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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

  • sores, bumps or blisters near your sex organs, rectum or mouth
  • pain in your pelvic area (the area between your belly button and sex organs) or pain with intercourse
  • burning, pain, or frequency when you urinate
  • itching or swelling around your sex organs
  • swelling, redness, or pain in your throat
  • Women - an unusual discharge or smell or irregular bleeding from your vagina
  • Men - discharge from your penis

If you have any of these symptoms, stop having sex. Go to a health care provider to get checked and treated. If you have an 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:

  • Abstinence, which is no sexual contact, is your best defense.
  • Having sex with only one uninfected partner who only has sex with you is also safe.
  • Condoms are necessary to reduce your chances of contacting these diseases. Condoms act as a barrier device to prevent mucous and blood to blood contact.

Condoms cost approximately 10 cents each at Health Service Pharmacy. Sometimes free samples are available.

STD screening is available at Health Service at a low cost (HIV, chlamydia & gonorrhea testing is standard and costs less than $30). 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 can infect the genital area of men and women. Some of these viruses are called "high risk" types; they lead to cancer. Some "low risk" types cause genital warts.

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. This is discovered through pap smears. There is no test for men.

Genital warts are diagnosed by visual inspection. The visible genital warts 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.

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 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 also prevents anal & throat cancers from these strains. 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) or the Walgreens Take-Care Clinic for your vaccination. If your insurance does not provide coverage, the local health departments may be able to help.

  • Madison County Health Department (692-8954)
  • Planned Parenthood St. Louis (only) has a grant for free vaccines if your health insurance does not cover the vaccine (314)531-7526.
  • Planned Parenthood's other sites can help if you have certain insurances (800)230-PLAN.


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