While many people think they know what a sexually transmitted disease (STD) is, or think they know a lot about STDs, in truth most people know only a little about STDs, what they are and how they are transmitted. Most people have heard of the common STDs in our population today, but there are other STDs that are less prevalent or less well known.
In general, an STD is an infectious disease or infection, also referred to as a sexually transmitted infection (STI), that is spread from person to person through skin-to-skin contact that can be casual in nature, like a friendly peck on the check, or more intimate. STDs can be caused by bacteria or a virus. STDs affect men and women equally regardless of race, geography, sexual preference, age, social status or any other demographic identifier. STDs are easily spread and once you are infected, the disease can lay dormant for periods of time, becoming active periodically often during times of stress.
Symptoms of an STD can include itching and sores on the infected area, usually around the genitals or mouth, pain when urinating, and fluid discharges. However, many people carry an STD and experience no symptoms or show no visible signs of the infection. This is one of the reasons they spread so easily.
There are many different types of STDs ranging from the benign to very malignant and harmful ones. Some are treatable and others are incurable today. Most people are aware of today’s common STDs, but some STDs are less well known and equally as harmful to your health. Following is a list of the more well-known STDS:
• Chlamydia – a very common and easily curable STD that can lead to infertility if left untreated
• Gonorrhea – a treatable STD only transmitted through sexual activity
• Herpes – two versions of the herpes simplex virus exist: genital herpes and oral herpes, most people infected with genital herpes are unaware they have the disease
• Syphilis – one of the oldest known STDs and easily treatable with antibiotics, untreated it can cause severe symptoms and health issues
• Hepatitis B – can cause serious health issues if untreated
• Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) – a lethal virus that attacks the immune system, there is currently no known cure
• Genital warts – caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV), are not dangerous but are easily transmitted and require immediate treatment
One common misconception is that STDs can only be spread through sexual intercourse. This is not the case. An STD can be spread through any casual skin-to-skin contact involving an infected area or sore. This is one of the reasons for the recent rapid spread of the herpes virus, especially among teenagers. STDs also spread more easily than people are aware because often it is difficult to tell whether someone is infected or not. Many people have an STD and are unaware of it. These people are highly likely to pass along their STD to others.
There is a wealth of information available on the internet regarding STDs, what they are, their symptoms and known treatments. Use good judgment in researching reputable or medical sites. If you think you have contracted an STD or know someone who has, the best course of action is to see a doctor as soon as possible.