Sexually Transmitted Infections
STD’s 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 STI’s, or STD’s 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 a STI?
An STI (sexually transmitted infection) is a germ (virus, bacteria, parasite) that can cause an illness inside a person even though the person 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 a STD?
An STD (sexually transmitted disease) refers to infections that are causing symptoms or problems. If the infection results in altering the typical function of the body, it is then called a disease.
So that’s why you may hear people say STI’s – 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 STI’s?
STI’s can be grouped into three families: Viral, Bacterial, and Parasitic/Fungal.
Viral STI’s are caused by viruses and is passed from person-to-person during sexual activity. Viral STD’s, (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 Cervicitis, 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 beings 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 STIs, this infection can be passed through sexual contact in rare circumstances. Examples of fungal infections are: Candida Albicans.
How do people contract STD’s?
These diseases may be spread through vaginal, anal and oral sex. The germs that cause STDs 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.
STD’s is a serious health problem. Often people delay to ask for help, because they find it too embarrassing to do so. If left untreated, some STD’s can cause permanent damage, such as infertility (the inability to have a baby) and even death (in the case of HIV/AIDS).
What are possible symptoms of STD’s?
vaginal or penis discharge (smelly/ white / yellow / reddish brown)
painful lymph nodes in groin
ulcers/ warts/ itchy lesions/ blisters on genitals
lumps in genital region
increased vaginal bleeding
painful bowl 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
What you also need to know: 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: 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 inside of 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 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 affected area; if at first negative for herpes, follow later with blood test to make sure.
What you also need to know: Must be done as soon as possible; “viral culture” test not as accurate after 48 hours. A negative culture does not mean that you do not have genital herpes.
How the test is done: Blood test, or sample 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 infected area, physical exam or sample of discharge.
What you also need to know: “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 Pap test result is abnormal, HPV DNA test and a biopsy may be done
What you also need to know: Pap tests detect cervical cell changes, not HPV. An abnormal test is often caused by HPV infection. No test available for men for these types of HPV.
When to test for STD’s:
|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 for more accurate results we recommend getting tested after 6 weeks.||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 come in 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 from it. 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).