Some people may dismiss the thought of being infected with Sexually Transmitted Infections, STIs, during sex with their long-time partner. But the possibility of infections and diseases are as much a part of sex as the fun is. Both men and women get them.
Knowledge is power when it comes to sexual health. Recognizing the symptoms is a start, but you won't always notice the infections if not tested. The best thing to do is to get tested to protect yourself and your partner. Fortunately, all of these common STIs can be treated, and most can be cured. While some may even pose more health complications than the dreaded Human Immunodeficiency Virus, HIV.
Some of the most common sexually transmitted infections are listed below.
This sexually transmitted infection is caused by a bacterium. Symptoms may include genital sores, vaginal discharge, a burning feeling when urinating, and swollen lymph nodes in the groin. It can be spread by vaginal or anal sex or skin-to-skin contact with sores.
This is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections. It is caused by a bacterium that exists in vaginal secretions and semen (‘cum’). It can be spread by vaginal, oral, or anal sex without a condom or latex/polyurethane barrier. Pregnant women can pass it on to their babies during delivery. Symptoms may include vaginal discharge and burning during urination, but most women do not have any symptoms.
Genital warts are caused by viruses. HPV (Human Papillomavirus) is the name of a large group of viruses. Certain types of HPV cause warts on the hands or feet. Other types cause infections in the genital area that can lead to genital warts, cervical cancer, or cancer of the vulva, vagina, anus, and penis. Genital HPV is spread easily through skin-to-skin contact during vaginal, oral, or anal sex. Condoms do not totally prevent transmission. People living with HIV are more likely to be infected with HPV than HIV-negative people. People living with HIV and HPV are also more likely to develop genital warts, as well as cervical or anal cancer.
This bacterial sexually transmitted infection exists in vaginal secretions and semen. It can be spread through vaginal, anal, or oral sex without a condom or latex/polyurethane barrier. Symptoms may include a yellowish or greenish vaginal discharge and a burning feeling when urinating. Gonorrhea can also affect the anus and the throat. Many women have no symptoms.
Hepatitis is an inflammation (irritation) of the liver. Some types of hepatitis are caused by viruses that exist in blood, vaginal secretions, semen, and breast milk. These include hepatitis A (HAV), hepatitis B (HBV), and hepatitis C (HCV), all of which can be sexually transmitted. There is a vaccine to prevent HAV and HBV, but not for HCV. HAV goes away on its own, but HBV and HCV can become chronic (long-term) and very serious. Because HBV and HCV often have no symptoms, most people are not aware that they have the infection. It is important for people living with HIV to be tested for HBV and HCV and treated if necessary.
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Pubic Lice (“Crabs”)
Pubic lice live in the pubic hair and can be transmitted by skin-to-skin contact. They can also be spread through infected clothes and bedding. Symptoms may include intense itching and seeing lice or eggs in the hair.
This is caused by a bacterium. It can be spread by vaginal, anal, or oral sex without a condom or latex/polyurethane barrier. The disease has several phases. People with primary syphilis (early disease) may have pain-free open sores, called chancres, in the genital or anal area or around the mouth. The sores usually heal on their own in three to six weeks. People with secondary syphilis (a later stage of the disease) often have a rash and/or hair loss. If left untreated, syphilis can proceed to the latent stage during which it may have no visible symptoms but can cause damage to the heart, brain, and other organs.
This sexually transmitted infection is caused by a single-celled germ called a protozoa. It can be spread during vaginal, oral, or anal sex without a condom or latex/polyurethane barrier. Trichomoniasis is a common cause of vaginal infections. Symptoms may include a foamy, foul-smelling vaginal discharge and itching. Sometimes there are no symptoms at all.