The Women's Health Resource Center
Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) are among the most common infectious diseases in the United States today. Each year at least 12 million cases occur in the U. S. 86% of the STDs occur among young people aged 15 - 29 years of age. Much of this increase can be attributed to individuals who lack understanding about how to protect themselves from STDs. There are a few basic STD facts to learn that can help prevent STDs, know the ways in which they are spread and learn the common symptoms and how they can be treated. There are more than 20 STDs that have now been identified.
The most common STDs include:
Chlamydia: This is most common bacterial STD in the United States. It can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which is the primary preventable cause of sterility in women, and ectopic pregnancies. An infected mother can transmit chlamydia to her newborn during a vaginal delivery, causing pneumonia and eye infections. Chlamydia is easily treated with antibiotics.
Gonorrhea: This is the second most common sexually transmitted bacterial infection in the United States. Gonorrhea can cause urethritis in men and PID in women and is easily treated with antibiotics.
Genital or venereal warts: These warts are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV) and are as common as chlymydia infection. There are more than 70 different types of HPV that infect humans, some of which are associated with an increased risk of cervical cancer. There is no cure for genital warts. They are treated with topical medication, cryotherapy, surgery or laser surgery. Even with treatment, warts may return.
Genital Herpes: Herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus, which forms small red blisters or sores in the genital area. The virus is most contagious during the blistering stage, but can be transmitted when blisters are not apparent. It has been estimated that one-in-five people are infected with the virus. Although there is no cure, antiviral therapy can lessen occurrence and may alleviate symptoms. Research is underway on a vaccine.
Syphilis: Another bacterial infection, syphilis is rarer than chlamydia and gonorrhea, yet its incidence has increased since the 1970s and it is now the third most commonly reported infectious disease in the U.S. Syphilis is treatable with antibiotics: However if treatment is delayed, there may be residual complications. Left untreated, syphilis can cause serious problems, including, early death. During pregnancy syphilis can be passed to the fetus, frequently causing premature birth or stillbirth.
Trichomoniasis: This STD is caused by a protozoan and is responsible for approximately 25% of all vaginal infections effecting approximately 15% of sexually active women and 10% of sexually active men. Trichomonas is easily treated with antibiotics.
Hepatitis B: Caused by a virus, Hepatitis B (HBV) is an increasingly common disease spread through contact with infected blood. Therefore you can be infected with HBV through sexual contact, sharing needles or toothbrushes and even when getting a tattoo. HBV can be passed through the bloodstream to the fetus and to infants through breastfeeding. Many infected individuals have no symptoms. Long-term effects include life-threatening liver disease. There is no cure for Hepatitis B. However, A vaccine is available and is recommended for infants, children and high-risk groups.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS): Specific behaviors transmit HIV from one person to another, primarily unprotected sex or sharing needles with an infected person. HIV is passed through the bloodstream and pregnant women can transmit the virus to the unborn fetus and to infants through breastfeeding. Women account for almost 20% of all AIDS cased in the U.S., and is the third leading cause of death among women of reproductive age and for children aged 1 to 4. Presently, there is no cure for AIDS, therefore prevention is the best defense.
For more information on STDs contact the Women's Health Resource Center at 415-600-0500 or the Community Health Resource Center at 415-923-3155.
A few interesting facts about STDs:
- STDs affect men and women of all backgrounds and economic levels. They are most prevalent among teenagers and young adults. Nearly two-thirds of all STDs occur in people younger than 25 years of age.
- The incidence of STDs is rising, due in part to early adolescent and young adult sexual activity and couples marrying later in life. These two factors result in a greater opportunity to have multiple sex partners.
- Many times STDs cause no symptoms or the symptoms are confused with other non-sexually transmitted conditions, particularly in women. Infected persons can pass an STD to a sex partner at any time while infected. Many doctors recommend periodic testing or screening for persons who have multiple partners.
- Health problems caused by STDs tend to be more severe and more frequent for women than for men, in part because the frequency of asymptomatic infection means that many women do not seek care until serious problems have developed.
- Some STDs can spread into the uterus and fallopian tubes causing pelvic inflammatory disease, which is a major cause of both infertility and ectopic pregnancy.
- STDs in women also may be associated with cervical cancer.
- STDs can be passed from a mother to her fetus before, during, or immediately after birth.
- Abstaining from sex can prevent STDs.
- Always practice safe sex by using latex condoms and for extra protection, use a diaphragm with spermicide.
- Limit your sexual partners.
- Never engage in sex with a partner who has an open ulcer or sore.
- Know your partner's sexual history.
- Avoid sex practices that can cause trauma, such as anal sex.