Sexually Transmitted Diseases: Just The Facts

Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) continue to be a major health concern in the United States and throughout the world, and are frequently diagnosed in men and women who engage in various forms of sexual activity. STDs are not limited to certain races, cultures, income levels or a particular sexual preference. It is important, therefore, for anyone who is sexually active to be knowledgeable about how STDs are transmitted and to learn the ways you can limit your exposure to various diseases.

A Sexually Transmitted Disease, also known as an “STD”, is an infection that is transmitted between two or more individuals usually during a sexual act or some other exchange of bodily fluids. It is estimated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) that more than 50% of all people will contract a Sexually Transmitted Disease in their lifetime.

Once called venereal diseases, STDs are among the most common infectious diseases in the United States today. It is the sharing of blood or other bodily fluids that allows the infection to be transmitted from one person to another. More than 20 STDs have now been identified, including the most commonly known diseases: HIV/AIDS, Syphilis, Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, Hepatitis B, Genital Herpes, Trichomoniasis (aka Trichomonas) and HPV. Some Sexually Transmitted Diseases, such as the HIV and Syphilis infections, can also be spread by non-sexual contact with bodily fluids. Such infections would include transmission to an unborn child through the mother during pregnancy and delivery, or infections spread from person to person through intravenous drug use (including tattooing or ear piercing procedures) with an unclean (“dirty”) needle.

Bacterial infections (such as Gonorrhea and Syphilis) and those STDs caused by parasites (including Trichomoniasis or Scabies) can be effectively treated with medication and cured. Symptoms of STDs which are caused by viral infections (such as HIV, Genital Herpes or Hepatitis) are treatable, but the disease itself cannot be cured.

Although a great deal of progress has been made in recent years toward the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of many STDs, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia estimate that approximately 19 million new STD infections occur each year, almost half of them among young people ages 15 to 24.

Practice safe sex. Talk to your partner(s) regarding each other’s health status before engaging in a sexual relationship. If you notice any rash, bumps or sores on your body, or experience any unusual bodily discharge (from the vagina in the female, or the penis in the male), stop having sex immediately, and make an appointment for an examination with your doctor or local health care provider. If you have been diagnosed with any form of a Sexually Transmitted Disease, or STD, notify all partners immediately; take all medications as prescribed; and do not have sex again until you and your partner(s) are physically cleared to resume sexual activity.