Frequently Asked Questions
What is an STD?
A sexually-transmitted disease (STD) also called a “venereal disease” or a sexually-transmitted infection (STI) are all the same terms for a group of bacterial, viral, and in rare cases, parasitic infections classified by their transmission in the most common circumstances through sexual intercourse acts.
What are some examples of STDS?
The most widely referenced STDs are chlamydia, gonorrhea, human papillomavirus (HPV) herpes simplex 1 and 2, HIV, syphilis, trichomoniasis, hepatitis B and C, and bacterial vaginosis.
What is the difference between an STI and an STD?
There is no particular difference beyond the difference between the definitions of disease and infection. An STD is a disease resulting from an infection with an STI, and an infection with an STI leads to an STD.
How many people in America have STDs?
The CDC reports that millions of people in the United States carry an STI. For instance 1.7 million Americans were infected with chlamydia in 2017 but that is only data based on reported cases alone. Two problems exist with that figure: many people don’t know they have an STD, and some of those that do are too embarrassed to seek help.
How will I know if I have an STD?
It’s likely you won’t know unless you get tested. Many STDs are hard to detect unless you have experience and training in detecting them.
What are common symptoms of STDs?
Many STDs have few noticeable symptoms, but classic symptoms involve things that many would associate with a common urinary tract infection such as pain while urinating, pain during sex, strangely colored or scented discharges, and small sores in and around genitalia.
What are ways to protect against STDs?
Beyond abstaining from sexual acts entirely, limiting yourself to the smallest number of sexual partners possible, testing for STIs with a new partner before engaging in sexual acts, and wearing a condom are all the most effective defenses as listed by the CDC.
If I do become infected, can I be cured?
Curing STDs is possible. Many of the most commonly contracted STIs can be eliminated. These include chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, bacterial vaginosis, and trichonomiasis.
Are there STDs that cannot be cured?
Unfortunately, many of the viral STDs must only be treated as no cure yet exists. These include HIVAIDS, herpes 1 and 2, and some versions of the HPV virus. Gonorrhea is beginning to regularly display antibiotic resistance, and the CDC is down to one class of antibiotics to treat these aggressive strains of the bacteria currently.
Can STDs be transmitted in other ways?
The short answer is yes. Sexual acts of all kinds can transmit diseases between partners. This includes anal sex, and oral sex, but also non-sexual acts like kissing. Other diseases like hepatitis can be spread through the use of intravenous injections with needles as might occur when using drugs like heroin.
If I have an STD and don’t get treated what will happen?
Aside from the risk of spreading the disease to other partners, long term health risks for women are more severe than they are for men. For example complications with pregnancy is a common long term effect of an STD. Pelvic inflammatory disease, which can develop from carrying certain infections like chlamydia for long periods, can lead to premature childbirth, underweight babies, or make childbearing impossible altogether.
What are some other health consequences of STDs?
Carrying an STI increases your risk of contracting other STIs. Syphilis, while easily curable, can lead to brain and eye damage, hair loss, and death. HIV can lead to AIDS, a terrible disease which compromises the immune system and can lead to death.
Should I get tested even if I don’t have any symptoms?
If you think you could have been exposed to an STI through an infected partner, don’t wait until symptoms develop but get tested right away. Symptoms of STDs are often benign in first few months after infection but can still be spread and affect you in different ways.
How do physicians test for STDs?
Different labs will use different tests. Most of the time, depending on the disease you’ll provide a urine or blood sample or both. Typically viral infections require blood tests, and bacterial infections require urine tests. Sometimes swabbing possible infected areas is required.
How do physicians treat STDs?
Antibiotics will treat most bacterial infections and antiviral or antiretroviral drugs can treat the symptoms of incurable viral STDS like herpes and HIV.
If my STDs are cured will they come back?
It’s possible to re-contract any STD you’ve been cured of or treated for. The treatments for STDs are not vaccines. If you catch an STI once, the chance you can become infected again, for certain infections, actually increases.
Can I transmit herpes when I’m not having an outbreak?
Yes. That herpes can only be spread during an outbreak is a common misconception.
If I’m HIV positive do I also have AIDS?
AIDS is a later stage in the disease resulting from an infection by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Just because you’re HIV positive doesn’t mean you currently have AIDS.
Can I give genital herpes to someone if I perform oral sex as an oral herpes carrier?
Yes, both forms of the virus, oral and genital, can be spread to both parts of the body through fluid exchange.
What if I contract an antibiotic-resistant strain of gonorrhea?
The CDC has guidelines and procedures in place for clinics and physicians to treat any antibiotic-resistant strain of gonorrhea. Normally it involves the use of a combination of drugs, but the process isn’t quick and requires diligent communication with the CDC.