Until this day, Sexual Transmitted Infections are a topic that’s not easy to discuss among women. Most of us feel uncomfortable or cannot find the strength to open this conversation with our health care providers, partners, and family members. The stigma of this disease prevents many from getting tested, but the truth is, STIs are very common.
We know that STIs are commonly acquired by sexual contact, some with skin contact and in other cases, through saliva and other body fluids, but it can also be passed through blood. Some were born HIV positive because they received it from their parents. It can also be passed along to anyone by using dirty, unsanitized needles.
What are the different types of STIs?
● HPV (human papilloma virus) - the most common STI. Most HPV infections go away on their own, but some of them won’t and can lead to genital warts and/or cervical cancer.
● Chlamydia - also one of the most common types of STI and is known to show no symptoms. This is a bacterial infection that’s easily cured with antibiotics.
● Gonorrhea - just like Chlamydia,it is also a bacterial STI. It can cause complications, not only to yourself,but can also be transmitted to your baby during childbirth if not treated early enough.
● Trichomoniasis - a common STI caused by a parasite. This can cause genital itching, a foul-smelling vaginal discharge, and painful urination. It is also treated with antibiotics.
● Herpes – A Viral STI that is transferred through sexual contact and skin to skin contact. It is transmitted through saliva and body fluids of an infected person even without a visible sore. There is no cure for herpes but it is treated with antiviral medications to lessen the sores and minimize the chance of transmitting the virus to another person.
● Syphilis - causes sores on the genitals and sometimes on the lips and mouth. This is a serious disease if untreated it can lead to permanent brain damage, blindness and other problems,including paralysis. It can be cured with medication if it is treated at an early stage.
● HIV - is a permanent and life-threatening condition. It damages the immune system which fights organisms in our body that cause diseases. It can also be spread by contact with infected blood or from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth or breast-feeding.While there is no cure for HIV, there are different drugs made available to control and block the virus. Over time HIV weakens your immune system and can then develop into AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome).
What are the symptoms of STIs?
If you suspect you have an STI, get yourself tested immediately. STIs can lead to more serious health issues including infertility. The symptoms of STIs aren’t always obvious but here are some of the most common signs and symptoms that might indicate an STI.
● Genital sores, lesions, bumps, or warts including the rectal area
● Swollen lymph nodes around the groin.
● Painful urination and frequent urination.
● Itching on the vaginal area.
● Foul vaginal discharge.
● Unusual vaginal bleeding.
● Pain during sexual intercourse.
How to get tested?
If you're experiencing any symptoms that you think are not normal, if you're not sure if you’ve had a sexual interaction with someone that has an STI, or if you think you've had sexual or skin to skin contact with someone who has an STI,you can visit the nearest sexual health clinics in your area to get tested. You can also open this concern with your healthcare provider, and he/she will order laboratory tests that can detect simultaneous infection you might have caught and identify its cause.
● Blood tests - from either a blood draw or a finger prick. It can confirm the diagnosis of Hepatitis, Syphilis and HIV.
● Urine samples - some STIs such as Chlamydia and Gonorrhea can be confirmed with a urine sample.
● Fluid samples - testing fluid samples from the active sores inside the mouth, genital sores or vaginal discharge can be used to diagnose some STIs.
In addition, your doctor may ask you about the kind of sexual activity you are have engaged in, if you used any protective methods, such as condoms, and how many partners you have had.
Treatment of STIs
Most of the STIs are easily treated but you may not get complete resolution with viruses. However, viral STI’s can be manageable and can eventually become undetectable. Treatment is more effective if started early. For instance, if pregnant women have STIs, immediate treatment helps reduce the risk of passing the infection to the baby.
● Antibiotics - this can cure bacterial and parasitic infections from STIs, including chlamydia, gonorrhea,trichomoniasis, and syphilis.
● Antiviral drugs - this can lessen the risk of giving a viral STI to uninfected partner. Herpes recurrences will also be a lot less likely but may be possible to spread to your partner.
Do not be afraid to talk about STI’s and get tested by visiting us at Acadia Women's Health. We provide counseling to make it easy to understand and receive the stigma of living with an STI.
We explain how each test works and guide you with treatment options to help you achieve a healthy normal life. We give everyone the information they need to practice safer sex and taking control of their sexual and overall health. Methods are available for STI positive people with STI negative partners.