Sexually Transmitted Disease

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Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), or sexually tansmitted infections (STIs), are illnesses transmitted by sexual contact. STDs comprise a large and diverse set of disease entities which include viruses, bacteria, protozoa, and arthropods. Many of these diseases can cause great harm before symptoms are detected.

List of STDs

This list is not complete, and many of these disease agents can be transmitted by non-sexual means. Because there are so many different infections, symptoms can vary greatly. Your doctor can give you a great deal of information and should be consulted early to prevent permanent health problems.

Viruses

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

In the early stages, HIV can cause fevers, rashes, joint pains, and other non-specific symptoms. These usually occur within weeks after exposure. If untreated, HIV infection usually leads to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) within eight to ten years. The symptoms of AIDS can be anything, but common presentations include weight loss, night sweats, unusual skin lesions, and diarrhea. There are 41,400 new cases each year in the U.S.[1]

Symptoms
  • Primary HIV infection (two weeks after infection): Flulike symptoms occur as the virus attacks the immune system.
  • Asymptomatic HIV infection (several years): Infected people can go years with no symptoms.
  • Symptomatic HIV infection (several years): As the immune system weakens, the person experiences fatigue, persistent headaches, loss of appetite and body weight, diarrhea, fever, and repeated symptoms that seem like colds and flus.
  • AIDS: Once the immune system is so damaged, the infected person becomes susceptible to opportunistic infections such as pneumonia, plus a decline in mental abilities.
Treatment
  • There is no cure for the virus.
  • Long-term treatment with highly active retroviral therapy uses a combination of drugs to combat the virus, allowing for a longer, healthier life.
  • Without treatment, about half of infected individuals will reach the life-threatening stage of the disease, AIDS, within two years.
  • Without medicine, the lifespan of a person with AIDS is about one year.

Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV 1 and 2)

HSV can appear on either the lips or the genitalia. It usually presents as a painful, bumpy rash, sometimes with fever. There are approximately 14,100,000 new cases of HSV-2 each year in the U.S.[1]

Symptoms
  • Stage 1: Tingling, burning, itching, or numbness at the site of infection.
  • Stage 2: Painful blisters appear at that location, break open, and run; in the first experience of a herpes outbreak, a person will usually have a fever and flulike symptoms.
  • Stage 3: Blisters crust over and finally heal.
  • Recurrent outbreaks: Herpes stays in the body, and outbreaks repeat when a person is physically or emotionally stressed.
Treatment
  • There is no cure for herpes, and an infected person is infectious even when no sores are visible.
  • Long-term treatment with antiviral drugs relieves symptoms, speeds healing, reduces frequency of outbreaks, and reduces the likelihood of transmission when a person does not have visible sores.
  • Excellent hygiene is critical to avoid transmitting virus to the eyes (E.g., when putting contact lenses in).
  • Treatment is critical to reduce the likelihood of the virus attacking the brain, which is usually fatal.

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)

HPV often presents as anogenital warts, or as an abnormality on a pap smear. These lesions can be precancerous.

Symptoms
  • Most people have no symptoms of the type of HPV that cause genital, anal, or mouth/throat cancer.
  • Another type of HPV causes itchy or uncomfortable warts on the genitals and anus.
Treatment
  • Once acquired, the virus often stays in the body with no long-term effects, but 10% of infections lead to serious disease, including cancer.
  • Vaccinations against HPV may protect females and males from the types most commonly linked to cancer.
  • Women should have annual pelvic exams and PAP tests of the cervix to detect HPV and start treatment early.
  • Genital warts are removed through minor surgery.[1]

Hepatitis B and C Viruses (HBV, HCV)

These are often asymptomatic, but over time can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer. If any symptoms are present, the illness can look like any hepatitis, that is, jaundice, change in urine or stool color, abdominal swelling, and fatigue.

Bacteria

Neisseria gonorrhoeae (gonorrhea)

Gonorrhea, another very common STD, may also have this risk. A majority of US teenagers who admit to having sex are infected with an STD.[2] There are 820,000 new cases each year in the U.S.[1]

The incidence of gonorrhea in the United States peaked during the Carter administration, but began dropping during the Reagan years. However, the chlamydia rate overtook gonorrhea during the Clinton years.[3]

Symptoms
  • Many people have no symptoms.
  • Abnormal discharge and burning during urination.
Treatment
  • Get routine annual STI testing.
  • Fairly easily cured through early treatment with combination drug therapy.
  • Failure to treat in women can lead to PID and increased risk of fertility.

Chlamydia trachomatis

Chlamydia, the most common STD, can cause infertility in both men and women, making it impossible ever to have children. Over 2,860,000 new cases are reported each year in the U.S.[1]

Symptoms
  • Up to 90% of people have no symptoms.
  • Mild symptoms include a thin, clear discharge from the sex organs and some irritation during urination.
Treatment
  • Get routine annual STI testing.
  • Easily cured through early treatment by antibiotics
  • Failure to treat in women can lead to PID and increased risk of fertility.

This presents similarly to gonorrhea, but is often asymptomatic, and is commonly carried without the patient knowing they are ill. This makes it especially dangerous as these carriers tend to continue the behaviour that got them infected in the first place, spreading the disease to their other sexual partners. There are three different sub-types of the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis that cause lymphogranuloma venereum.[4] Lymphogranuloma venereum is one of the maladies associated with gay bowel syndrome.[5]

Treponema pallidum (syphillis)

This organism causes syphilis, a multisystem disease. There are 55,400 new cases of syphillis each year.[1]

Symptoms
  • Primary stage (two-four weeks after infection): Painless ulcer on genitals, lips, tongue, or anus disappears in about two weeks
  • Secondary stage (four weeks to months later): Itchy, painless rash on body
  • Latent stage (several weeks to years later): Usually no symptoms, but bacteria are attacking organs
  • Late stage (years later): Larger ulcers on skin and bones, plus serious organ damage
Treatment
  • Many people are unaware of the primage stage ulcer or ignore it, so they do not sek t

Protozoa

Trichamonas vaginalis ("trich")

There are approximately 1,090,000 new cases each year in the U.S.[1]

Symptoms
  • Most people show no symptoms.
  • Women may show a frothy, foul-smelling whitish-green vaginal discharge.
Treatment
  • Easily cured through early treatment with drug therapy
  • Both women and their partners must be treated
  • Failure to treat can lead to infertility.

Arthropods

Pubic lice ("crabs")

This presents as itching in the groin, and often small parasites are easily visible.

Scabies

This often presents as itching, with rash being more prominent between the fingers and toes.

Prevention

The only completely effective means of preventing the transmission of STDs is abstinence from sex until marriage and fidelity thereafter.

Of the other methods of contraception, only condoms offer any protection against STDs (including HIV), but are be completely ineffective against STDs such as pubic lice which are transmitted by simple body contact and do not require sex to occur. When improperly used, or if damaged, they are completely ineffective both as contraception and as STD protection. Even with perfect use (which is rare) around 2% of condoms will be damaged during sex.

Vaccines are not widely available for STDs. An HPV vaccine has recently been released for protection against certain, but not all, strains of HPV, though the long term efficacy of this controversial vaccine is disputed.

People who have been sexually active before marriage can transmit their sexual diseases to their partner after marriage, therefore failure to use proper protection with an unfaithful spouse can still lead to infection. Additionally many STDs can be transmitted to unborn children through the pregnant mother.

Treatment

Some STDs are curable; many are not. For further information, please consult a physician.

Atheism and sexually transmitted diseases

See also: Evolutionary belief and sexual immorality

Atheistic populations commonly have significant problems with sexually transmitted diseases (see: Atheism and sexually transmitted diseases).

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Grison, Sarah, and Michael S. Gazzaniga. Psychology in Your Life. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2017.
  2. 4 out of 10 teenagers are sexually active; over half of this 40% (25% of all teenagers) have an STD.[1]
  3. http://www.cdc.gov/std/stats/tables/table1.htm
  4. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000634.htm
  5. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000634.htm