Do you know about Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)? How are they transmitted and how to prevent them? According to the World Health Organization (WHO), More than 1 million sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are acquired every day worldwide, the majority of which are symptom free.
What is STDs?
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), or sexually transmitted infections (STIs), are infections that are transmitted from one person to another through sexual contact. It can be any kind of sexual contact and sometimes even the skin to skin contact can also transmit these diseases.
STIs are of public health concern because of their high prevalence worldwide and their potential to cause serious and permanent complications in infected people. These complications include infertility, fetal wastage, ectopic pregnancy, anogenital cancer and premature death, as well as neonatal and infant infections. In addition STIs are known to facilitate human immunodeficiency virus infection/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS).
Types of STDs
There are more than 20 types of STDs including:-
- Genital herpes
- Pubic lice
Several STIs, particularly HIV and syphilis, can also be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy and childbirth, and through blood products and tissue transfer.
Symptoms of STDs
The majority of STDs are present without symptoms. They can be symptom free means a person can have an STI without having symptoms of disease. Therefore, the term “sexually transmitted infection” a broader term than “sexually transmitted disease” (STD) is preferred.
However, there are some common symptoms of STDs given below :-
- Unusual discharge from the penis or vagina
- Sores or warts on the genital area
- Painful or frequent urination
- Itching and redness in the genital area
- Blisters or sores in or around the mouth
- Abnormal vaginal odor
- Anal itching, soreness, or bleeding
- Abdominal pain
Causes of STDs
STIs are caused by more than 30 types of Bacteria, Viruses and Parasites. They are given below :-
- Bacteria- Chlamydia trachomatis causes Chlamydia, neisseria gonorrhoeae causes Gonorrhea and Treponema pallidum causes Syphilis.
- Viruses- Human immunodeficiency virus causes AIDS, herpes simplex virus causes Genital herpes, human papillomavirus causes Genital warts, hepatitis B virus causes Hepatitis, and cytomegalovirus
- Yeasts and protozoan parasites- Trichomonas vaginalis causes Trichomoniasis, pubic lice causes Pediculosis pubis, Sarcoptes scabiei causes scabies.
Transmissions of STIs
There are following ways of transmission of STDs:-
- STIs spread predominantly by sexual contact, including vaginal, anal and oral sex.
- Some STIs may spread via skin-to-skin sexual contact and through non-sexual means such as blood products and tissue transfer.
- Many STIs including chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis B, HIV, HPV, HSV-2 and syphilis can also be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy and childbirth.
Primary prevention or preventing infection in uninfected persons: This is the most effective strategy to reduce the spread of STI and can be easily integrated in all health care settings.
Secondary prevention: This prevents further transmission of that infection in the community and prevents complications and reinfection in the patient.
Counseling and behavioral approaches: Counseling and behavioral interventions offer primary prevention against STIs (including HIV).
- Comprehensive sexuality education, STI and HIV pre- and post-test counseling;
- Safer sex/risk-reduction counseling, condom promotion.
- Interventions targeted at key and vulnerable populations, such as adolescents, sex workers, men who have sex with men and people who inject drugs.
- Barrier methods: Use of barrier methods as condoms offers one of the most effective methods of protection against STIs, including HIV. Female condoms are effective and safe, but are not used as widely by national programmes as male condoms.
Safe and highly effective vaccines are available for two STIs: hepatitis B and human papilloma virus (HPV).
The vaccine against hepatitis B is included in the Universal Immunization Programme. Hepatitis B vaccination is given in 4 doses: At Birth dose (within 24 hours); Primary three doses at 6, 10 & 14 weeks.
HPV vaccination could prevent occurrence of cervical cancer. 2 doses of HPV vaccine for adolescent/pre-adolescent girls aged 9-14 years are advised.
Research to develop vaccines against herpes and HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and trichomoniasis is in earlier stages of development.
Other biomedical interventions to prevent some STIs include adult male circumcision and microbicides.
Male circumcision reduces the risk of heterosexually acquired HIV infection in men by approximately 60% and provides some protection against other STIs, such as herpes and HPV.
Use of vaginal microbicide, showed mixed results in terms of the ability to prevent HIV infection, but has shown some effectiveness against HSV-2 infection.
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