Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can be a serious concern. We recommend staying aware of the risks and being proactive in protecting yourself against infection. The confidential survey at www.STDwizard.com is a good place to start if you fear you may have already contracted an STD and you're unsure of what to do next. Our peer counselors are also happy to address any concerns you may have, and are happy to provide you with information and refer you to testing facilities.
Chlamydia is the most common bacterial STD, infecting 3 million people in the U.S. Each year including 1.5 million young people aged 15-24. Of those infected with chlamydia, 75% of women and 50% of men have no symptoms. If symptoms are present they may include abnormal discharges or a burning sensation when urinating. Chlamydia can be transmitted to either partner through vaginal, anal, and oral sex and is diagnosed by lab tests. While these diseases can be cured with antibiotics, if left untreated, it can have serious consequences. Up to 40% of women with untreated chlamydia develop PID (pelvic inflammatory disease) and one in five will become infertile. If you have chlamydia and are exposed to HIV, your risk of becoming infected with HIV is three to five times higher.
Gonorrhea is a bacterial STD, infecting 650,000 men and women each year in the U.S. Although many may have no symptoms at all, symptoms may include a burning sensation when urinating or abnormal discharges. In women symptoms may be mild and mistaken for a vaginal infection. Gonorrhea can be transmitted to either partner through vaginal, anal, or oral sex and is diagnosed by lab tests. Gonorrhea can be cured with antibiotics, but remains a major cause of PID and subsequent infertility and tubal pregnancies. Gonorrhea is very contagious. In a single act of unprotected sex with an infected partner, a teenage female has a 50% chance of getting gonnorhea. Gonorrhea can also facilitate HIV transmission.
Syphilis is a bacterial STD infecting 70,000 each year in the U.S. Syphilis is passed via direct contact from a syphilis sore called a chancre. Syphilis can be transmitted to either partner through vaginal, anal, or oral sex. The primary stage of syphilis is usually marked by the appearance of a sore which soon goes away. Syphilis can be cured with antibiotics. Untreated syphilis can cause serious problems later in life including heart trouble, mental problems, birth defects in babies, and death.
Trichomoniasis is avery common STD caused by a microscopic parasite infecting five million people in the U.S. each year. Most men have no symptoms. Some women may have a vaginal discharge and experience discomfort during intercourse or urination. Trichomoniasis can be diagnosed through a physical exam with a lab test, and can be cured with a prescription drug.
Genital Herpes is a viral STD and infects 1 million people each year in the U.S. Including 650,000 people aged 15-24. It is the most widespread STD in the U.S. Today with over 45 million people currently infected. Over 90% of people who tested positive for genital herpes did not know they had it. Because genital herpes is a virus, there is no cure, and unlike many other viruses, a person's immune system is not able to drive away the infection. Once infected, you have genital herpes for life. Some people with genital herpes have symptoms, but most don't. Typical symptoms of genital herpes are painful, recurring blisters on or around the genitals or rectum. Most people with a first episode can expect to have 4-5 outbreaks within a year. Medications can help with outbreaks. With or without symptoms, genital herpes can be transmitted by skin to skin contact between sex partners. Genital herpes can be diagnosed by visual inspection if the sores are present. It can be difficult to detect otherwise; blood tests are helpful, but the results are not always clear-cut.
Hepatitis B & C are serious illnesses that attack the liver. They cause lifelong infection, cirrhosis, liver cancer, liver failure and death. Many people have no symptoms while others have yellow skin, fatigue, dark urine, abdominal pain, loss of appetite or nausea. A vaccine is available but is only effective if used before becoming infected.
HPV (human papilloma virus) is the most common viral STD infecting 5.5 million people each year in the U.S. Including 4.6 million people aged 15-24. at least 50% of sexually active men and women acquire HPV at some point in their lives. One study showed 43% of college women evaluated contracted HPV at some point over a three year period. There are 30 types of HPV that can affect the genital area. Some types cause genital warts which can be treated and cured. Other types can cause cervical cancer, penile and anal cancer. Because HPV is a virus, there is no cure. It's up to the body's immune system to fight off the infection. Sometimes this occurs within a few weeks, months, or even years. In some cases it remains for life. The HPV strains that last the longest are the most likely to cause cancer. Over 90% of all cervical cancers are caused by HPV infection. Over 10,000 women develop invasive cervical cancer each year, and nearly 4,000 die from the disease. Most women are diagnosed with HPV on the basis of an abnormal Pap tests. Regular Pap tests, performed by a doctor, are important for detecting cervical cancer early when it can be treated most effectively. No HPV tests are available for men. HPV can be transmitted to either partner through vaginal, anal, or oral sex.
HIV is most commonly spread by sexual activities and the exchange of body fluids. It can also be transmitted through childbirth, breastfeeding, and sharing needles. While some people may develop symptoms similar to flu within the first two to six weeks of catching the virus, others may not show symptoms for many years while the virus slowly replicates. Once the initial flu-like symptoms disappear, HIV will not show any further symptoms for many years. An estimated 60 percent of people living with HIV are unaware of their status and in some settings this figure is far lower. There is no cure for HIV, although treatments are much more successful than they used to be. A combination of drugs, known as antiretrovirals (ARVs), help combat the virus and enable people to live longer, healthier lives without their immune system rapidly declining.