STDs are highly contagious diseases that are mainly passed from one person to another during sex.
There are at least 25 different sexually transmitted diseases with a range of different symptoms.
Sexually transmitted infections (also known as STIs, or STDs for ‘sexually transmitted diseases,’ or VD for ‘venereal diseases’) are infections that commonly have a high probability of being spread from person to person through sexual contact.
What is an STI?
An STI (sexually transmitted infection) is a germ (virus, bacteria, parasite) that can cause an illness inside a person even though it doesn’t have any symptoms. The term STI is broader and more encompassing because some infections are curable and may not cause any symptoms.
What is an STD?
An STD (sexually transmitted disease) refers to infections that are causing symptoms or problems. If the infection results in altering the body’s typical function, it is then called a disease.
So that’s why you may hear people say STIs – it’s technically more accurate and also reminds people that there are often no symptoms, so it’s important to get tested.
What are the different types of STIs?
STIs can be grouped into three families: Viral, Bacterial, and Parasitic/Fungal.
Viral STIs are caused by viruses and is passed from person to person during sexual activity. Viral STDs (the four “H’s”), such as HIV, HPV (genital warts), Herpes, and hepatitis (the only STD that can be prevented with a vaccine), have no cure, but their symptoms can be alleviated with treatment. Your body’s immune system has to fight the virus and make an antibody to kill the virus. In general viral infections involve many different parts of the body at the same time. Examples of viral infections are HIV, Hepatitis, Human Papilloma Virus, and Molluscum Contagiosum.
Bacterial STIs are caused by bacteria passed from person to person during sexual activity. Examples of bacterial infections are Bacterial Vaginosis, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Lympho Granuloma Venereum, mucopurulent cervical, pelvic inflammatory disease Syphilis and Cystitis.
These STIs are caused by parasites passed from person to person during sexual activity. A parasite is a creature that lives off another being’s body. Think of a parasite as a little bug that lives off a human but cannot always be seen by the naked eye. Examples of parasitic infections are Pubic Lice, Scabies and Trichomoniasis.
While not technically STI, this infection can be passed through sexual contact in rare circumstances. Examples of fungal infection are Candida Albicans.
How do people get STDs?
These diseases may be spread through vaginal, anal, and oral sex—the germs cause STDs to hide in semen, blood, vaginal secretions, and sometimes saliva. Most of the organisms are spread by vaginal, anal, or oral sex, but some, such as those that cause genital herpes and genital warts, may be spread through skin contact.
STDs is a serious health problem. Often people delay asking for help because they find it too embarrassing to do so. If left untreated, some STDs can cause permanent damage, such as infertility (the inability to have a baby) and even death (in the case of HIV/AIDS).
What are the possible symptoms of STDs?
vaginal or penis discharge (smelly/white/yellow/reddish brown)
painful lymph nodes in the groin
ulcers/ warts/ itchy lesions/ blisters on genitals
lumps in the genital region
increased vaginal bleeding
painful bowel movements
How do STI tests work?
Getting tested can be quick and easy. Depending on what you are being tested for, your provider may take a blood sample, a swab, or ask you to pee in a cup. Here’s an idea of what to expect:
How the test is done: Swab of genital area or urine sample
You also need to know: If you have had oral or anal sex, let your healthcare provider know this. These sites may be infected, but vaginal or urine samples may not be positive.
How the test is done: Swab of genital area or urine sample
What you also need to know: Like with gonorrhea, if you have had oral or anal sex, let your healthcare provider know this also. These sites may be infected, but vaginal or urine samples may not be positive.
How the test is done: Blood test or swab from the inside of the mouth
What you also need to know: Confidential and anonymous testing options are available in many clinics.
Genital herpes(no symptoms)
How the test is done: Blood test (drawn from the arm or a fingerstick)
What you also need to know: Be sure to ask for a type-specific IgG test (not an IgM test)
Genital herpes (with symptoms)
How the test is done: Swab of the affected area; if at first negative for herpes, follow later with a blood test to make sure.
What you also need to know: Must be done as soon as possible; the “viral culture” test is not as accurate after 48 hours. A negative culture does not mean that you do not have genital herpes.
How the test is done: A blood test or sample is taken from a sore.
What you also need to know: The CDC recommends all pregnant women be tested for syphilis.
How the test is done: Swab of the infected area, physical exam, or sample of discharge.
You also need to know that “Trich” is harder to detect in men than in women.
HPV (genital warts)
How the test is done: Visual diagnosis
What you also need to know: Warts can occur in both men and women.
HPV (cervical cancer)
How the test is done: If the Pap test result is abnormal, an HPV DNA test and a biopsy may be done.
What you also need to know: Pap tests detect cervical cell changes, not HPV. An HPV infection often causes an abnormal test. No test is available for men for these types of HPV.
When to test for STDs:
|STD Name||How Soon to Get Tested; Why That Time-Frame?||If I Test Positive, Do I Need to Get Retested After Treatment?
|Chlamydia||24 Hours – 5 Days||Get tested again 2 weeks after treatment to ensure that you are clear of the Chlamydia trachomatis bacteria.
|Gonorrhea||2-6 Days||Get tested 2 weeks after being treated to ensure that you are clear of the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria.
|Syphilis||3-6 Weeks||Get tested again after 3 months to ensure that you are clear of the Treponema pallidum bacteria.
|Hepatitis A (HAV)||2-7 Weeks; the hepatitis A virus averages a 28-day incubation period.||Retesting is not necessary since Hepatitis A is a virus and remains in your system for life.
|Hepatitis B (HBV)||6 Weeks; hepatitis B can occasionally be detected as early as 3 weeks after exposure, but we recommend getting tested after 6 weeks for more accurate results.||Retesting is not necessary since Hepatitis B is a virus and remains in your system for life.
|Hepatitis C (HCV)||8-9 Weeks||Get retested after 3 months to confirm your initial test results.
|Oral Herpes (HSV-1/Herpes I)||4-6 Weeks||If you tested negative, get retested frequently if you have unprotected oral sex or contact with Herpes 1 fluids like saliva or semen.
|Genital Herpes (HSV-2/Herpes II)||4-6 Weeks||Even if you tested negative for Genital Herpes, it is advised to retest after 3 months to confirm the initial results.
|HIV (HIV Antibody Test Method)||1-3 Months||Retesting is not necessary since HIV is a virus and remains in your system for life. Seek treatment if you test positive for HIV.
|HIV (HIV RNA Test for early detection)||9-11 Days||Retesting is not necessary since HIV is a virus and remains in your system for life. Seek treatment if you test positive for HIV.
HPV: Currently, there is no HPV test recommended for men. The only approved HPV tests on the market are for screening women for cervical cancer. They are not useful for screening for HPV-related cancers or genital warts in men. Most people with HPV do not know they are infected and never develop symptoms or health problems. Some people find out they have HPV when they get genital warts. Women may find out they have HPV when they get an abnormal Pap test result (during cervical cancer screening).