By Rebecca Jones
No one wants to talk about STD’s, besides that’s just something that happens to college kids/irresponsible people/other people, right? Wrong. Incidents of STD’s are still alarmingly high in America and just because you wear a condom you are not necessarily protected from them. The best thing you can do is get yourself tested regularly, especially if you are sleeping with multiple partners and then become informed about the most contagious STD’s out there and what you can do to avoid, detect and treat each one.
A Guide to the 6 Most Common STD’s
The CDC estimates that annually almost 3 million people will contract this bacterial infection. Though it is easily cleared up with a round of oral antibiotics nearly half of all cases go untreated. Since Chlamydia is spread through secretions using a condom will greatly reduce your chances of infection but keep in mind that condoms have an 11% failure rate so if you have multiple partners it is important that you get tested at least annually.
Symptoms: burning sensation during urination, penile discharge and if left untreated pain, fever and in rare instances sterility
Second only to Chlamydia as the most reported infectious disease, it is estimated that 750,000 cases occur annually but like Chlamydia only about half of all cases are reported and properly treated. Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection spread through bodily secretions so it can be cured with an antibiotic.
Symptoms: discharge from and redness around the urethra, frequent and painful urination
That’s right, syphilis is back, there has been a reemergence in cases over the last decade and though it is treatable in its early stages, usually when little sores break out on the skin, prolonged illness can have devastating consequences. Contact with these sores can spread the disease so while wearing a condom can cut down on your chance of contracting syphilis it cannot protect you completely. Syphilis is another bacterial infection so as long as it is caught early it can be treated with the antibiotic penicillin.
Symptoms: early symptoms include sores and ulcers which can turn to large blotches or blisters on the arms, palms, legs, soles of feet and torso as the disease progresses. In its second stage white patches can also form inside mucus membranes. The real damage occurs in its final stages; fever, headache, sore throat, weight loss and fatigue can give way to actual brain and nerve damage as well as heart and lung problems.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
Also called genital warts HPV is often thought of as a woman’s STD but since men act as carriers and infections are extremely common it is imperative that men get tested for it too. HPV is contracted through skin to skin contact so while a condom can help it is by no means a sure bet. While right now vaccines are only available for women ages 9-26 it is believed that vaccines will be made available for men in the near future. HPV is not always accompanied by visible warts but when it is they can be treated with a topical medication or your doctor can remove the growths by surgically freezing them.
Symptoms: warts or rough pink growth around the tip of the penis, the anus or the urethra opening. Just remember that HPV is not always accompanied by visible symptoms so an annual STD test is critical in preventing the further spread of the virus.
This is one of the scarier STD’s because there is no cure. Wearing a condom can reduce your risk but since skin to skin contact spreads the disease condoms aren’t 100%. It is estimated that 50 million people in this country alone have genital herpes. While there is no cure antiviral medications can help prevent outbreaks.
Symptoms: soreness, itching and burning around genitals, swollen glands, small ulcers or blisters , headache and fever.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
While we’ve grown complacent about HIV over the last decade it continues to kill at epidemic proportions. 25 million deaths have all ready been attributed to AIDS and HIV and over 50,000 new cases are contracted each year. Of these cases 75% are men so it is extremely important to remain vigilant. HIV weakens the immune system and kills white blood cells leaving the body vulnerable to bacteria and infections. When HIV has killed enough white blood cells a person develops full blown AIDS. While there is no cure for HIV or AIDS great advances have been made in treatments that boost the immune system and increase white blood cell counts. HIV can be contracted through any exchange of bodily fluids so always use a condom even when engaging in oral sex.
Symptoms: In the beginning there are no symptoms but eventually HIV will produce flu like feelings as the disease progresses skin lesions, ulcers around the mouth and swollen lymph nodes occur. Ultimately HIV gives way to AID which is fatal.
One of the best ways to protect yourself against STD’s is to be informed. Taking preventative measures and getting tested at least once year can help bring this epidemic under control once and for all.