What is an STD?
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), also known as sexually transmitted infections (STIs), are diseases and infections spread through intimate contact, such as intercourse. STDs are caused by viruses, parasites, bacteria, and yeast. There are more than 20 different kinds of STDs and STIs.
What are some examples of STDs?
- Chlamydia: This is a bacteria that can infect the reproductive organs, rectum, and throat. It can cause a feeling of burning during urination, abnormal discharge from the genitals, and pain in the reproductive organs.
- Gonorrhea: A bacteria that affects the reproductive organs. Symptoms include a burning feeling during urination and discharge from the genital area.
- Hepatitis B: Hepatitis B infects the liver and spreads through contact with the blood, body fluids, or open sores of someone already infected. Although easily treated, it can be serious, or even fatal, if left untreated. One of Hep B’s most noticeable symptoms is a yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes. Since symptoms may not show up right away, a blood test is the best way to detect the virus.
- Herpes: The herpes simplex virus causes redness and sores on the genital area, thighs, and rectal area, in what are called “outbreaks.” The virus never goes away, but the body’s immune system is usually able to lessen symptoms and outbreaks.
- HIV/AIDS: The human immunodeficiency virus most often spreads through intercourse and sharing of infected needles. HIV attacks the immune system. When a person is first infected, symptoms include swollen glands and flu-like symptoms. HIV can develop into AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.) AIDS causes a wide range of complications that eventually lead to death.
- HPV: The human papillomavirus spreads through intercourse and causes warts in the genital area. There are many types of warts, a few of which can lead to cancer.
- Syphilis: This is a bacteria passed through sexual contact. Symptoms are a small painless sore early, swollen lymph nodes, and a non-itchy rash on the hands and the feet late in the course. If left untreated, the bacteria can cause many complications later in life.
- Trichomoniasis: One of the most curable STDs, trichomoniasis is caused by a parasite that spreads through unprotected sex. Although it affects both women and men, it is most common among women. Due to a long incubation period (up to 28 days) and lack of symptoms, trichomoniasis can be difficult to detect without testing.
How are STDs spread?
Both men and women can be infected by STDs, and spread them. Any type of sexual intimacy can spread an STD, but risk factors vary greatly depending on the STI and the specific sexual practice. By taking precautions and keeping lines of communication open, you and your partner can enjoy sexual intimacy while keeping risks at a minimum.
How to prevent STDs?
Different STDs spread in different ways, but here are a few rules to follow: Always use protection, such as condoms and dental dams, when engaging in vaginal, oral, or anal intercourse unless you are in a committed relationship in which both partners have been tested. Protected sex is not risk-free, but will greatly reduce the risk of transmission of infection. Avoid dangerous sexual behavior, such as having unprotected sex with multiple partners, having unprotected sex with someone you don’t know well, or engaging in sexual practices that may result in bleeding. If you or your partner experiences symptoms of an STI, avoid intercourse until you’ve both been tested.
How to get tested for STDs?
You don’t have to wait until you’ve had STD symptoms to get an STD check. If you’ve ever had sex (especially unprotected sex) with someone, STD testing is a good idea. Some STD tests check for a single STD, such as an HIV test. Other tests check for a variety of STIs.
There is no single test that can screen for all STDs. However, many STD tests often include:
- Urine samples
- Urine samples are often used to test for chlamydia & gonorrhea.
- Physical exam
- You may be examined for signs of infection, like sores or discharge.
- Blood sample -
Blood samples are often used to test for HIV, herpes & syphilis