The Hidden Epidemic Of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

The Hidden Epidemic Of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

Sexually transmitted infections pose a serious public health concern. Also called sexually transmitted diseases and are transmitted through sexual contact. Understanding STIs including knowing about their types, symptoms, and preventive measures is crucial for maintaining sexual health. There are more than 30 various bacteria and viruses which can be easily transmitted through sexual contact. World Health Organization estimated that as of 2020 there are 374 million new infections. An estimated 300 million women were said to be suffering from HPV infection. In this blog, we will provide a comprehensive overview of the STIs.              

Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

It is a very common sexually transmitted infection affecting the lives of millions worldwide. HPV can spread through skin-to-skin contact and having intercourse is not mandatory. HPV can also be spread from mother to child during childbirth. Some people face no symptoms at all however some strains of the virus can cause genital warts that is fleshy bumps that appear around the anus or the genital area. There is no clear cure for the virus however there is treatment for the warts such as topical medicines, cryotherapy, and surgical procedures.

Syphilis

It is a bacterial sexually transmitted infection which progresses through 4 stages like – 

  • Primary syphilis – 1-2 weeks after the exposure and the most common symptom is a chancre or sore.
  • Secondary syphilis – 2-8 weeks after the sore heals. A reddish-brown rash appears on the legs, soles of the feet, and torso.
  • Latent syphilis (for years) – the virus is latent and is not contagious through skin contact
  • Tertiary syphilis (years to decades) – it is the most serious stage and can cause serious damage to the organs such as the heart, brain, and nervous system.

Syphilis can be easily treated using antibiotics if detected at an early stage.

Genital Herpes

It is another common sexually transmitted infection caused by herpes simplex virus. The two types of genital herpes such as – 

  • HSV-1 – cold sores around the mouth and can spread to the genitals through oral sex.
  • HSV-2 – most common.

Some of the symptoms of herpes are – 

  • Red bumps or blisters
  • Pain in the genital area
  • Burning sensation when urinating 
  • Vaginal discharge 
  • Swollen lymph nodes

There is no particular cure for herpes however you can take preventive measures to reduce the outbreaks.

Chlamydia 

It is a very common sexually transmitted infection and is caused by the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis which can spread through vaginal, oral, or anal sexual contact with the person infected. It often shows no symptoms, especially in women or they appear after a few weeks of exposure.

A few symptoms of chlamydia are such as –

  • Painful urination
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge
  • Cervical infection
  • Pain in the lower abdomen
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease

Chlamydia can be easily cured by taking antibiotics.

Gonorrhea 

It is caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae and mostly affects young adults. This sexually transmitted infection can affect the genitals, throat, and rectum. Usually, there are no symptoms or they appear after a few weeks of infection. 

Some of the common symptoms are – 

  • Pelvic pain
  • Rectal pain 
  • Bleeding
  • Sore throat
  • Burning sensation 
  • Unusual discharge

Gonorrhea can be easily treated by taking proper antibiotic treatment.

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)   

This sexually transmitted infection weakens the immune system by reducing the white blood cells. Some of the symptoms of the HIV infection are – 

  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Night sweats
  • Weight loss
  • Frequent infections 
  • Sore throats

As the science has progressed so has the cure for HIV. ART or antiretroviral therapy uses a combination of medications that prevent the viral load.

Hepatitis B

It is a common viral infection that causes inflammation of the liver. It can spread via bodily fluids and sexual contact. Some of the symptoms of Hepatitis are – 

  • Loss of appetite
  • Pale stool
  • Jaundice 
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue

Getting the Hepatitis B vaccine is an effective way to prevent the infection.

Trichomoniasis 

It is another common sexually transmitted infection caused by a parasite called Trichomonasvaginalis. Men usually do not experience any symptoms but women do after a week or two after the exposure.

Some of the symptoms faced by women are – 

  • Vaginal itching
  • Painful urination
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge

Trichomoniasis can be easily cured after taking proper antibiotics treatment.

Strategies To Prevent Sexually Transmitted Infections –                            

  • Abstinence is the most effective way if your partner has an STI.
  • Limit the number of sexual partners and commit to monogamy.
  • Use contraceptives such as condoms and dental dams to reduce the risk of vaginal and oral sex.
  • Take proper vaccinations for HPV and Hepatitis Virus.
  • Get tested regularly if you have a new sexual partner.
  • Know the symptoms of common sexually transmitted infections.
  • Avoid douching as it disrupts the bacterial balance in the vagina.

Summing Up

Sexually transmitted infections are a prevalent public health concern, but there’s no need to panic. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial for preventing complications and protecting your sexual partners. Many resources are available for confidential testing, treatment, and education.  Knowledge is power, and by understanding how STIs spread, the symptoms to watch for, and the most effective prevention methods, you can take control of your sexual health.          

      

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