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Sexually Transmitted Diseases

STDs are pathogens transmitted through sexual contact. Our primary ways of protecting ourselves against them are using condoms during intercourse and maintaining good hygiene.

Sexually transmitted diseases are also known as sexually transmitted infections or venereal disease. More than 30 different bacteria, viruses and parasites are known to be transmitted via sex. Common STDs include syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV/AIDS, trichomoniasis, hepatitis B, HPV, and genital herpes.

Safe sex

STDs are spread through an exchange of infected body fluids, most often during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Infection can also happen by sharing anything that may have come in contact with body fluids (such as syringes or razors), eating contaminated food (wash your hands, people), or kissing an infected person with mouth sores. An infected woman can also pass an STD to her child during pregnancy or childbirth.

Although abstinence is the most effective method of protection against possible infection, most people aren’t prepared to stop having sex altogether. Luckily, there are other preventative measures. Here’s what you can do:

  • First and foremost, use male or female condoms correctly every time you have sex. The condom is the only method of birth control that protects against STDs.
  • Educate yourself on STDs and their symptoms.
  • Be open and honest with your partner. Communication is crucial for dealing with possible symptoms in a timely manner. Note that asymptomatic carriers (infected people who show no symptoms) may not know they are infected.
  • Get tested regularly, at least once a year, also after having unprotected sex with someone you haven’t had unprotected sex with before, and after sex with a new partner.
  • Maintain good hygiene. Wash before and after intercourse, and don't share towels, underwear or razors.
  • Get vaccinated against hepatitis B and HPV.

If you do all of these things, you will probably be okay. The sad reality is that most people would rather avoid thinking about possible infection than cultivate a mature attitude towards STDs. Dangers like this are a social responsibility, and we should do everything we can to keep ourselves and those around us safe.

Curable STDs

Most STDs are, in fact, curable, so you have no excuse for avoiding going to the clinic to get tested. Protect yourself and your loved ones from unnecessary unpleasantries.

Syphilis is a bacterial infection that is very easy to treat and to cure, but it’s important to catch it in the early stages. Left untreated, it can cause loss of vision, loss of muscle control, dementia, deformity, and death.

Symptoms of syphilis include:

  • Small, painless ulcers around the genital area or mouth.
  • Small skin growths in the genital area.
  • A rash on the palms of the hands or soles of the feet.
  • Swollen glands in the neck, groin, or armpits.
  • White patches in the mouth.
  • Headaches, fatigue, joint pain, fever.


Chlamydia is a bacterial infection that is easily treatable with antibiotics. If left untreated, it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease in women, which can result in infertility. Chlamydia can also cause epididymitis, reactive arthritis, and blindness.

Symptoms of chlamydia include:

  • A burning sensation during urination.
  • Unusual discharge from the vagina or penis.
  • Pain or swelling in one or both testicles.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Pain during intercourse.
  • Fever.

Gonorrhea, a.k.a. the clap is a bacterial infection that is often asymptomatic. If left untreated, it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease in women, perihepatitis, septic arthritis, septic abortion, blindness, and infertility. Some strains of gonorrhea are becoming resistant to antibiotics, so it’s especially important to treat the condition as quickly as possible.

Symptoms of gonorrhea include:

  • A burning sensation during urination.
  • Unusual discharge from the vagina or penis.
  • Vaginal bleeding between periods.
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain.
  • Pain during intercourse.

Trichomoniasis is the most common of all curable STDs. It’s a parasitic disease that is often asymptomatic. Trichomoniasis is associated with increased transmission and infection of HIV, as well as pregnancy complications.

Symptoms of trichomoniasis include:

  • A burning sensation during urination.
  • Itching in the genital area.
  • Yellow or green foul smelling vaginal discharge.
  • Pain during intercourse.

Scabies is a contagious skin infestation by Sarcoptes scabiei, a mite that burrows into the skin to live there and lay eggs. Symptoms are due to an allergic reaction to the mite.

Symptoms of scabies include:

  • Severe itchiness.
  • A pimple-like rash.
  • Tiny burrows in the skin.

Pubic lice or crab lice are tiny insects that are usually found in the pubic area, although they can also live in other areas of the body that are covered with coarse hair. Pubic lice feed exclusively on blood.

Symptoms of pubic lice include:

  • Itching.
  • Redness.
  • Inflammation.

Most types of HPV. There are over 170 known types of the human papillomavirus. It can be asymptomatic. HPV 6 and 11 are responsible for about 90% of infections. These types are completely curable, and may even go away on their own (but you should probably get checked out anyway).

Symptoms of HPV include:

  • Warts or lesions, often in the genital area.

Non-curable STDs

HIV/AIDS. The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) causes the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), which is progressive failure of the immune system. The condition can be treated, but not yet cured.

There are three main stages of infection:

  • Acute infection. Many individuals develop symptoms not unlike those associated with influenza—fever, sweating, swollen lymph nodes, rash, unintended weight loss, headache, fatigue, and sometimes diarrhea or vomiting.
  • Clinical latency. This stage lasts for an average of 8 years, and is typically asymptomatic at first. Towards the end, the affected experience muscle pains, unintended weight loss, fever. Some experience a temporary, non-painful enlargement of lymph nodes other than the groin.
  • AIDS. The immune system no longer functions to necessary capacity. The affected may suffer from opportunistic infections that a functioning immune system would protect the body against. These can be fatal.

Chronic hepatitis B is a viral disease that infects the liver. It can facilitate liver cancer and cirrhosis. About 1 in 5 affected people die from these conditions. Hepatitis B can be asymptomatic.

Symptoms of hepatitis B include:

  • Yellowish skin.
  • Dark urine.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Fatigue.

Chronic hepatitis C is a viral disease that infects the liver. With time, it often leads to liver cancer and cirrhosis. Prior to this, the disease is typically asymptomatic.

Some types of HPV are persistent and carry a high risk of facilitating the development of cancers of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, anus, mouth or throat. These are often asymptomatic.

I’m worried, what do I do?

If you are concerned you may have an STD, the first thing to do is get tested. You can visit your doctor or local sex health clinic. Check online for local options available to you. If tests are positive, you will be given instructions on how to treat your condition. Do not engage in behaviour that might spread the disease further, such as having sex, especially unprotected sex.

Some people consider STDs to be shameful and embarrassing, but don’t let that stop you from taking care of yourself! Diseases are a natural, if unfortunate part of life, and must simply be dealt with.

You can track your sex life using WomanLog. Download WomanLog now:

Download on the App Store

Get it on Google Play

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