STDS

Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

What is it? / How common is it?

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease. More than 40 strains of HPV can be sexually transmitted.  Some types can infect the genitals, anus, throat and mouth of males and females possibly causing cancer and/or warts. Nearly 80 million Americans are currently infected with some type of HPV and about 14 million Americans, including teens, become infected each year. HPV infections account for about half of STIs diagnosed among 15-24 year olds each year. 

What are the symptoms?

Most people who become infected with HPV do not even know they have it and end up spreading this disease to others. Within a few weeks, months, or even years, infected individuals may notice warts on their genitals or groin area. These bumps can be flat or raised, single or multiple, small or large and even broccoli and cauliflower-shaped. Cancer-causing HPV types do not cause symptoms until the cancer is advanced.

How do you get it?

HPV is transmitted through vaginal, oral, or anal sex. It can also be passed by skin to skin contact in the genital area during sexual contact. HPV can be passed on between partners even when the infected partner has no signs or symptoms. In rare cases, it can be passed from mother to child during childbirth.

What are the consequences?

Thirteen strains of HPV have known to lead to the development of cervical cancer. Since HPV is a part of the viral family, there is no cure. Some people may only have one episode of genital warts where others may have several recurrences. In some cases, the infection could eventually go away on its own.

How do you treat it?

Although HPV is a virus with no cure, there are certain medical treatments to help with the symptoms. For example, warts can be burned off, frozen off, removed, or treated through prescribed cream, gel, or ointment. Even after treatment, the virus will remain and can cause recurrences (warts can come back).

How can you stop this?

A big thing about HPV is it can infect a person’s genital area whether or not a condom is used. Also, any activity of oral sex with an infected person can cause HPV to develop in the mouth or throat. The only way to stop HPV is to abstain from sexual activity or to choose to be in a long term monogamous relationship (ideally marriage) with a partner who has been tested and is known to be uninfected. If you are sexually active, it is important to get yourself tested.

HERPES

What is it? / How common is it?

A viral infection of the genital areas; can also infect mouth and lips. Herpes falls into two categories: Oral herpes (Type 1) and Genital herpes (Type 2). Both can occur in either the genital or oral area. Genital herpes is common in the United States. It estimated that 776,000 people in the United States get new genital herpes infections each year and affects 1 in every 8 people ages 14-49 years old.  Worldwide, more than 500 million people are estimated to have genital infection with herpes simplex virus. 

What are the symptoms?

Most people have no symptoms; while mild symptoms are sometimes mistaken for other skin irritations.

Type 1 herpes can cause cold sores and fever blisters in or around the mouth.

Type 2 herpes causes painful blisters or burning sores in the genital area, genital discharge, fever, body aches, swollen lymph nodes, and headaches.

Where a person is infected will determine where the outbreak will occur. The infection may start out as small red bumps and turn into blisters which eventually break  and leave ulcers that take several weeks to heal. Before an outbreak, flu-like symptoms may occur. 

How do you get it?

Through genital contact, oral sex, vaginal sex, and anal sex. Herpes is passed from skin to skin contact. Herpes can also be passed from mother to child during childbirth as well as kissing.

What are the consequences?
Herpes includes recurring blisters and burning sores that can be passed to sexual partners. Regardless of severity of symptoms, genital herpes frequently causes psychological distress in people who know they are infected. Genital Herpes can lead to potentially fatal infection in babies. There is increased risk of infection from other STDs, including HIV.
How do you treat it?
There is no treatment that can cure herpes (virus lives in the body), but antiviral medications can shorten and prevent outbreaks during the period of time the person takes the medication.
How can you stop this?

The surest way to avoid getting herpes is to abstain from sexual contact or to choose to be in a long term monogamous relationship (ideally marriage) with a partner who has been tested and is known to be uninfected. Herpes can infect both men’s and women’s genital areas whether or not  a condom is used. Remember, anyone who has had sex may be at risk for a sexually transmitted infection.

Chlamydia

What is it? / How common is it?

Chlamydia is the most common bacterial sexually transmitted disease in the United States and is the most commonly reported according to the CDC. It is a bacterial disease that can infect the genitals, anus, or mouth. Each year in the United States, there are more than 2.8 million newly infected cases of chlamydia. In North Carolina, the number of chlamydia cases diagnosed in 2019 were 71,296. Of those cases, 15-29 year olds comprised 84% of the diagnoses. 

What are the symptoms?

Chlamydia is known as the silent disease because the majority of infected people have no symptoms. If symptoms occur, they usually appear within 1-3 weeks after exposure. For women, who do experience symptoms, they may have an abnormal vaginal discharge or burning sensation while urinating. If left untreated, infection can spread from cervix to fallopian tubes causing PID (pelvic inflammatory disease). For men, who experience symptoms, they may have discharge from their penis or burning while urinating. They may also have burning and/or itching around the opening of the penis. Those having anal sex may get chlamydia in their rectum which can cause rectal pain, discharge, or bleeding.

How do you get it?

Through vaginal, anal, or oral sex. It can also be passed from mother to child during childbirth. Any sexually active person can be infected with chlamydia. Infections can also be reoccuring once treated if engaged in sexual activity with an infected individual. 

What are the consequences?

Increased risk for other STIs, including HIV. In women, it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID and chlamydia in the upper genital tract can cause permanent damage to the fallopian tubes, uterus, and surrounding tissues. This damage can lead to chronic pelvic pain, infertility, and potentially fatal ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy outside the uterus). In rare cases, men may develop swelling and pain in the testicles. Babies born to infected mothers can develop eye or lung infections.

How do you treat it?
Oral antibiotics cure the infection. Both partners must be treated at the same time to prevent the infection from passing back and forth.
How can you stop this?

The surest way to avoid getting chlamydia is to abstain from sexual contact or to choose to be in a long term monogamous relationship (ideally marriage) with a partner who has been tested and is known to be uninfected.

Since chlamydia is so common without showing symptoms and can cause infertility, annual screening is recommended for those that are sexually active.

Gonorrhea

What is it? / How common is it?

Extremely common bacterial disease that infects the genitals, anus, or mouth. It is estimated that approximately 1.14 million people in the United States get new infections each year and as many as half occur among young people aged 15-24. In North Carolina, gonorrhea cases increased to 26, 643 in 2019. Cases in women increased 47% and cases in men increased 66%. 15-29 year olds comprised 69% of North Carolina cases in 2019. 

What are the symptoms?

Most infected people do not have any symptoms at all. For men, it can cause a burning sensation while urinating, or an abnormal white, yellow, or green discharge from the penis. Women may have abnormal vaginal bleeding and/or pelvic pain. Symptoms of a rectal infection may include discharge, anal itching, soreness, bleeding, or painful bowel movements. Infections in the throat may cause a sore throat, but usually causes no symptoms.

How do you get it?
Through vaginal, oral, or anal sex. It can also be passed from mother to child during childbirth.
What are the consequences?
Untreated gonorrhea can cause serious and permanent health problems in both men and women. In women, gonorrhea is a common cause of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID can damage the fallopian tubes enough to cause infertility or increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy. In men, gonorrhea can cause epididymitis, a painful condition, which can lead to infertility if left untreated. People infected with gonorrhea are at increased risk of HIV/AIDS.
How do you treat it?

Several antibiotics can successfully cure gonorrhea. However, drug-resistant strains are increasing and a successful treatment of gonorrhea is becoming more difficult. Both partners must be treated at the same time to prevent the disease from passing back and forth. Persons with gonorrhea should be tested for other STIs.

How can you stop this?

Latex condoms may reduce the risk of transmission of gonorrhea, but the only way to stop it completely is to abstain from sex or to have sex in a long term relationship (ideally marriage) with a partner who has been tested and is known to be uninfected.

Trichomoniasis

What is it? / How common is it?

A parasitic infection of the genitals. Also know as “Trich”, it is the most common curable STD in the United States. It is estimated that 3.7 million people are currently infected. Infection is more common in women than in men. 

What are the symptoms?

Often there are no symptoms. 70% of people infected do not have any signs or symptoms. Women, who do experience symptoms, may notice frothy, smelly, yellow-green vaginal discharge and/or genital discomfort. Men with symptoms may notice discharge from the penis, slight burning after urination or ejaculation and/or irritation in the penis.

How do you get it?
Through vaginal sex or genital contact with an infected partner.
What are the consequences?

Increased risk of other STIs and HIV/AIDS. Being infected with Trich can also cause complications during a woman’s pregnancy.

How do you treat it?

Antibiotics can cure this infection. Both partners must be treated at the same time to prevent passing the infection back and forth. People who have been treated for trichomaniasis can get it again. It is estimated that 1 in 5 people get infected again within 3 months after receiving treatment. 

How can you stop this?

Anyone who has sex can still be at risk for STDs even when there are no symptoms. The surest way to avoid transmission of sexually transmitted diseases is to abstain from sexual contact or to be in a long-term relationship (ideally marriage) with a person who has been tested and is known to be uninfected.

Syphilis

What is it? / How common is it?

Syphilis has often been called the great imitator since often symptoms are indistinguishable from that of other diseases. Syphilis is an infection that is caused by bacteria and can be spread through the body. It is passed from person to person through direct contact with syphilis sores. In the United States, the total number of reported cases of syphilis increased 13.3% from 2017 to 2018 (from 101,584 to 115,045). In North Carolina, the highest age group with syphilis infections was 20-24 years olds in 2019. 

What are the symptoms?

Most people infected with syphilis do not have any symptoms for years, yet remain at risk for late complications if they are not treated. Often spotted is a single painless sore between 10-90 days after contact. Sore may disappear without treatment, but can begin to progress to a secondary stage. One may see a rash, genital lesions, sores on mouth, throat, or cervix, loss of hair, and ill health. Without treatment, the infected person will continue to have syphilis and can progress to more serious problems (see below).

How do you get it?
Through kissing, vaginal, oral, or anal sex. It can also be passed from mother to child during childbirth, increasing risk of a stillbirth or a baby that dies soon after delivery.
What are the consequences?

Increased risk for other diseases, including HIV/AIDS. If the infection stays in the body without treatment, it can progress in stages that can damage internal organs- including the brain, heart, nerves, eyes (can lead to blindness), blood vessels, liver, bones and joints and can lead to death.

How do you treat it?

Antibiotic treatment can cure syphilis if it is caught early, but it cannot undo damage already done. There are no home remedies or over the counter drugs that will cure syphilis. People who receive syphilis treatment must abstain from sexual contact until they are completely healed. Persons with syphilis must notify their sex partners so that they can be tested and receive treatment if necessary.

How can you stop this?

Anyone who has sex may be at risk for an STD even when there are no symptoms. The surest way to avoid transmission of sexually transmitted diseases is to abstain from sexual contact or to be in a long-term relationship (ideally marriage) with a person who has been tested and is known to be uninfected.

HIV/AIDS

What is it? / How common is it?

The human immunodeficiency virus invades the immune system of the body and destroys it over time, reducing a person’s ability to fight off infections and diseases. When this happens, HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. An estimated 1.1 million people are living with HIV/AIDS in the United States. Worldwide, it is estimated that 38 million people are living with the virus as of 2018 and approximately 32 million lives have been lost so far. As of 2019, North Carolina ranks 12th among all states and dependent areas for rate of newly diagnosed HIV. 

What are the symptoms?

Many people who are infected with HIV do not have any symptoms and feel healthy. Symptoms do not usually develop until a person’s immune system is weakened. Some may feel flu-like symptoms or rashes may appear for a short period of time. Once AIDS develops in the body, it can cause a variety of illnesses, including cancers, which eventually result in death.

How do you get it?
Through vaginal, oral, or anal sex. Also by sharing contaminated needles or other drugs; or from mother to child during pregnancy or breastfeeding. HIV can also be transferred through skin to skin contact with open sores and lesions. Kissing is considered a low risk activity for the spreading of HIV.
What are the consequences?

By weakening the bodys ability to fight disease, HIV makes an infected person more vulnerable to infections that they would not otherwise get. HIV can also cause infections that anyone can get, such as other STDs and pneumonia, to be much worse. HIV/AIDS is a fatal disease.

How do you treat it?

There is no cure for AIDS. However, early testing will allow for more options of anti-viral treatments that can help lengthen life for the AIDS victim. Antiviral treatments can slow the progression of HIV and prolong onset of AIDS.

How can you stop this?
The only way to totally avoid becoming infected with HIV is not have any type of sexual intercourse (anal, vaginal, and/or oral) or by only having sex within the context of marriage with one partner who is not infected. Annual testing is highly recommended for anyone who has had sex.