Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD's) are spread to another person during close, sexual activity. Sexual activity includes vaginal, anal, and oral sex. Most STD germs need to live in warm, moist areas. That's why they infect the mouth, rectum and sex organs of both males and females. The STD's of HIV and Hepatitis B are also spread by contact with infected blood. STD's are dangerous because they place a person at risk for infertility, cancer, or an incurable illness like Herpes, AIDS, or Hepatitis.
Your sexual partner CAN NOT ALWAYS TELL if he/she has most of these problems. Many people have no symptoms. If you have symptoms, you may notice any of the following:
Women & Men
If you have any of these symptoms, stop having sex. Go to the doctor to get checked and treated. If you have a STD, your partner(s) must get tested and treated too. Don't have sex until your treatment is complete.
You can protect yourself several ways:
Condoms cost approximately 10 cents each at Health Service Pharmacy. Sometimes free samples are available.
STD screening is available at Health Service for very little cost. An exam is recommended yearly and more often if you have a new sexual partner.
Types of STDs:
Chlamydia: This symptomless disease is the major cause of infertility today. Very easily transmitted, it is now epidemic on college campuses.
Herpes: This very painful disease presents as blisters that turn into open sores. It comes back throughout your life.
Venereal Warts: These are often hidden inside the penis making detection impossible.
Gonorrhea, trichomonas, and syphilis occur less frequently and can be cured with antibiotics.
Hepatitis B: Attacks the liver and can lead to the serious diseases of cirrhosis and cancer.
HIV/AIDS: Deadly with no cure available.
HPV (human papillomavirus):
HPV (human papillomavirus) is the name of a group of viruses that includes more than 100 different types. More than 30 of these are sexually transmitted, and they can infect the genital area of men and women. Some of these viruses are called "high risk" types; they may cause abnormal Pap tests and can also lead to cancer. Some "low risk" types may cause mild Pap test abnormalities or genital warts.
HPV is the most common sexually-transmitted infection in the U.S. Most infected persons have no symptoms and are unaware they are infected and can unintentionally transmit the virus to a sex partner. The visible genital wards usually appear as soft, moist, pink, or flesh-colored swellings in the genital area. They can be raised or flat, single or multiple, small or large, and sometimes cauliflower shaped. After sexual contact, warts may appear within weeks or months, or not at all.
Most HPV infections don't cause any symptoms and eventually go away, as the body's own defense system clears the virus. Women with temporary HPV infections may develop mild Pap test abnormalities that go away with time. About 10% of women infected with HPV develop a persistent infection and are at greatest risk for developing cervical cancer precursor lesions and cervical cancer.
Genital warts are diagnosed by visual inspection. Most women are diagnosed on the basis of abnormal Pap smear tests and a specific test to detect HPV DNA. There is no HPV test for men.
Although there is no cure for HPV, there are treatments for the health problems that HPV can cause. Fortunately there are things you can do to prevent these diseases. Of course, the easiest would be to abstain from exposure to skin surfaces and discharges that contain the virus. Also, using a condom could help prevent transmission (although this is not very effective prevention).
Now there is a vaccine available to women to prevent acquisition of the four most prevalent strains of the virus. Gardasil (Merck Pharmaceuticals) vaccine will prevent the two most common causes of venereal warts and the two most common causes of cervical cancers (abnormal pap smears). It comes in a series of three shots and costs about $360 total.
Your insurance company may pay for it. Call the number on the back of your insurance card and ask if they cover the Gardasil vaccine. If so, make an appointment with your private health care provider (family practice, pediatrician or gynecologist) for your vaccination. If your insurance does not provide coverage, the local health departments may be able to help.
CONTACT HEALTH SERVICE OR YOUR FAMILY DOCTOR FOR FURTHER INFORMATION OR CONCERNS.