What you need to know about STDs
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are infections that pass from one person to another through sexual contact. They are also known as sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or venereal diseases (VD).
Some STDs can spread through the use of unsterilized drug needles, from mother to infant during childbirth or breast-feeding, and blood transfusions.
The genital areas are generally moist and warm environments, ideal for the growth of yeasts, viruses, and bacteria.
People can transmit microorganisms that inhabit the skin or mucous membranes of the genitals. Infectious organisms can also move between people in semen, vaginal secretions, or blood during sexual intercourse.
Individuals pass on STDs more easily when they are not using contraceptive devices, such as condoms, dams, and sanitizing sex toys. Some infections can transmit through sexual contact but are not classed as STDs. For example, meningitis can be passed on during sexual contact, but people can acquire a meningitis infection for other reasons. It is therefore not classed as an STD.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there are more than one million new STDs acquired each day globally. People between the ages of 15 and 24 years acquire half of all new STDs, and one in four sexually active adolescent females has an STD. However, STD rates among seniors are increasing.
The following sections explain the most common STD’s: chlamydia; chancroid; crabs, or pubic lice; genital herpes; hepatitis B; trichomoniasis; HIV and AIDS; Human papillomavirus (HPV); molluscum contagiosum; syphilis; and gonorrhea.
Prevention: Sex using a condom is the safest way to prevent the spread of STDs. Condoms are known as barrier contraceptives, due to their presentation of a physical barrier to microbes. For each oral, vaginal, or anal sex act, use a new latex condom. Condoms are available to purchase online.
Avoid using an oil-based lubricant, such as petroleum jelly, when using a latex condom. Non-barrier forms of contraception, such as oral contraceptives or intrauterine devices, do nothing to protect people from sexually transmitted infections.
Here are other steps you can take to reduce the risk of an STD:
• Abstinence: Abstaining from any sexual act is the most effective way to avoid an STD.
• Monogamy to one uninfected partner: A long-term, monogamous relationship with one person who is not infected can reduce the risk of contracting an STD.
• Vaccinations: There are vaccinations that can protect an individual from eventually developing some types of cancer that are caused by HPV and hepatitis B.
• Check for infections: Before sexual intercourse with a new partner, check that the partner and yourself have no STDs.
*Dr. Anthony Nwaoney is an epidemiologist
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