Across the globe, STD’s have been estimated to afflict between 200-400 million men and women from all walks of life. A sexually transmitted disease (STD) is defined as a disease that is transmitted from person to person via sexual contact. However, with the arrival of AIDS, it is now known that some can also be spread via blood products. Over 12-15 million new cases of STD’s are reported each year in the United States, the largest number among countries of the industrialized world.
STD’s come in a wide variety of forms, some are caused by a virus, others by bacteria, and still others by parasites or fungi. In addition to having multiple causes, they are also spread through numerous sexual routes – vaginal, anal or oral, although some, such as Trichomoniasis, can also be transmitted through damp or moist objects like toilet seats, wet clothes or towels.
In the United States, a majority of cases are found in sexually active teenagers and young adults. Those with multiple sex partners have the greatest chance of contracting a STD. Symptoms do not have to be present for the STD to be passed on to a partner; therefore, proper precautions should be used if a partner’s history is unknown, i.e. abstinence or use of a condom.
There are a multitude of STD types. AIDS, Chlamydia, Genital Herpes (Herpes Simplex Virus), Genital Warts, Gonorrhea, and Syphilis are among the most common STD’s currently diagnosed. Others, not as well known, include Trichomoniasis, bacterial vaginosis, cytomegalovirus infection, Hepatitis B, scabies and pubic lice.
Symptoms of STD’s can range from few and mild to full-blown and severe, depending on the type of STD. Detectable symptoms include pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), prostatitis in men (inflammation of the prostate), cervicitis in women (inflammation of the cervix) and inflammation of the urethra or urethritis. In both sexes, a major consequence may involve problems with fertility and in the reproductive systems.
An STD in a pregnant woman can be detrimental for her unborn child and may result in spontaneous abortion, stillbirth, low birth weight, conjunctivitis, blindness or permanent neurological damage. For the pregnant women, having a STD during pregnancy can lead to cancer of the cervix, chronic hepatitis and cirrhosis of the liver. Most women, upon learning of their pregnancy, are screened for STD’s during their visits with a doctor or midwife.
Although some STD’s are curable (those caused by a bacteria, parasite or fungus), others, like those with a viral origin, are not. But, today, with advancements in research, science and pharmacology, most symptoms, if not curable, are manageable through medication. The earlier a diagnosis is made, the sooner treatment can begin, usually indicating a better chance for cure.
The best method of preventing transmission of an STD is to remain monogamous with an uninfected partner. Revealing sexual history and any STD history with a potential partner is encouraged. Using condoms during sexual contact has a high rate of reducing STD transmission as well.