Part 1: The Most Common STIs/STDs – Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and HIV

STD’s (sexually transmitted diseases) and STI’s (sexually transmitted infections) are diseases/infections that are passed from one person to another through sexual contact (vaginal, anal, or oral sex). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that people age 15 to 24 account for 50% of the 20 million new STI’s that occur in the United States annually, despite the fact that this age group makes up just 27% of the sexually active population. Studies also show that infertility issues in 24,000 women each year are attributed to undiagnosed STI’s. 

Many people don’t know that they are infected because STI’s often have no symptoms. When STI’s go untreated, they advance to become an STD. Below are some of the most common STI’s/STD’s:

Chlamydia

This STI/STD is known for causing serious damage to a woman’s reproductive system, increasing the risk of potentially fatal ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy that occurs outside the womb/uterus) and increased difficulty in getting pregnant. Women who exhibit symptoms may notice:

  • An abnormal vaginal discharge
  • A burning sensation when urinating

Infected men may notice:

  • A discharge from their penis
  • A burning sensation when urinating
  • Pain and swelling in one or both testicles 

Additionally, both men and women can get chlamydia in their rectum through receptive anal sex or it can be spread from another infected site (such as the vagina). While these infections often cause no symptoms, victims can experience:

  • Rectal pain
  • Discharge
  • Bleeding

Gonorrhea

This is an STI/STD that causes infection in the genitals, rectum, and/or throat. Although some men with gonorrhea may have no symptoms at all, those who do may experience:

  • A burning sensation when urinating
  • A white, yellow, or green discharge from the penis
  • Painful or swollen testicles 

Unlike men, most women with gonorrhea don’t exhibit any symptoms. When they do, the symptoms tend to be mild and can be mistaken for a bladder or vaginal infection. Symptoms in women can include:

  • Painful or burning sensation when urinating
  • Increased vaginal discharge
  • Vaginal bleeding between periods

HIV

People with STD’s have an increased risk of getting HIV compared to those who are STD-free. This is because having a sore or break in the skin from another STD may easily allow HIV to enter your body. Likewise, the same behaviors and circumstances that increase your risk for getting an STD can also multiply your chances of getting HIV, such as:

  • Having anal, vaginal, or oral sex without a condom
  • Having multiple sex partners
  • Having anonymous sex partners
  • Having sex while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, which lowers inhibitions and results in greater sexual risk-taking

The HIV virus targets and alters the immune system hence the name: Human Immunodeficiency Virus. As a result, this virus increases the risk and impact of other infections and diseases. HIV infection can progress to an advanced disease called AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome).

If you and/or your partner have engaged in risky sexual behaviors that may increase your risk for contracting an STI/STD, it’s highly recommended that you get tested for your health and safety, and to consider a change in your sexual behaviors. The only 100% foolproof way to prevent STI’s/STD’s is through abstinence or sex in a committed, permanently monogamous relationship.

AbbaCare Pregnancy Resource Center provides free STI/STD testing and treatment for our pregnancy clients and their partners. Call 540.665.9660 for more information. 

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