These letters are acronyms which mean Sexually Transmitted Disease or Sexually Transmitted Infection. As by their description, they are infections that are acquired for the first time or shared with other persons thru genital/sexual contact. Other than a cough and flu viruses, STI’s are the most common contagious infections in the country, not all of which you can be cured of. Though these infections are acquired thru sexual (oral, vaginal, anal) contact, they can be transmitted to a baby when you are pregnant which can cause infections that range from blindness to pneumonia and miscarriage to death.
HPV (human papilloma virus) viruses which are responsible for abnormal pap smears are the most common virus worldwide acquired thru sex. Cervical cancer is a sexually transmitted disease which why it is important to get pap smears on a regular basis at the recommendation of your gynecologist starting at 21 years old. The next more common STI’s include chlamydia, gonorrhea can be screened for at the time of your pap smear or at any time if you are sexually active. It is recommended that all sexually active women be offered an annual screen for chlamydia and gonorrhea which can be done by cervical swab or urine. Less common but still dangerous are syphilis, HIV, Herpes, Hepatitis B & C.
A pap smear is the best test for HPV and it is also possible to ask the lab to test for chlamydia and gonorrhea off the same sample. It is possible to test for chlamydia and gonorrhea from both a cervical swab or first urine of the day obtained by a lab. Blood tests are the only way to look for HIV, syphilis, and Herpes.
Bacterial infections like chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis are treated with antibiotics and it may be possible to eradicate your infection. Viruses like HIV, HPV, Herpes are not curable but treated with antiviral medicines to help alleviate your symptoms. It is important to remember that STI’s occur in both partners, and both may need to be treated.
Knowing your partner’s sexual history is important, because someone with many sexual partners, may be at higher risk for acquiring a STI. If your partner is having sex with other persons at the same time as you, your risk is higher. If your partner uses IV drugs your risk is higher. Using condoms can reduce but not eliminate your risk. Anal sex is associated with higher risk because tissues in the rectum are more easily injured. There are vaccines for HPV and Hepatitis B which can reduce your risk.
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