Expose Sexually Transmitted Disease: Get Tested
Did I really do that last night? The alcohol made me do it! What was I thinking, I hardly know him/her. These are the morning after reflections on many sexual encounters. Don’t let the question of infectious disease go unanswered. If you have acted rashly or done anything that puts you at risk of a sexually transmitted disease(STD), get yourself tested. It’s your sex life – take control.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate 19 million new STD infections each year. 50% of these are among young people 15-24 years of age. Most infections have no symptoms and often go undiagnosed and untreated. For women this can lead to severe health consequences, including sterility.
This month the CDC and other public health entities have partnered to get the word out about testing and the importance of talking with your healthcare providers about your sexual health. Welcome to STD Awareness Month. Click here for the nearest testing site near you.
The Big Three: Chlamydia, Gonorrhea and HIV
The big three represent the most common and prevalent STD’s that impact the population at large. Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted bacterial infection in the United States. The Planned Parenthood organization states 3 million Americans are infected each year. Chlamydia is spread by intercourse and is rarely spread during oral sex. It is not passed through casual contact, but it can spread from a woman to her fetus during birth. Lab tests on urine can confirm Chlamydia. The CDC recommends that sexually active women 25 or younger should be tested every year.
Gonorrhea affects about 600,000 each year and often has no symptoms. However, gonorrhea can be a serious health risk if not medically treated. Cases of gonorrhea are diagnosed with a laboratory test of the infected body area. This STD is spread by vaginal, anal and oral sex.
You might have Human immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and not even know it. Sometimes symptoms don’t show up for 10 years. HIV is transmitted in blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. Most common ways of contracting HIV is through unprotected sex, sharing needles with someone who has the virus, and getting HIV-infected blood, semen or vaginal secretions into open wounds or sores. It is not transmitted by causal contact such as kissing, or hugging. Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) is the most advanced stage of HIV disease. There is no cure for HIV but there are treatments available. Each year 40,000 people in the United States are infected with HIV.
All the Rest:
Syphilis is a bacterial STD. There are three stages of syphilis and if left untreated serious complications such as organ damage or death can occur. Syphilis is easily treated and cured in the early stages of infection and easily detected with a blood test.
Herpes is a STD caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). HSV-type 1 commonly causes oral lesions like fever blisters on the mouth or face (oral herpes). HSV-type 2 typically affects the genital area (genital herpes). Women, especially black women are more likely to be infected in the US population.
Genial Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted virus and at least 50% of sexually active people will have this at sometime in their lives. Most people do not develop symptoms. Certain types of HPV can cause genital warts. Genital warts are very common. Between 500,000 and 1 million people get genital warts every year. Also HPV can cause cervical cancer so it is important for women to get regular pap smear exams annually for early detection. There are HPV vaccines available for young women to prevent HPV infection.
Now for the Good News
We can protect others and ourselves from STDs by taking simple precautions and talking to our healthcare professionals. Talking openly about possible infection with your partner, use condoms and practicing safe sex will reduce your risk of getting sexually transmitted diseases. Limiting the influence of drugs and alcohol may prevent you from making unwise sex decisions and reduce risky behavior, which includes unprotected sex with unfamiliar partners. If you have acted rashly or done anything that puts you at risk of infection, get tested. Testing allows you to get any needed treatment and to prevent the spread of any possible non-symptomatic infections.