Content Notice: This blog article contains HIV or STD prevention messages that may not be appropriate for all audiences. Since HIV and other STDs are spread primarily through sexual practices or by sharing needles, prevention messages and programs may address these topics. If you are not seeking such information, or are offended by such materials, please exit this blog article.
A sexually transmitted infection, or STI, refers to a condition that is primarily spread through vaginal, oral, or anal sex. Depending on the specific type of STI, infections may also be transmitted through nonsexual skin-to-skin contact, needles, or breastfeeding.
STIs may be referred to as sexually transmitted diseases (STD) or venereal diseases (VD). Anyone sexually active is at risk for contracting an STI. Those who are sexually active should protect their health by being aware of potential side effects, prevention tactics, and treatment methods.
Protecting yourself & others
The only sure way to avoid contracting an STI is to practice abstinence. If you are sexually active, you can lower the chances of contracting or spreading an STI by being in a monogamous relationship, reducing your number of sexual partners, getting the HPV vaccine, and using latex condoms.
A health care provider should regularly screen those at an increased risk of contracting an STI. If either you or your partner tests positive for an STI, both of you need to start treatment immediately to avoid getting re-infected.
Types of Sexually Transmitted Infections
Here are the most common STIs and the symptoms that affect men and women in the United States.
- Symptoms. Symptoms of chlamydia include painful urination, abnormal discharge, pain during intercourse in women, and abnormal bleeding in women.
- Prevalence. In 2019, a total of 1,808,703 cases were reported in the U.S.
- Keep in mind. If left untreated, chlamydia can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility in women.
- Treatment. Chlamydia can usually be treated with antibiotics. You may be able to take all the antibiotics in one day—or over a week—depending on the type of medication you are prescribed.
- Symptoms. Gonorrhea can cause painful urination, abdominal or pelvic pain, a pus-like discharge in men, and abnormal vaginal bleeding.
- Prevalence. In 2019, a total of 616,392 cases were reported in the U.S.
- Keep in mind. Gonorrhea can also cause infection in the rectum, eyes, throat, and joints.
- Treatment. Gonorrhea is a common STI that can be treated with antibiotics. Your doctor may advise that you follow up for testing to make sure the infection is completely gone.
- Symptoms. Trichomoniasis is often accompanied by a foul-smelling vaginal discharge, painful urination, painful intercourse, and genital redness, burning, or itching.
- Prevalence. An estimated 3.7 million people in the U.S. have trichomoniasis.
- Keep in mind. About 1 in 5 people get reinfected with trichomoniasis within three months of treatment.
- Treatment. Trichomoniasis can usually be treated with a single dose of antibiotic medication. If you test positive for trichomoniasis, both you and your partner will need to be treated. Intercourse should be avoided until the infection is cured.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
- Symptoms. Symptoms of stage 1 HIV are much like the flu. This can include a fever, chills, rash, night sweats, muscle aches, sore throat, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, and mouth ulcers.
- Prevalence. In 2018, an estimated 1.2 million people in the U.S. had HIV.
- Keep in mind. There are three stages of HIV: acute infection, chronic infection, and AIDS.
- Treatment. There is currently no cure for HIV, but with proper medical care, the disease can be prevented from progressing.
- Symptoms. Symptoms of genital herpes include pain, itching, bumps, blisters, ulcers, and scabs in the infected area.
- Prevalence. It is estimated that 776,000 people in the U.S. get new genital herpes infections every year.
- Keep in mind. Genital herpes can be spread by touching a sore and then rubbing or scratching another body area.
- Treatment. There is no cure for genital herpes. Your doctor may prescribe antiviral medication to control symptoms during an outbreak.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
- Symptoms. Most people with HPV don’t have any signs of health problems. Sometimes HPV can cause genital warts and cancer.
- Prevalence. About 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV. About 14 million people become newly infected each year.
- Keep in mind. HPV is so common that nearly all sexually active men and women get the virus at some point in their lives.
- Treatment. There is no cure for the virus, but warts can be treated as they reappear over time.
- Symptoms. Syphilis can cause sores, skin rashes, fever, swollen lymph glands, sore throat, patchy hair loss, headaches, weight loss, muscle aches, and fatigue.
- Prevalence. In 2018, a total of 115,045 new diagnoses were reported in the U.S.
- Keep in mind. Syphilis typically follows a progression of stages that can last for weeks, months, or even years.
- Treatment. Primary and secondary syphilis can usually be treated with penicillin. There are alternatives available for those who are allergic to penicillin.
If you think you have an STI—or have questions about transmittable diseases— request an appointment with a health expert at Baptist Health today.