How common are STIs?
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 70 million Americans currently have an STI. There are 19 million new cases that occur each year, with half of these in people under the age of 25.
What causes STIs?
Certain STIs, like Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis are caused by bacteria. Others, like HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, herpes, and HPV, are caused by viruses. And the trichomoniasis infections is actually caused by a parasite. The two most common STIs (according to the CDC) are Chlamydia and HPV.
How do you get them?
You get STIs during sexual activity. This includes vaginal sex, oral sex and anal sex. A few—herpes and HPV—can even be spread by contact with infected skin. HIV and hepatitis can also be spread through needle-sharing. You can get an STI from a person who has no symptoms.
What are the symptoms?
Most STIs have no symptoms, yet they can still pass on the infection. Some symptoms may include abnormal discharge from the penis or vagina, burning sensation when urinating, and abdominal pain. You may also notice a rash, ulcer, or wart.
What are the complications?
In women, complications from STIs include pelvic inflammatory disease (which can lead to infertility); tubal pregnancy; cervical cancer; and can even be life-threatening. In pregnant women, STIs can lead to miscarriage, stillbirths, preterm delivery and birth defects. In men, HPV infections can cause penile cancer and HIV can be life-threatening.
How can you find out if you have one?
Because most STIs have no symptoms, usually they are not detected until complications develop. If you or your partner have had more than one sex partner or have ever injected drugs, talk to your doctor about getting tested. You can also visit www.stdwizard.com and take a confidential quiz to see what STIs you might need to be tested for.
Can they be treated?
Most bacterial STIs can be treated and cured with antibiotics. Treatment, however, does not guarantee that complications have not already occurred. Most viral STIs can be treated for symptoms, but not cured. Vaccine research on STIs is ongoing. Vaccination for hepatitis B is effective and widely available. A new HPV vaccine, Gardasil, is available for young women, however it does not protect against all types of HPV that cause cancer and warts and how long it works is also unknown. You should discuss all vaccinations with your doctor.
Can they be prevented?
Yes! Avoid all sexual activity until you are in a committed, monogamous relationship (such as marriage) and remain faithful to that (uninfected) partner for life. This is the only way to avoid the risk of an infection.
Sex is a big deal. Know the facts. Make an informed decision. Know you are worth waiting for.