What are STDs?
STDs are also known as Sexually Transmitted Diseases. In the past, these were also known as VD or venereal disease. If you think you may have been exposed to one or more, then you will need to be seen by a healthcare provider, either your own private physician or your local health department. According to the Center for Disease Control and the Department of Health and Human Services, some of the more common STDs are as follows:
Chlamydia – is a bacterial infection and is the most frequently reported infectious disease. Chlamydia is highest in those sexually active individuals ages 25 and under. Chlamydia is spread by having sexual contact with an infected partner. You can not catch Chlamydia from towels, toilet seats or sheets. You become infected by having sexual contact with someone who already has the disease. If you think you may be infected with Chlamydia, call the health department or your own private physician for further information. Some symptoms of Chlamydia are a yellowish thick discharge, itching and burning.
Gonorrhea – is the second most commonly reported bacterial STD. Among women, several infections of gonorrhea do not produce recognizable symptoms until serious complications occur. Because of this it is important for sexually active women to be screened for STDs. Gonorrhea is easily detected in males and is sometimes referred to as “the clap” or “drip.” Some symptoms of gonorrhea are yellowish/green discharge, dripping, and odor.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV or warts) – are genital warts that may appear to be red, pink or dirty gray in color. And according to the CDC MMWR guidelines, August 4, 2006, Vol. 55, there are 100 types of HPV and more than 30 types can infect the genital area. Most infections in these areas are types 6 and 11. Types 16, 18, 31, 33, and 35 are strongly associated with cervical cancer neoplasia. (These types are thought to lead to cervical cancer.) Only DNA or RNA testing can detect what type of HPV with which a person may be infected. Many men and women who have HPV do not have symptoms. There is NO cure for HPV. However, warts can be treated with external medication, freezing or laser therapy, or can be surgically removed by a physician. To prevent warts, as with all other STDs, you should not have sex. Vaginal, oral, and anal sex can pass the infection from one person to another. You are safest if you have only one sex partner who is NOT infected and they only have sex with you. It is best to also use latex condoms. When used correctly, condoms can help prevent you from getting HPV. It is a good practice for women to have an annual pap smear done by your physician or go to a Family Planning clinic.
Herpes (HSV or Herpes simplex virus) – is an infection caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). It can cause sores around the mouth (oral herpes) and around the genitalia. Herpes is very common and is spread by direct skin to skin contact. Genital herpes is almost always spread through sexual contact. According to the CDC MMWR guidelines, up to 50% of first time cases of genital herpes are caused by HSV-1. Recurrences or outbreaks are much less frequent for genital HSV-1 than HSV-2 infections. There is NO cure for herpes. But you can consult your physician regarding medications for herpes. If you want to avoid genital herpes DO NOT have sexual contact of any kind during an outbreak. You can use a condom between outbreaks. However, condoms do not provide 100% protection but they are the best available form of prevention for people who are sexually active.
Syphilis – is caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum. It has often been called “the great imitator” because so many of the signs and symptoms are indistinguishable from those of other diseases. The first stage of syphilis is a single painless sore at the site of infection. Sores occur mainly on the external genitals, vagina, anus, or in the rectum. Sores also can occur on the lips and in the mouth. Syphilis is passed from person to person through direct contact with a syphilis sore. Transmission of the organism occurs during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Pregnant women with the disease can pass it to the babies they are carrying. Syphilis cannot be spread through contact with toilet seats, doorknobs, swimming pools, hot tubs, bathtubs, shared clothing, or eating utensils.
Syphilis has two other stages, secondary and latent. Secondary syphilis symptoms typically begin with the development of a rash on one or more areas of the body. Late stages of syphilis, may damage internal organs, including the brain, nerves, eyes, heart, blood vessels, liver, bones, and joints. For further information, see the CDC’s fact sheet.
If you have any of these symptoms, you should go to your doctor or local health department right away. Bicillin is the preferred treatment of choice for all stages of syphilis.
Trichomoniasis – also known as “trick,” this is a parasite (single-celled protozoan) that affects both men and women. Some people who are infected might not have symptoms. Some people have a yellow-green discharge with irritation and a strong “fishy” odor. If you feel that you may have this disease, please contact your doctor or come to your local health department.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) – is the virus that causes AIDS. HIV attacks the immune system, which provides our bodies the ability to fight infections. HIV finds and destroys a type of white blood cell (T cells or CD4 cells) that the immune system must have to fight disease. HIV can be transmitted through blood and bodily fluids through such activities as sexual intercourse or drug injection use.
Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) – is the final stage of HIV infection. It can take years for a person infected with HIV, even without treatment, to reach this stage. Having AIDS means that the virus has weakened the immune system to the point at which the body has a difficult time fighting infections. When someone has one or more of a group of infections and a low number of T cells, he or she has AIDS. For more information, view the CDC’s questions and answers on HIV science.