A sexually transmitted disease (STD) or Venereal Disease (VD) is a disease that is passed during intimate sexual contact with an infected person. If not treated some of these diseases may cause severe health problems or lead to death. STDs include Gonorrhea (clap), Chlamydia, Human Papillomavirus (HPV), Non-Gonococcal Urethritis (NGU), Molluscum Contagiosum, Genital Herpes and HIV infection (AIDS virus). Crabs and Scabies may also be sexually transmitted. Genital warts are the result of a virus passed through sexual contact. If not treated, they could lead to genital cancer. Warts and Herpes are very contagious.

Symptoms (back to top)

If you are sexually active and have any of the following symptoms, you may have
a STD:

• Discharge of pus from penis or vagina

• Painful burning sensation while urinating

• Soreness inside the penis

• Unusual discharge or odor from vagina

• One or more painful sores or blisters in or around the lips,
  mouth, or sex organs

• Intense itching in or around penis or vagina

• Cramping or unexpected pain in the lower abdomen

• Rectal irritation

• Unusual bleeding from the vagina

• Swelling or redness of the throat (if you had oral sex)

• Patchy hair loss from the scalp

• Some STDs may not have any symptoms

Because women have internal sex organs, they have a hard time noticing early signs of STDs. Infections may be more serious by the time it is found. You are more likely to get HIV if you have another STD. STDs must be treated! They do not go away by themselves. If untreated, some infections may spread throughout your body and the body of your sexual partner. They may permanently damage your sex organs and make you unable to have children. People who have genital warts and herpes have a higher risk of getting cancer of the cervix and penis. With other diseases, like syphilis you could become insane, blind, paralyzed or could die. Many women and some men have no symptoms at all for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea. If these two diseases are left untreated, they can cause sterility in men and women (the person will be unable to have children). If you are pregnant, an undetected STD can seriously damage or even kill your unborn child.

Treatment (back to top)

STDs are treatable. Do not be ashamed or embarrassed to seek help! See a doctor or contact the health department as soon as you notice something unusual. It is important to tell your doctor all of your symptoms, and what types of sex you have had. Make sure you follow all of the instructions the doctor gives you. All help is confidential.

You want to avoid giving the disease to someone else. If a doctor tells you that you have an STD, be sure to provide the names of all your sex partners. These people need to know that they may be infected so they can be tested and/or treated, too.

There are STDs that cannot be cured! The virus that causes genital herpes produces painful blisters usually on or around the male or female sex organs. Herpes is a highly infectious disease that can be spread by an infected person even before the painful blisters appear.

Once you get the herpes virus, it remains in your body forever. It cannot be cured! If you have active herpes infection, medicine will help you feel better and may help prevent the spread to your unborn child.

Protection from STDs (back to top)

The only sure way to avoid STDs is to NOT HAVE SEXUAL CONTACT WITH ANYONE. This method is 100% foolproof. Warning: Since condoms can have a 20% failure rate for pregnancy prevention, they are not foolproof in stopping the spread of a disease. Warning: The younger a woman is when she has intimate sex, the higher her risk of cervical cancer.

• Have a yearly physical exam, to include a pelvic exam for women.

• Know your partner and his/her life style.

• You and your partner should be tested for STDs BEFORE you
   become sexually active.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) (back to top)

Gardasil is the only cervical cancer vaccine that helps protect against 4 types of human papillomavirus (HPV): 2 types that cause 70% of cervical cancer cases, and 2 more types that cause 90% of genital warts cases. Gardasil is for girls and young women ages 9 to 26. Vaccination is recommended for girls as young as 9 because Gardasil works when given before there is any contact with HPV Types 6, 11, 16, and 18. About 30 types of HPV are known as genital HPV since they affect the genital area.

If you are already sexually active, you may still benefit from Gardasil. That’s because even if you have been exposed to HPV, it’s unlikely that you have been exposed to all the types of the virus covered by this cervical cancer vaccine. That means Gardasil could still help guard you against HPV types you haven’t been exposed to. Gardasil is given in 3 doses over 6 months. Your doctor or healthcare professional can help you understand more. Gardasil is available at your local health department.

Hepatitis B (back to top)

Hepatitis B is a virus that can destroy the liver. Some individuals who become infected with Hepatitis B die of cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer or become carriers (people who do not die of the disease, but can transmit it to others).

About 10% of adults, 25-30% of young children and youth, and 90% of infants who are infected with Hepatitis B become carriers or die. Hepatitis B is more infectious than HIV. The virus is transmitted through sharing of infected body fluids (blood, semen, vaginal fluids, breast milk, tears, saliva and open sores).

Hepatitis B is not spread through casual contact (holding hands, dry kissing, eating food prepared by a carrier, etc.). Although it can be a fatal disease, fortunately there is a preventive vaccine (it only works if given before infection occurs). The vaccine is given in a series of three (3) shots over a period of six (6) months and is available at the health department. Medical experts recommend that all newborn babies be vaccinated for Hepatitis B. The vaccine is available at your local health department.

HIV/AIDS (back to top)

AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. It is an illness that leaves the body too weak to fight off other diseases. AIDS is caused by the human immune deficiency virus (HIV). The HIV virus attacks and destroys the body’s immune system. As the immune system gets weaker, the body is left unprotected against other infections and cancers. People with AIDS become ill and often die from diseases that do not affect healthy people. There is still no cure for AIDS.

There are no symptoms with early stages of the HIV infection, and many people do not know that they have it. They may look and feel normal. You can be infected with the HIV virus without having AIDS. AIDS may develop in time. The virus can spread to all sexual partners even before the person knows he/she is infected.

How do you get AIDS? (back to top)

• Having sex with an infected person. During sex, the
  HIV virus enters the body through the vagina, penis,
  mouth, or rectum.

• Sharing any sharp object that punctures the skins
  (razors, ear piercing, tattoo   paraphernalia, etc.).

• Babies born to infected mothers. An infected mother
  may pass the virus to her baby during the pregnancy.

• Blood transfusions from infected blood donors. Today
  all blood is tested for the AIDS virus when it is donated.
  You can become infected after only one contact with
  the virus.

AIDS can be Prevented (back to top)

Being safe from AIDS is up to you. The best ways to avoid getting AIDS are not having sex and not sharing needles and syringes.

Other Ways to Protect Yourself from AIDS (back to top)

• If you do have sex, have sex with just one lifetime partner
  who is not infected and who is faithful to you.

• Before you have sex, you and your partner should get an
  AIDS test at your local health center. You may be saving
  your life and that of someone you love.

• Limit your sexual partners.

• Do not have sex with people who have the AIDS virus or
  who test positive for HIV.

• Do not have sex with people who are at risk to have the
  AIDS virus. These include IV drug users, people who have
  many sex partners or have a history of STDs, those who
  trade sex for drugs or money, men who have sex with
  other men and women who have sex with IV drug users.

• Do not use IV drugs; IV drug use is a major factor in the
  spread of AIDS.

Once you are infected, you are infected for life. There are no vaccines that prevent the disease, but there are medicines available to help people with AIDS stay well longer.

Testing and Treatment (back to top)

There are separate tests and treatments for each of the STDs and AIDS. Parental approval is not required. Services are confidential. Contact one of the following places for additional information:

CDC AIDS Hotline
CDC AIDS Hotline's Website

ASHA STD Hotline
ASHA STD Hotline's Website

Spalding County Health Department