Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
There are many infections that can be transmitted sexually. Because many STIs have no symptoms or take time to show up, the best way to tell if you or your partner have been infected is to be tested. Any sexual partner may carry the infection without knowing it and can infect anyone with whom he or she has sexual contact. Anyone who is sexually active should reduce their risks of contracting or spreading an infection by using condoms.
Chlamydia is a bacterial infection that has been around for a long time. It is a primary cause of pelvic inflammatory disease that can lead to infertility. Young people ages 15 to 25 are the most sensitive to this infection. Symptoms can include discharge or burning sensation on urination. Many people experience no symptoms at all. If left untreated, chlamydia can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease. Chlamydia can be cured with antibiotics. All partners need to be treated.
Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection very similar to chlamydia. Men are more likely to experience symptoms of burning and discharge, while women are more likely to have no symptoms at all. Like chlamydia, if left untreated, gonorrhea can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease. Gonorrhea can be cured with antibiotics. All partners need to be treated.
Genital herpes is a viral infection. When symptoms occur, the infection is characterized by painful fluid filled blisters that develop 2 to 20 days after exposure. Although some people will only have one outbreak of sores, others will have recurrent outbreaks even when not sexually active. Normally the first outbreak is the most severe, but painful outbreaks can recur. Herpes is extremely dangerous to newborn infants. Pregnant women who have ever been infected need to inform their physician.
Genital herpes is most commonly transmitted through sexual contact. A person is most infectious when the sores are present, but genital herpes can be transmitted when the sores are not present. Cold sores, like genital herpes are a herpes simplex virus and can be transmitted to the genital area.
There is no cure for genital herpes. However, there is medication available that will lessen the severity of an outbreak. If you are sexually active, you can protect yourself by limiting the number of sexual partners and always using a latex condom.
Genital Warts (also called Condyloma, Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
Genital warts are a viral infection and sometimes may resemble warts that appear on other parts of the body. The virus is extremely common. It can be detected on the cervix through a Pap smear. Untreated warts on the cervix can lead to cervical cancer. Any woman who has ever had genital warts needs to have a regular Pap smear to look for changes in the cervical tissue.
There is no cure for HPV. However, the warts can be treated by a physician with acid or laser, and improving your overall general health can also cause the warts to go away. Never attempt to use an over-the-counter medication meant for other types of warts.
AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is a condition caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) that attacks the immune system and weakens its ability to fight off infections. HIV may have no symptoms until a person has been infected for a number of years. Only those who have a T-cell count below 200 (compared with about 1,000 T-cells in a healthy person), and become ill with serious life-threatening infections are diagnosed with AIDS.
HIV is not transmitted by casual contact such as hugging or shaking hands. HIV is most concentrated in blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. If any of these fluids are infected and enter another person's body, that person is at risk of becoming infected. Most young people with HIV get the virus from having vaginal or anal sex without using a latex condom. It is also possible for the virus to enter the body through the mouth during oral sex or through cuts in the skin. People who share needles or syringes for injecting drugs (including steroids) are particularly at risk, because shared needles can pass blood from person to person.
There is no cure for HIV/AIDS. However, there are treatments available that can help most people who are infected with HIV to live longer. Long-term treatment is expensive, may not work for everyone, and can have unpleasant side effects.