Your answers to sexual and reproductive
An initiative of CyberSansar & Health Support Systems for Youth Awareness
Sexually Transmitted infections
What are sexually transmitted Infections and diseases?
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are the infections and resulting clinical syndromes caused by more than 25 infectious organisms transmitted through sexual activity. Because STDs are communicable diseases with far-reaching public health consequences, early detection and treatment are important for the sexual and reproductive health of the individual as well as the community. STDs can often result in serious long-term complications, including pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, stillbirths and neonatal infections, genital cancers, and an increased risk for HIV acquisition and transmission.
You can't 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 ever had sex , you should get tested for STDs like chlamydia and 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 the safest course. But, if you're going to have sex, always use condoms and dental dams (square pieces of latex available in some drugstores) for oral sex.
Sexually transmitted diseases are among the most common infections with an estimated 340 millions infections worldwide. Travelers who have sexual interactions with core groups of efficient STD transmitters (commercial sex workers) in endemic areas may have high rates of acquisition of an STD, such as gonorrhea. Some STDs are more prevalent in developing countries (e.g., chancroid, lymphogranuloma venereum, and granuloma inguinale) and may be more likely to be exported into developed countries by travelers.
Most people with STDs have no symptoms. When symptoms are present, they are often hard to recognize because they can be confused with non-sexual diseases. This is especially true for women. This is why it is good to have routine check-ups if you are sexually active, especially if you have had multiple sexual partners (even if you used a condom every time).
However, there are some symptoms to look for if you think you might have an STD.
In women, the most common symptoms of an STD are:
• unusual or bad-smelling vaginal discharge,
• severe itching or burning in the genital area,
• unusual bleeding,
• pelvic pain,
• pain during sex,
• rashes on the genitals,
• open sores or warts on the genital area, and/or
• recurrent urinary tract infections.
In men, the most common symptoms of an STD are:
• pain when urinating,
• open sores or warts on the genital area,
• rashes on the genitals,
• discharge from the penis, and/or
• pain in the scrotum/testicles.
However, in both men and women, STDs can cause symptoms in other parts of the body besides the genitals and bladder, including:
• discharge from the anus,
• swelling of the groin,
• jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes),
• oral thrush (white tongue),
• sores or bumps in and around the mouth, and
• generalized rashes.
In general, if you:
• notice any sores or warts on or near your genitals,
• have a rash in your genital area,
• have severe itching of your genitals, or
• notice unusual or bad-smelling discharge from your penis or vagina,
Go to a clinic or the hospital for treatment. Early treatment increases your chances of being cured, if a cure is possible. If a cure is not possible, early treatment improves your ability to prevent negative consequences of infection, including infection with other STDs.
Common Sexually Transmitted Infections to Know
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- Human Papillomavirus (HPV or genital warts)
- Trichomoniasis ("Trich")
Description: Chlamydia is caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. Chlamydia is symptomless at first. After the disease progresses some of the symptoms include odorless discharge and burning during urination. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) can also be caused by chlamydia, and in severe cases can lead to sterility and tubal pregnancy.
Hangouts: Chlamydia is known as a "silent" disease because three quarters of infected women and half of infected men have no symptoms. The infection is frequently not diagnosed or treated until complications develop. Chlamydia usually hangs out in the cervix and the urethra in women. Men may have may a discharge from the penis, a burning sensation when urinating, burning and itching around the penis, and pain and swelling in the testicles. Chlamydia also hangs out in the anus and throat.
Transmission: Chlamydia is transmitted through vaginal, anal, or oral intercourse. It can also be transmitted from a mother to her baby during birth.
Treatment: Chlamydia can be treated and cured easily with antibiotics.
Prevention: Not having sex at all is the only 100 percent effective, foolproof method of preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Latex condoms, when used consistently and correctly, can reduce the risk of transmission of chlamydia.
Description: The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the name of a group of viruses that includes over 100 different types, many of which are sexually transmitted. Some types of these viruses cause genital warts. Visible genital warts look like a small hard bump or cluster of bumps. They start off as small painless spots, but warmth and moisture can make them grow larger. Some genital warts cannot be seen by the naked eye, but they can still be transmitted through sexual contact. Generally, as many as 70 percent of all sexually experienced people may have HPV; less than one percent of these infected people will develop visible warts.
Two strains of HPV are “high-risk” and may cause abnormal pap smears and cancer of the cervix, anus, or penis. These types do not cause genital warts, so someone who does not have visible genital warts could carry the cancer-causing strains of HPV.
Hangouts: Most people who have a genital HPV infection don't know they are infected. Others get visible genital warts. Genital warts can be found on the vulva, on the cervix, in or around the vagina or anus, and on the penis, scrotum, groin, or thigh.
Transmission: The types of HPV that infect the genital area are spread primarily through sexual contact with someone who is infected.
Treatment: Most women are diagnosed with HPV through abnormal Pap smears. There is no cure for HPV. Diagnosis of genital warts is usually made by a visual exam, but there is also a magnification procedure for locating warts on the cervix. Genital warts can be treated easily with cryotherapy (dry ice treatment). Drugs like podophyllin solution and trichloracetic acid (TCA) can also be used directly on the warts.
Prevention: Abstinence is the only 100 percent effective method for avoiding unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HPV. Latex condoms used consistently and correctly have been shown to reduce the risk of HPV infection for sexually active people. However, the virus can still be transmitted by parts of skin not covered by a condom. The use of latex condoms has also been associated with a reduction in risk of HPV-associated diseases, including genital warts and cervical cancer.
Description: Gonorrhea is caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Symptoms appear from two days to four weeks after exposure. They include painful urination, pus-like discharge, bumps on the cervix, anal irritation and painful bowel movement. As the disease progresses, pain in the lower abdomen on both sides, vomiting, fever and irregular menstrual periods occur. In women, gonorrhea can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), a secondary infection that can cause sterility.
Hangouts: Gonorrhea hangs out in the cervix, uterus, and fallopian tubes in women, and in the urethra in women and men. The bacteria also hang out in the mouth, throat, and anus.
Transmission: Gonorrhea usually attacks though vaginal, anal, or oral intercourse with an infected person.
Treatment: Gonorrhea is treated with ceftriaxone or penicillin. There are a lot of resistant strains, which make treatment more difficult. If symptoms remain after treatment, then you should go back to your doctor or clinic for a different antibiotic.
Prevention: Not having sex at all is the only 100 percent effective, foolproof method of preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Latex condoms, when used consistently and correctly, can reduce the risk of transmission of gonorrhea.
Description: Herpes is caused by the herpes simplex viruses type 1 (HSV-1) and type 2 (HSV-2). Most individuals have no or only minimal signs or symptoms from HSV-1 or HSV-2 infection.
Hangouts: When signs do occur, they typically appear as one or more blisters on or around the genitals or rectum. The blisters break, leaving tender ulcers (sores) that may take two to four weeks to heal the first time they occur. Typically, another outbreak can appear weeks or months after the first, but it almost always is less severe and shorter than the first episode. Although the infection can stay in the body indefinitely, the number of outbreaks tends to go down over a period of years.
Transmission: HSV-1 and HSV-2 can be found and released from the sores that the viruses cause, but they also are released between episodes from skin that does not appear to be broken or to have a sore. A person almost always gets HSV-2 infection during sexual contact with someone who has a genital HSV-2 infection. HSV-1 causes infections of the mouth and lips, so-called "fever blisters." A person can get HSV-1 by coming into contact with the saliva of an infected person. HSV-1 infection of the genitals almost always is caused by oral-genital sexual contact with a person who has the oral HSV-1 infection.
Treatment: There is no treatment that can cure herpes, but antiviral medications can shorten and prevent outbreaks during the period of time the person takes the medication.
Prevention: Not having sex at all is the only 100 percent effective, foolproof method of preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The consistent and correct use of latex condoms can help protect against infection with herpes. However, condoms do not provide complete protection because the condom may not cover the herpes sore(s), and viral shedding may nevertheless occur. If either you or your partner have genital herpes, it is best to abstain from sex when symptoms or signs are present, and to use latex condoms between outbreaks.
Description: Syphilis is caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum. The first symptom is a painless sore called a chancre. A chancre is like a pimple, blister or open sore that appears 10-90 days (average 21 days) after the bacteria enter the body. The chancre disappears after three to six weeks. The infection progresses to the second stage if treatment is not administered.
The second stage starts when one or more areas of the skin break into a rash—which usually doesn't itch. Be on the lookout for a rash on the entire body, on the palms of your hands or on the soles of your feet. In addition to rashes, be on the lookout for fever, swollen lymph nodes, sore throat, loss of hair, headaches, weight loss, muscle aches, and tiredness. At both the first and the second stages, a person is highly infectious to partners.
The third, latent (hidden) stage of syphilis begins when the secondary symptoms disappear. Without treatment, the infected person still has syphilis even though there are no signs or symptoms. It remains in the body, and it may begin to damage the internal organs, including the brain, nerves, eyes, heart, blood vessels, liver, bones, and joints. This internal damage may show up many years later in the late or tertiary stage of syphilis. Late stage signs and symptoms include not being able to coordinate muscle movements, paralysis, numbness, gradual blindness and dementia. This damage may be serious enough to cause death.
Hangouts: Syphilis mainly hangs out around the genitals and anus. It occasionally hangs out in and around the mouth.
Transmission: Syphilis is transmitted through direct contact with a syphilis sore. Transmission occurs during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. The bacteria penetrates mucous membranes or broken skin on the genitals, mouth and anus. Pregnant women can pass syphilis to their fetuses, especially in the early stages of the disease. However, if treated before the 16th week of pregnancy, the fetus will probably not be affected. Children born with syphilis may have no symptoms or the symptoms may be severe enough to cause brain damage and death.
Treatment: Syphilis can be diagnosed and treated at any time with penicillin by injection or a substitute antibiotic for those who are allergic to penicillin. It is recommended that you not have sexual intercourse until the syphilis sores are completely healed.
Prevention: Not having sex at all is the only 100 percent effective, foolproof method of preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Syphilis can occur in genital areas that are covered or protected by a latex condom. Syphilis can also occur in areas that are not covered or protected. Latex condoms, when used consistently and correctly, can reduce the risk of infection with syphilis only when the infected areas are covered or protected by the condom.
Description: Trichomoniasis or "trich" is caused by the parasite Trichomonas vaginalis. Women may have no signs at all, or may have a frothy, creamy, yellowish or greenish discharge with itching, vaginal odor, abdominal pains and/or frequent urination. Some men may have no signs at all while others have itching and/or lesions.
Hangouts: The most common hang out of trichomoniasis in women is in the vagina and in men is the urethra (the tube that empties urine from your bladder).
Treatment: Trichomoniasis can be cured with a prescription drug called metronidazole. Treatment must be given to both partners at the same time so that they won't reinfect each other. Metronidazole can be used by pregnant women.
Prevention: Not having sex at all is the only 100 percent effective, foolproof method of preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Latex condoms, when used consistently and correctly, can reduce the risk of transmission of trichomoniasis.
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