STD/STI Risks

If you are sexually active, you may be at risk for a sexually transmitted disease (STD), even if you are using protection. STDs are infections spread by sexual contact with skin, genitals, mouth, rectum, or body fluids. As your number of partners and sexual encounters increases, your risk of contracting a Sexually Transmitted Disease increases dramatically.

Because it is common for people with STDs to not experience any symptoms, many may be infected and not know it. However, if left untreated STDs can lead to serious permanent health problems.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, in the United States, 1 out of 4 women between the ages of 14 and 19 is infected with at least one STD. 

People who have a Sexually Transmitted Disease are at least 2 to 5 times more likely to contract HIV, the virus which leads to AIDS.

 

Avoiding STDs

According to the Centers for Disease Control, “A reliable way to avoid transmission of STDs is to abstain from oral, vaginal, and anal sex or to be in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner.”

 

STD/STI and Abortion

If you have an abortion with an undiagnosed STD, you are at a higher risk of developing Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). PID can lead to serious complications including infertility, ectopic pregnancy, abscess formation, and chronic pelvic pain. Since many women with STDs do not experience any symptoms and don’t realize they are infected, it’s important to be tested.

You may be eligible to receive free STD/STI testing at A Woman's Place Medical Clinic. If you think you may be at risk or if you are considering an abortion, please call us to schedule an appointment to be tested.

 

Curable:

Chlamydia

Most people who have chlamydia have no symptoms. Sometimes the onset of symptoms can take several weeks to appear after being infected. Even when chlamydia causes no symptoms, it can damage your reproductive system. If left untreated it can make it difficult for a woman to get pregnant. If you are pregnant and have chlamydia, you can pass the infection to your baby.

Chlamydia is curable however repeat infection is common. You can get chlamydia by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has chlamydia. Woman can be infected both vaginally and rectally. The most common symptoms are vaginal and rectal discharge, rectal bleeding and a burning sensation when urinating.

Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea can present mild or even no symptoms in women and can often be mistaken for a bladder or vaginal infection. Women with gonorrhea are at risk of developing serious complications from the infection, even if they don’t have any symptoms.

Gonorrhea can cause infections in the genitals, rectum and throat. A pregnant woman with gonorrhea can give the infection to her baby during delivery.

Gonorrhea is curable however the strains of drug resistant gonorrhea are on the increase. If left untreated gonorrhea can cause serious health problems including PID (Pelvic Inflammatory Disease).

Syphilis

Syphilis is an STD that can cause long-term complications if not treated correctly. Symptoms in adults are divided into stages. These stages are primary, secondary, latent, and late syphilis.

You can get syphilis by direct contact with a syphilis sore during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Sores can be found on the penis, vagina, anus, in the rectum, or on the lips and in the mouth. Syphilis can also be spread from an infected mother to her unborn baby.

Syphilis has been called ‘the great imitator’ because it has so many possible symptoms, many of which look like symptoms from other diseases. The painless syphilis sore that you would get after you are first infected can be confused for an ingrown hair, zipper cut, or other seemingly harmless bump. The non-itchy body rash that develops during the second stage of syphilis can show up on the palms of your hands and soles of your feet, all over your body, or in just a few places. You could also be infected with syphilis and have very mild symptoms or none at all.

Trichomoniasis

Trichomoniasis is a condition caused by the parasite Trichomonas vaginalis. This common sexually transmitted infection (STI) is also known as “trich.”

Trichomoniasis is curable. However, you can become reinfected if you have sex with an infected person. Most people do not realize they are infected with the parasite, so they do not get treated for it.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, trichomoniasis affects nearly 3.7 million people in the United States (CDC). Only around 30 percent of those individuals are symptomatic. Even without symptoms, you can spread the infection.

Trich is an STI that can be transmitted between a penis and vagina, or between vagina and vagina. The parasite does not generally infect the mouth or anus.

Pubic Lice/Crabs

Pubic lice, also known as crabs, are very small insects that infest your genital area. Pubic lice are distinct from body and head lice, and are often smaller in size. Lice feed on human blood and cause intense itching in affected areas. Pubic lice usually live on pubic hair and are spread through sexual contact. In rare cases, they can be found in eyelashes, armpit, and facial hair.

 

Incurable:

Herpes

Herpes is caused by Herpes Simplex Virus – there is no cure for Herpes. Herpes is transmitted through direct contact with infected secretions – vaginal, anal, and oral sex. There is no clinical proof that condoms are effective in reducing the risk of this STD. Most people have few or no symptoms from the infection. Symptoms include one or more blisters around the genitals, and flu like symptoms.The blisters break open and heal in 2-4 weeks. 1 in 5 adolescents have genital herpes. Antiviral drugs have been shown to reduce the duration of lesions and viral shedding but to not eliminate the infection.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

HPV is a group of viruses that cause genital warts and cervical cancer. HPV is the most common STD. HPV is spread by genital contact, skin to skin contact, genital touching and sexual contact. High-risk types cause high-grade cervical cell changes and are associated with cervical and other genital cancers. Low risk types cause genital warts. Most men and women have no symptoms. Women can be diagnosed from a Pap test that is not normal. There are no HPV tests available for men. There is no cure for HPV.

HIV/AIDS

AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome or Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome) is a syndrome caused by a virus called HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). The illness alters the immune system, making people much more vulnerable to infections and diseases. This susceptibility worsens as the syndrome progresses.

HIV is found in the body fluids of an infected person (semen and vaginal fluids, blood and breast milk). The virus is passed from one person to another through blood-to-blood and sexual contact. In addition, infected pregnant women can pass HIV to their babies during pregnancy, delivering the baby during childbirth, and through breast feeding.

HIV can be transmitted in many ways, such as vaginal, oral sex, anal sex, blood transfusion, and contaminated hypodermic needles.

 

STD/STI Testing

Learn more about free STD/STI testing available at the Clinic nearest you.

 

Sources:
  • The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (2011). “How to prevent sexually transmitted diseases.” FAQ009.
  • Wasserheit JN (1992). Epidemiological synergy: Interrelationships between human immunodeficiency virus infection and other sexually transmitted diseases. Sex Transm Dis, 19(6): 61-77.
  • Forhan SE, Gottlieb SL, Sternberg MR, Xu F, Datta SD, McQuillan GM, et al. (2009)
  • “Prevalence of sexually transmitted infections among female adolescents aged 14 to 19 in the United States.” Pediatrics, 124(6): 1505-12.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2010). “Sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines, 2010.” MMWR 59(RR-12):2-8.