What is an STD?
An STD (sexually transmitted disease) is an infection that is passed during sex.
- Some STD's infect only your sexual and reproductive organs. Others (HIV, hepatitis B, syphilis) cause general body infections.
- Sometimes you can have an STD with no signs or symptoms. Or the symptoms may go away. Either way, you still have the STD until you get treated.
How an STD is Spread
- STD is spread during vaginal, anal and oral sex, and sometimes by genital touching.
- Some STDs (HIV and hepatitis B) are also spread by contact with infected blood.
- STD germs need to live in warm, moist areas. That's why they infect the mouth, rectum and sex organs (vagina, vulva, penis and testes).
What to DO
- Don't just hope the STD will go away. It won't!
- Most county health departments have special STD clinics. Private health care providers also treat STD.
- If you don't know where to get help, call your local family planning clinic for information. Your case will be kept private.
- You may feel embarrassed about having an STD. It may be hard for you to go to a provider or clinic for help. But you must get treatment for the STD. This is the only way you will get well.
- Many STDs can be cured. Others cannot be cured. But all STDs can and must be treated.
- Many STDs can be treated with antibiotics. Do exactly what your provider tells you. Be sure to use all of your medicine.
- You also must tell your sexual partner(s). If they aren't treated, they can get sick. They can spread the STD. They might even give it to you again!
Types and Symptoms
Chlamydia or NGU
Chlamydia affects women and men. In men, chlamydia can cause NGU. Most women and some men have no symptoms.
Women: Discharge from the vagina, bleeding from the vagina between periods, burning or pain when you urinate, need to urinate more often, pain in abdomen, sometimes with fever and nausea.
Men: Waters, white drip from the penis; burning or pain when you urinate; need to urinate more often; swollen or tender testicles.
How you get it: Spread during vaginal, anal or oral sex with someone who has chlamydia.
Treatment: Medical diagnosis can be established in a clinic. Chlamydia can be cured with antibiotic therapy. Treatment for other STDs may not cure chlamydia. If you're sexually active have a test once a year for chlamydia.
If You Don't Get Treated: You can give chlamydia to your sex partner(s). Can lead to more serious infection. Reproductive organs can be damages. Women and possibly men may no longer be able to have children. A mother with chlamydia can give it to her baby during childbirth.
Women: Thick yellow or gray discharge from the vagina; burning or pain when you urinate or have a bowel movement; abnormal periods or bleeding between periods; cramps and pain in the lower abdomen (belly).
Men: Thick yellow or greenish drip from the penis; burning or pain when you urinate or have a bowel movement; need to urinate more often; swollen or tender testicles.
How you get it: Spread during vaginal, anal or oral sex with someone who has gonorrhea.
Treatment: Medical professional will prescribe proper antibiotic. Take all the prescribed dose. Chlamydia is often present with gonorrhea so both conditions should be treated at the same time. Your sex partner(s) should be treated when you are to avoid re-infection.
If You Don't Get Treated: You can give gonorrhea to your sex partner(s); can lead to more serious infection; reproductive organs can be damaged; both men and women may no longer be able to have children; can cause heart trouble, skin disease, arthritis and blindness; a mother with gonorrhea can give it to her baby in the womb or during childbirth.
Symptoms show up one to nine months after contact with the hepatitis B virus. Many people have no symptoms or mild symptoms. Flu-like feelings that don't go away; tiredness; jaundice (yellow skin); dark urine, light colored bowel movements.
How You Get It: Spread during vaginal, anal or oral sex with someone who has hepatitis B; spread by sharing needles to inject drugs, or for any other reason; spread by contact with infected blood.
Treatment: Blood diagnosis by health professional is very important! Get bed rest until symptoms disappear. It may take weeks or months to recover fully. No alcohol during convalescence. Use birth control method other than the pill until your doctor says you're completely cured. NO medication (even over-the-counter drugs) without a health professional's approval.
If You Don't Get Treated: You can give hepatitis B to your sex partner(s) or someone you share a needle with; some people recover completely; some people cannot be cured; symptoms go away, but they can still give hepatitis B to others; can cause permanent liver damage or liver cancer; a mother with hepatitis B can give it to her baby during childbirth.
Symptoms show up 1-30 days or longer after having sex. Some people have no symptoms; flu-like feelings; small painful blisters on the sex organs or mouth; itching or burning before the blisters appear; blisters last one to three weeks; blisters go away but you still have herpes.
How You Get It: Spread during vaginal, anal or oral sex, and sometimes by genital touching, with someone who has herpes.
Treatment: No cure. Acyclovir (anti-viral prescription ointment or capsule) eases pain, shortens attack. Herpes may seem to go away after treatment. That doesn't mean you're rid of it. Too much sun seems to cause attacks. Avoid sex, tight clothes during attack. Daily suppressive therapy is available.
If You Don't Get Treated: You can give herpes to your sex partner(s); herpes cannot be cured; a mother with herpes can give it to her baby during childbirth.
Symptoms show up several months to several years after contact with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Can be present for many years with no symptoms; unexplained weight loss or tiredness; flu-like feelings that don't go away; diarrhea; white spots in mouth; in women, yeast infections that don't go away.
How You Get It: Spread during vaginal, anal or oral sex with someone who has HIV; spread by sharing needles to inject drugs, or for any other reason; spread by contact with infected blood.
Treatment: No cure. Early testing is very important to diagnose and treat HIV with new drugs that are coming on the market with increasing frequency and improved results. Not getting infected is still your best choice.
If You Don't Get Treated: You can give HIV to your sex partner(s) or with someone you share a needle with; HIV cannot be cure; can cause illness and death; a mother with HIV can give it to her baby in the womb, during birth or while breastfeeding.
Symptoms show up weeks, months or years after contact with HPV. Many people have no symptoms; some types cause genital warts; some types cause cervical cancer in women.
How You Get It: Spread during vaginal, anal or oral sex, and sometimes by genital touching, with someone who has HPV.
Treatment: Warts may be treated with solution, gel, ointment; frozen or burned off with laser or electric needle, or with interferon-injectable treatment. Not fun! Pregnant women require special treatment. If warts come back treatment must be repeated. Antibiotics do not cure this STD.
If You Don't Get Treated: You can give HPV to your sex partner(s); most HPV goes away on it own in about two years; warts may go away on their own, remain unchanged, or grow and spread; a mother with warts can give them to her baby during childbirth; some types can lead to cervical cancer if not found and treated.
1st Stage: Symptoms show up 1-12 weeks after having sex; a painless sore or sores on the mouth or sex organs; sore lasts two to six weeks; sore goes away, but you still have syphilis.
2nd Stage: Symptoms show up as the sore heals or after; a rash anywhere on the body; flu-like feelings; rash and flu-like feelings go away, but you still have syphilis.
How You Get It: Spread during vaginal, anal or oral sex, and sometimes by genital touching, with someone who has syphilis.
Treatment: Tests are available to detect Syphilis. Large doses of penicillin or other antibiotic for as long as needed until cured. Don't have sex until you're cured. If not treated correctly, syphilis can erupt years later as 3rd stage syphilis with serious consequences.
If You Don't Get Treated: You can give syphilis to your sex partner(s); a mother with syphilis can give it to her baby during pregnancy or have a miscarriage; can cause hear disease, brain damage, blindness and death.
Trichomoniasis ("Trich" or NGU)
Symptoms show up 3-14 days after having sex; affects both women and men. In men, trich can cause NGU. Many people have no symptoms.
Women: Itching, burning or irritation in the vagina. Yellow, greenish or gray discharge from the vagina.
Men: Watery, white drip from the penis. Burning or pain when you urinate; need to urinate more often.
How You Get It: Spread during vaginal sex.
Treatment: Best treatment is prevention. Use Condoms. Flagyl (by prescription) is treatment for this and many other parasitic beasts. You and your partner should be treated so you won't re-infect each other.
If You Don't Get Treated: You can give trich to your sex partner(s); uncomfortable symptoms will continue; men can get infections in the prostate gland.
It Doesn't Have to Happen to You
There are lots of things you can do to keep from getting STDs:
1. Don't have sex. It's the best way to protect yourself from the AIDS virus or other STDs. Not having sex will keep you from getting infected. And you won't have a baby (or father one) before you're ready to handle the responsibility.
2. Re-think your attitude about having sex. Level with your partner about past sex experiences. Have a solid, faithful relationship with ONE person. Get to know each other VERY well before deciding if you want sex to be part of your lives. Don't take anything for granted!
3. If you do have sex, use a latex or polyurethane condom with spermicidal foam, film, gel or cream containing nonoxynol-9 PLUS your regular birth control method. Buy a top-quality condom. Be sure it's dated for freshness. Placed correctly before any sexual contact and removed carefully afterwards, condoms offer some protection against HIV, other STDs and pregnancy. Nonoxyno-9 kills sperm and most other bacteria and viruses. Note: Some people are allergic to nonoxynol-9 or latex. Check with a health professional. (Men with vasectomies should use condoms, too.)
4. Look before you love. Any sore, rash or discharge your lover has may be dangerous to YOUR health. Be suspicious. Don't believe it if you lover says, "Don't worry" or "Trust me."
5. If you have an STD, tell your partner (or partners if you've had sex with more than one person.) Don't have sex with ANYONE until your health professional says you're O.K. You and your sex partner MUST be treated at the same time or you'll reinfect each other.
6. Go to a clinic, health professional or Public Health Station at once if you have a blister, pimple, swelling or sore in your genital area. It can be serious! A medical professional can tell if it's STD and prescribe treatment, if necessary.
7. Use an effective birth control method and carry condoms for your lover or yourself. Protect your partner AND yourself. You may feel foolish pulling out a condom but it beats getting a lifetime companion like Herpes or a killer disease like AIDS.