected.
Scabies is a contagious skin disease that is not always sexually transmitted. Caused by the parasite Sarcoptes scabei, scabies causes an extremely itchy rash that gets worse at night.
The rash is most often found in folds of skin, such as between the fingers, on the wrists and ankles, and in the genital area. Scabies is incredibly contagious, and the mite can live for days off the human body.
Herpes is another viral STD and it comes in two forms, HSV1 and HSV2. HSV1 is most often associated with cold sores, and HSV2 is most often associated with genital sores. However, it is possible to transmit herpes from the mouth to the genitals and vice versa.
Herpes symptoms can be treated with antiviral drugs, but the virus cannot be cured. People with the herpes virus need to know that they can transmit the virus even when they do not have any sores or other symptoms.
There are several types of hepatitis. Although the different viruses are transmitted through various routes, they all cause damage to the liver.13 The type of hepatitis most often associated with sexual transmission is hepatitis B (HBV). However, hepatitis C can also be sexually transmitted.
Over time, chronic infection with hepatitis B can lead to scarring of the liver, cirrhosis, and liver cancer. Fortunately, there is a vaccine that can protect you against infection.
Limit the number of sex partners you have. Ask your partner if he or she has, or has had, an STI. Tell your partner if you have had one. Talk about whether you’ve both been tested for STIs and whether you should be tested.
Look for signs of an STI in your sex partner. But remember that STIs don’t always cause symptoms. Don’t have sex if you or your partner are being treated for an STI.
Wash your genitals with soap and water and urinate soon after you have sex. This may help clean away some germs before they have a chance to infect you.
Ask. Although it may be uncomfortable, talk to your partner before having any sexual contact. Ask if he or she is at risk for having an STI. Some of the risk factors are having sex with several partners, using injected drugs and having had an STI in the past.
To be safe, protect yourself no matter what the person says. You must also tell your partner if you have an STI. You aren’t doing yourself or your partner any favors by trying to hide it.
If the STI is not treated, you could also end up with long term health problems. Getting regular sexual health check ups is a good way to make sure you are treated for any STIs.
STIs are a serious subject, but an important part of our overall health so it’s important we talk about them in the right way. Practicing safe sex and having regular check-ups is the best way to look after ourselves.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms or are worried you might have contracted an infection, speak to a healthcare professional as soon as you can. The more we talk about STIs the less taboo the subject gets.
There's nothing new about the concept of prevention being better than cure. Focusing on what matters to individuals to promote better health and well-being and stopping them from becoming ill.
So take care of yourself in every way possible. The key to a healthy living is in your hand.
Photo by Jr Korpa on Unsplash
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