STD stands for Sexually Transmitted Disease. It is a condition that is transmitted from one person to another when they come into sexual contact. The infection can be transferred if the vaginal, anal, or oral sex is unprotected. It is also known as a Venereal Disease (VD) or Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI). Some STDs can also be transferred through sharing needles and breastfeeding.
TYPES OF STDs
- HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus): HIVs are two species of the genus Lentivirus. The virus makes more copies in the body by affecting and infiltrating CD4 cells. These viruses can be present in free particles and within infected immune cells. There are two stages of this virus that include HIV 1 and HIV 2. In most cases, the symptoms are not found for months or even years. But in the further stages of the disease, the infection can turn to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), which is a condition of immune system failure. It can cause life-threatening infections, cancers, and many other serious problems. Without getting the proper treatment, a patient with HIV can survive only 9 to 11 years based on the subtype of the infection. There is a high risk of transmission of HIV from a mother to her baby during pregnancy or childbirth or even during breastfeeding.
- Gonorrhea: Gonorrhea is an STI that is caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae. The infection is also known as the clap. The infected areas of the disease are the genitals, rectum, or mouth. In its further stages, this disease may give birth to inflammation of the epididymis in males and pelvic inflammatory disease in females. Most infected people do not get any symptoms, while others may get testicular pain, penis discharge (in men) and vaginal discharge, or pelvic pain (in women). If the disease is not getting treated on time, it may spread to joints or heart valves. The infection may transfer from a mother to her baby during pregnancy or childbirth. Gonorrhea can be treated by injecting ceftriaxone and taking the medicines of azithromycin. The patient with gonorrhea must be retested after three months of the treatment.
- Trichomoniasis: Trichomoniasis or trich is another type of infection that is caused by the parasite Trichomonas vaginalis. About 70% of the infected people do not get any symptoms. The symptoms can be seen within 5 to 28 days after exposure. These symptoms of trich are similar to other STDs, e.g., vaginal discharge with a bad smell, irritation in the genital area, burning with urination, painful sex, etc. In the further stages, the infection can cause the development of HIV/AIDS. Other than this, it can also create complications during pregnancy. The infection can be cured by taking the antibiotics (either metronidazole or tinidazole) after the doctor’s consultations. But in some rare cases, it is also found that the infection can come again within three months of treatments. If anyone from a couple is infected, the other person should also be tested for the infection.
- Hepatitis: Hepatitis is a type of infection in which the patient suffers from inflammation in the liver tissue. It is caused by the hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E viruses. Some patients with the disease might not get any symptoms. In contrast, others may feel the discoloration of the skin and whites of the eyes called jaundice, vomiting, poor appetite, pain in the abdomen, diarrhea, and weakness. The infection can be acute if it lasts for a half year and chronic if it lasts for more than a half year. In most cases, acute hepatitis gets cured by itself, but in some rare cases, it may turn to chronic hepatitis or acute liver failure. On the other hand, chronic hepatitis can increase the risk of liver cancer, liver failure, and scarring of the liver called cirrhosis. Some viruses of the infection transmit through sexual contact, while some transmit via other means. Some of them may be transmitted from a pregnant lady to her baby during pregnancy or childbirth.
- HPV (Human Papilloma Virus): The human papillomavirus causes the infection. This is a DNA virus whose 170 types have been discovered. In most people, no symptoms of the infection are seen, and about 90% of cases are resolved within two years. But in some patients, it may cause warts or precancerous lesions. This led to a high risk of cancer of the vulva, cervix, anus, throat, penis, mouth, vagina, or tonsils. About 70% of cases of cervical cancer are caused by HPV16 and HPV18. Other than this, HPV6 and HPV11 are the cause of genital warts and laryngeal papillomatosis. The infection may transmit from the mother to the baby during pregnancy. Some risk factors of persistent infection include sexual intercourse at an early age, having more than one sexual partner, smoking and drinking, and poor immune function.
- Syphilis: The bacterium Treponema pallidum is the leading cause of the disease. The symptoms of the infection can be developed in four different stages:
- Primary: This stage includes painless, non-itchy skin ulceration and multiple sores.
- Secondary: In the second stage, a diffuse rash can occur at the palms and soles. Other than this, sores in the mouth and vagina can also take place in this stage.
- Latent: At the third stage, there can be few or no symptoms noticed in the patient. This stage may last for several years.
- Tertiary: In tertiary syphilis, many severe symptoms and complications may occur, including gummas (soft, non-cancerous growths), heart problems, or neurological problems.
Syphilis may cause the symptoms of many other complicated diseases. That’s why it is also known as ‘the great imitator.’ The transmission of the infection from the mother to baby during pregnancy or delivery may lead to congenital syphilis. Other than syphilis, Treponema bacteria may also cause pinta, yaws, and non-venereal endemic syphilis.
- Genital Herpes: The STD Genital Herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV) of the genitals. Most of the infected people don’t get any symptoms in the early stages. The symptoms, such as tiny blisters that break and form painful ulcers, fever, aching, swollen lymph nodes, etc., can be seen around four days after the exposure and may last up to four weeks. The infection is transmitted through direct genital contact and secretion. The HSV is divided into two categories: HSV-1 and HSV-2. Most of the cases of the infection are found in women than men. Some of the further complications of genital herpes include aseptic meningitis (increased risk of HIV) and neonatal herpes in the baby during childbirth.
- Chlamydia: The infection is among the most common STDs caused by the bacterium chlamydia trachomatis. The symptoms of the disease can be seen in two to six weeks. In women, these symptoms can be seen in vaginal discharge or burning with urination. In men, pain, swelling of testicles, discharge from the penis, or burning with urination are common symptoms. In the further stages, the infection may give birth to pelvic inflammatory disease in females. The disease may lead to infertility or ectopic pregnancy. The infection may also cause trachoma, which leads to blindness. Chlamydia can also transmit from a mother to its baby during childbirth.
CAUSES OF TRANSMISSION OF STDs
STDs or STIs are caused by bacteria (syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia), viruses (HIV, Human Papillomavirus, genital herpes), and parasites (trichomoniasis). Some of them, like hepatitis A, B, and C viruses, giardia intestinalis, and shigella, can also be transmitted without having sex. Various risk factor or persons at high risk of STDs are as given here:
- If the person makes a sexual relationship without any protection such as a condom or a dental dam.
- If the person has monogamous consecutive relationships or concurrent partners.
- If the partner has a history of STI.
- If the person, unfortunately, met a rape or assault.
- If the person misuses drugs or alcohol as it can inhibit the judgment and can make the behavior riskier.
- If the person shares somebody’s needle for having an injection, then it may cause HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.
- If the person is taking the medicines like tadalafil (Cialis, adcirca), sildenafil (viagra, revatio), and vardenafil (levitra).
- If the person belongs to the age group of 15 to 24 years.
- However, the STDs do not spread through a kiss, but they can be transmitted with the exchange of saliva with an infected person.
SYMPTOMS OF STD
Some common symptoms of most of the STDs are as under:
- Pain or discomfort during urination or sex.
- Bumps, sores, or rashes on the penis or the area around the testicles, buttocks, anus, or thighs.
- Bleeding from the penis.
- Unusual discharge from the penis.
- Pain or swelling in testicles.
Some of the common symptoms of STDs in women are as under:
- Pain or discomfort during urination or sex.
- Bumps, sores, or rashes on the vagina or the around anus, buttocks, or thighs.
- Unusual discharge from the vagina.
- Bleeding from the vagina.
- Itching in or around the vagina.
Some of the possible complications of STD are:
- Pregnancy complications
- Pelvic pain
- Heart disease
- Eye inflammation
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Certain cancers such as HPV
Some of the STDs are life-threatening, and some may develop severe complications in the body. So, it is essential to get prevented from infection. There are specific strategies that can be helpful in the prevention of STDs:
- The most effective way to reduce the risk of STDs is to avoid sex.
- One can also use cybersex, phonesex, or masturbation to avoid the contact of body parts or fluids.
- A sexually active person must go for regular STD screening. If the disease is known in its early stage, it can be cured through treatment and diagnosis.
- It would help if you also tried to reduce the number of partners for having sex so that the probability of infection can also be minimized.
- Mutual monogamy is among the most effective ways of reducing the spread of STDs. Because in such a long relationship, you get well aware that your partner is uninfected.
- You should be vaccinated with Human Papillomavirus (HPV), hepatitis B (HBV), and hepatitis A. This is the most effective, safe, and recommended way.
- Male circumcision is another way of preventing the transmission of HIV from an infected woman to a man. It reduces the transmission rate by 60%. This barrier method is also helpful in the prevention of genital herpes and genital HPV.
- People at high risk of HIV are suggested to take pre-exposure prophylaxis (PeRP) after consulting with their doctor. The drug is the combination of emtricitabine plus tenofovir alafenamide (Descovy) and emtricitabine plus tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (Truvada). As per a report passed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), PeRP medicine minimizes the risk factor of HIV transmission overtimes.
- There are some precautions you should remember before beginning the course of PeRP medicine. The point should be noted here that you can take this drug only when you have HIV negative report. So, you should be tested for the virus before starting the medication and then go for regular screening every three months as long as you take medicine.
- Other than this, you should also get tested for your kidney function by your doctor before the medication, and after it, you should have a regular kidney test every six months. In case you are suffering from hepatitis B then you should also consult with a liver or infectious disease specialist before starting the therapy.
- Take medicine precisely in the quantity which your doctor prescribes. The proper dose pattern may lower the risk of HIV transmission via sex by 90%.
- While taking an injection, always use a new needle.
PROTECTION AT THE TIME OF SEX
A person should be cautious while having sex. You may take the following measures to avoid any uncertainty and to enjoy safe sex:
- Sexual contact should be avoided if you are taking alcohol or drugs.
- There are specific ways that can be used to prevent STDs while having anal, vaginal, or oral sex. A very protective measure to avoid STDs is the use of condoms. They are much effective for STDs that are transmitted through fluids like semen or blood. But it is not adequate for STDs transmitted through the skin, such as syphilis, herpes, and HPV. A condom also helps in avoiding unwanted pregnancy. You can also opt for dental dams to avoid STDs while having oral sex.
- Flavored condoms should be used for oral sex only as they contain sugar. If they are used to penetrate, then they can cause yeast infections.
- The oil-based lubricants should not be used with latex condoms as they may create holes in the condom.
- You should prefer oral sex with a new partner if you don’t know about his/her sexual report. But you should take proper precautions in such type of sex also. As stated above, you may use latex condoms and dental dams to avoid direct contact between genital mucous and the oral membranes.
- You should discuss your and your partner’s sexual history before having sex.
- You should also share the report of HIV negative with your partner and ask for the same.
HOW TO USE A CONDOM PROPERLY?
It is compulsory to follow the complete instruction while using a condom or any other barrier; otherwise, it can spread the STDs quickly. Particular instructions should be kept in mind whether you are using an internal condom or an external condom:
- Check the expiry date.
- Check that the packet has an air bubble.
- Put the condom on correctly.
- Always leave a room at the tip while using an external condom, and don’t unroll it before it goes onto the penis or sex toy.
- Always use a condom-safe lubricant during anal sex.
- Properly hold the condom to avoid slipping while removing it.
- Properly dispose of the condom.
- Never reuse the condom.
- Be careful if handling the condom with long nails.
Screening is helpful for those people who are under risky sexual behavior, specific age group, or has certain health conditions. In women, it is done on urine, vaginal, or cervical swabs, while in men, it is done on urine or urethral swabs. The recommended age of screening by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for both men and women is under 25. Screening can be helpful:
- In preventing tubal infertility in women by evaluating the presence of infection.
- In identifying the positive or negative report of HIV.
- For HCV.
- For the patients with hepatitis C.
Subscriber Trunk Dialing
Another full form of STD is Subscriber Trunk Dialing. This is a telephone system that allows a subscriber to dial trunk calls without operator assistance. It is also known as subscriber toll dialing. But these days, it is used rarely for calls to any destination. The term STD got popular when a direct call was dialed by subscribers from London to Paris with the help of direct international dialing on 8 March 1963. STD is mainly used in India, Australia, UK, Ireland, South East Asia, and some other countries.