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Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can be a serious concern. Just because STI’s are common doesn’t mean they’re no big deal.
Left untreated, infections can cause irreversible damage to your reproductive system. Both STIs and STDs can pass onto newborns during childbirth if the mother is infected and remains untreated.
Most people who have STDs and STIs don’t know it…
• More than 90% of people with HPV have no symptoms
• About 90% of people with gonorrhea of the throat have no symptoms
• 70% of people with chlamydia have no symptoms
• More than 60% of people with herpes have no symptoms
• Almost no one is ever diagnosed with acute HIV infection; people with HIV are most infectious when they are first infected and when they have end-stage AIDS
Many STIs can create complications that could affect the rest of your life. It is important for your health to be educated about STIs and know if you or your partner have an STI before you become sexually active.
What’s the difference between an STD and an STI?
Diseases that are spread through any kind of sexual contact have been called sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) for many years. However, due to many of the most common STDs not showing any obvious signs or symptoms at first, many health care experts now find it more accurate to call them STIs (sexually transmitted infections). The bacteria or virus that is contracted through sexual contact can cause an infection (not showing signs or symptoms) that can later turn into a disease when the signs or symptoms actually appear.
Are STIs curable?
There are two different types of STIs: Bacterial and Viral. Bacterial STIs can be treated if they are diagnosed early enough. It is important to catch them early to prevent any kind of permanent damage that could occur because often times medication cannot correct any damage that is done prior to treatment. Viral STIs cannot be cured but their symptoms can be treated and managed. The most common Bacterial STIs are:
The most common Viral STIs are:
- HPV (human papillomavirus)
- Hepatitis B
Since many STIs have no signs or symptoms at first, it is important to be tested regularly if you are in any kind of sexual relationship that could put you at risk for contracting an STI. Some STIs produce uncomfortable and sometimes painful symptoms such as genital bumps, warts or sores while others can have lasting consequences such as infertility, increased risk for cancer, increased risk of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), increased risk for miscarriage and passing the infection to your baby during birth, and an increased risk for a shorter lifespan. Some can be contracted through solely genital contact while others could be contracted through oral contact (kissing and/or oral sex). The longer you wait to be tested, the greater the risk for lasting and more damaging complications. If you have been or are in any sexual relationship that could put you at risk for contracting an STI, for your own health and your partner’s health it is best to be tested regularly. For more information regarding individual STIs please visit ashastd.org.
Should I get tested?
If you have had any sexual partner who has been sexually active with someone other than you, then you are at risk of having an STI, many of which shown no signs or symptoms at first. The risk significantly increases with every sexual partner you have. It is important to be tested so that if you have an STI, not only can you start treatment right away, but also so you do not spread the STI to your sexual partner. It is equally important for your sexual partner to be tested before you are sexually active with him or her to ensure you are not at risk of contracting an STI from that person.
How can I prevent contracting an STI?
While condoms reduce the risk for contracting some STIs, they do not provide full protection. Many people are misinformed and think that condoms eliminate the risk of contracting an STI and thus are unaware that they have one. The best way to avoid contracting an STI is to be in a committed mutually monogamous relationship with someone who does not have an STI or to abstain from sexual activity until marriage when you are in a committed mutually monogamous relationship.
- Koutsky L. (1997). Epidemiology of genital human papillomavirus infection. American Journal of Medicine, 102(5A), 3-8.
- Seicus. (n.d.). Sexually Transmitted Diseases. Sexuality Information and Education Counsel of the United States. Retrieved November 4, 2013, from http://siecus.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=Page.viewPage&pageId=598&parentID=477.
- STDs/STIs. (2013). American Sexual Health Association. Retrieved November 4, 2013, from http://ashastd.org.
Where can I find more information on specific STIs?
A great resource for STI information is the American Social Health Association. Their website is cdc.gov.
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