Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI)
The CDC estimates that there are 20 million new sexually transmitted infections (STIs) each year, just in the United States alone. You can receive an STI through vaginal, oral, and anal sex, and can even get STIs through kissing (herpes), hand-to-genital contact (trichomoniasis), or even just skin-to-skin contact (molluscum contagiosum)! While many STIs can be treated, they are untreated because symptoms may not be evident. With STIs going untreated, they can possibly cause serious issues like infertility or cancer. Some STIs like HIV and HPV are cureless.
However, there are preventive measures you can take to decrease your risk of an STI: using barriers like condoms or dental dams, reducing the number of sexual partners, regular STI testing, vaccinations for certain STIs and even abstinence. HPV is a vaccine many females receive when they are younger, but males can also benefit from an HPV vaccine as unchecked HPV can lead to penile cancer in men. These vaccinations are available at CHC.
Bacterial vaginosis is not an STI, but is associated with sexual activity and is common among people 15-44 years old. It occurs when there is too much of a certain bacteria in the vagina (“good” and “harmful” bacteria is unbalanced). It can be avoided by washing the vulva with gentle soap and water, refraining from vaginal deodorants and washes and only using water-based lubricants.
Most people do not experience symptoms but possible symptoms include: thin, white or gray vaginal discharge, pain or itching around the outside of the vagina, burning when urinating and/or strong-fish like order. It can be cured by medication or an antibiotic prescribed by a health care provider. If left untreated, it can increase your chance of getting other STIs and can cause premature delivery of baby if pregnant.
Chlamydia is a common STI that is spread through vaginal, anal or oral sex. Repeat infections are common with this STI.
Most people do not experience symptoms but possible symptoms include: abnormal vaginal discharge, burning sensation when urinating, discolored discharge from penis and/or painful testicals. It can be cured by medication or an antibiotic prescribed by a health care provider and is important to get tested 3 months after treatment. If left untreated in a woman, it can spread to the uterus and fallopian tubes (affecting fertilized eggs), causing inflammatory disease and permanent damage to the reproductive system. For men, it can spread to the tube carrying sperm from the testicles, causing pain and fever.
Gonorrhea is a common STI that causes infections in the genitals, rectum and throat. It is common among people 15-24 years old.
Most people do not experience symptoms but possible symptoms include: increased vaginal discharge, unexpected bleeding between periods, burning sensation when urinating, discolored discharge from penis and/or pain/swelling in one or both testicals. It can be cured by medication or an antibiotic prescribed by a health care provider but drug-resistant straings of gonorrhea are increasing, making treatment more difficult. If left untreated, serious and permanent health problems can occur. For women, it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease and for men, it can cause pain in testicles and possible sterility.
Trichomoniasis is the most common curable STI and is caused by infection with a protozoan parasite called trichomonas vaginalis.
Most people do not experience symptoms but possible symptoms include: change in vaginal discharge, itching/burning/redness or soreness of the vagina, discomfort with urination, itching/irritation inside the penis, discharge from the penis or burning after urination or ejaculation. It is treated with oral medication but is possible to be re-infected. If left untreated, it can cause genital inflammation and increases the risk of sttracting/spreading other STIs.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
HPV is the most common STI and is caused by having vaginal, anal or oral sex with someone who has the virus. The HPV vaccine protests against 9 strains of HPV that can cause problems such as cancers and genital warts.
Symptoms may develop after you have sex with an infected person. There is no cure for the virus but your body may clear it on its own. There are treatments available for health problems HPV may cause (such as removing warts and cancerous lesions. If left untreated, it can cause cervical and other cancers in the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, back of throat or base of tongue and tonsils.
Herpes – HSV-1 and HSV-2
There are two types of herpes. HSV-1 is oral and can be transferred from kissing, sharing utensils or having oral sex with someone who is infected. HSV-2 is genital and can be transferred through vaginal, anal or oral sex with someone that has ever had herpes or cold sores. Either strain can affect either location and herpes can be spread even when blisters are not present.
Most people do not experience symptoms and symptoms may develop after you have sex with an infected person. There is no cure for the virus but medicine is available to prevent or shorten outbreaks and decrease the risk of passing onto your partner. If left untreated, genital herpes can cause painful genital sores and can be severe in people with suppressed immunesystems. If you touch your sores or come into contact with the sore fluid, you may transfer it to another part of your body. If you are pregnant, problems mayoccur for you and your developing newborn baby.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
HIV is a virus that attacks cells that help the body fightinfection and is transmitted through contact with infected vaginal fluids, semen, or infected blood. HIV harms the immune system by destroying whiteblood cells that fight infection and the final stage is acquired immunodeficiencysyndrome (AIDS).
HIV is currently not curable. New treatments can make the viral load undetectable, virtually eliminating the chance of transmitting the virus to others. If left untreated, it can lead to AIDS. It can also reduce the number of CD4 cells (T cells) which help the immune system fight off infections and those severe infections can cause death.
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection that can cause serious health problems if not treated properly. It can occur 10-30 years after infection occurs.
There are many possible symptoms of syphilis. Primary symptoms include noticing single or multiple sores that are firm, round and painless that last 3-6 weeks. Secondary symptoms include having skin rashes and/or mucous membrane lesions which are sores around the mouth, vagina or anus. There may be periods of time with no visible signs or symptoms. It may also affect many organ systems, including heart and blood vessels in the brain and nervous systems. It can be cured with the right antibiotics but treatment may not undo any damage that the infection has already caused. If left untreated, it can spread to the brain, nervous system or eye. It can also cause severe headaches, difficulty coordinating muscle movements, paralysis, numbness and dementia.