What are they?
A sexually transmitted disease (STD) is a disease caused by a pathogen, such as a virus, bacterium, parasite, or fungus spread from person to person through sexual contact. STDs can be painful, irritating, debilitating, and even life threatening. More than twenty sexually transmitted diseases have been identified. All STDs can be spread by oral sex as well as vaginal or anal intercourse.
The most prevalent STDs are HPV (genital warts) and Chlamydia. Other common STDs are Herpes, Gonorrhea, Syphilis, HIV/AIDS, and Hepatitis A and B. In the United States there has been a steady increase in Chlamydia and Syphilis. It is estimated that each year 2.8 million people are infected with Chlamydia in the U.S. alone.
Who gets them?
An estimated 200 to 400 million people worldwide are infected—men and women of all ages, races, and economic classes are affected. STDs occur most commonly in sexually active teenagers and young adults, especially those with multiple sex partners.
In the United States more than 13 million new infections are reported each year. More than 65 million people live with an incurable STD. About 60% of these infections occur in young people less than 25 years of age, and of these 30% are younger than 20. Between the ages of 14 and 19, STDs occur more frequently in girls than boys by a ratio of nearly 2:1; this equalizes by age 20.
Can they be cured?
STDs caused by viruses, such as HPV, Hepatitis B, HIV/AIDS, and Herpes may be treated for the relief of symptoms but not cured. These viruses will remain in the body to some degree for life. HPV is the leading cause of cervical and anal cancer and a large percentage of oral cancers in women and men. AIDS causes about 15,000 deaths a year in the United States.
STDs that are caused by bacteria, fungus or parasites can usually be treated with good outcomes. However, many of these STDs, particularly Chlamydia, rarely have symptoms in the early stages so they often go untreated. This can result in Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) and damage to the reproductive system which increases the risk of infertility and future ectopic pregnancy.
STDs can be devastating and life changing. Even in a monogamous relationship, there is no risk of transmission of an STD only if both partners have not had any type of sexual relations in the past. The likelihood of contracting or spreading an STD increases with the number of sexual partners.
Anyone who is sexually active should be screened at least yearly for STDs and be diligent with prescribed treatment and follow up. Choosing to be sexually active requires taking responsibility to care for yourself and others who may be affected by that choice.
The information provided here is general in nature. It is not a substitute for a consultation with a medical professional. Before any medical procedure, it is imperative that you discuss your personal medical history, risks, and concerns with your doctor. If you have questions during or after a procedure, your doctor should be immediately contacted. Avenue Women’s Center is not an emergency center. If you are experiencing severe symptoms, such as bleeding and/or pain, seek immediate medical attention. Contact your physician, go to an emergency room, or call 911.