An STD is a sexually transmitted disease, meaning that it is passed on through sexual activities (vaginal, oral or anal). They are also referred to as venereal diseases or STIs (sexually transmitted infections). Apart from the flu and the common cold, STDs are some of the most prevalent diseases, with millions of new infections occurring every year. One reason STDs are common is due to lack of proper education among some populations. A crucial distinction to note is that not every infection of disease that affects the genitals qualifies as an STD, and not all conditions are a direct result of sex. Learning the basics of STDs such as prevention, treatment and risk factors, is critical for any sexually active person. Moreover, it is really important to get tested for STDs so that it is treated right away and the spread is prevented. Read on for more information on some of the most common STDs.
Chlamydia ranks at the top of the most commonly transmitted STDs, with the CDC reporting 1.8 million cases in 2018. It can take years for the symptoms of chlamydia to manifest, which is why it is so prevalent. In instances where symptoms develop, they include pain or discomfort when urinating, a painful lower abdomen and yellowish-green discharge from the genitals. Fortunately, this STD is completely curable through antibiotics, hence the need to get a screening if you’re unsure whether you’ve contracted the disease. Fortunately, treatments for Chlamydia are readily available in pharmacies but they should be administered immediately after diagnosis because the longer the condition goes untreated, the more damage it can cause. Some of the complications of untreated chlamydia are infertility, prostate gland or urethral infection and pelvic inflammatory disease. An expectant woman can pass it to her unborn child if she does not seek chlamydia treatment, risking eye infections, blindness and pneumonia.
Formerly called ‘the Clap’, gonorrhoea is a bacterial STI and is similar to chlamydia in terms of the damage caused. Many people don’t show symptoms, but some of the common ones are a sore throat, yellow, white or green discharge from the genitals, itching around the genitals and frequent and painful urination. Gonorrhoea is transmissible from a mother to her unborn baby. Treatment with antibiotics is typically very effective.
HIV is a viral infection that can damage the immune system and if left untreated, develop into AIDS. Transmission occurs through the exchange of bodily fluids, including blood, vaginal secretions, semen and breast milk. Casual contact does not transmit HIV. Symptoms of this STD are easy to mistake with the flu. They include swollen lymph nodes, fever, sore throat, chills, nausea and aches. HIV symptoms can disappear after a month or so, but equally for some individuals they can also take years to show. Regular testing is necessary for a person who has unprotected sex. HIV has no cure yet, but anti-retroviral therapy is effective in managing the condition, thereby preventing its progression and curbing its spread.
The bacterium Treponema pallidum causes syphilis. In its early stages, it can take a while before showing symptoms. Usually, it starts with a small painless sore (chancre) that can appear on the mouth, vagina, anus or rectum. Transmission occurs after direct contact with the sore, meaning that the disease can be passed on through oral, vaginal and anal sexual intercourse. Condoms reduce the risk of transmission, but still leave some probability since sores are on parts that condoms can’t protect. Early detection allows treatment with antibiotics.
Certain elements can increase the probability of contracting STDs. They include:
- Multiple sexual partners
- Intercourse with an infected person
- A partner with several sexual partners
- A history of STDs
- Intravenous drug use
You can decrease some of the risk factors associated with STDs by being more cautious sexually. Know your sexual history and that of your partner. Screening for various venereal diseases is highly recommended, especially when getting into a sexual relationship with a new partner. Avoid risky sexual practices, such as rough sex that can lead to skin breaks, as exposed cuts increase the threat of contracting an infection dramatically. Anal sex is another high-risk factor that you should limit. Latex condoms offer protection against numerous diseases, so you should always insist on safe sex. Vaccinations can protect against some STIs such as HPV and Hepatitis B. Lastly, never share hypodermic needles.