STDs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases)

What are STDs?

Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) are diseases passed from one person to another during sexual activity. STDs can be serious, painful and may have long term effects, especially if left undetected and untreated. They infect your sexual and reproductive organs. The most common STDs on college campuses identified in young adults include: chlamydia, genital herpes and HPV. Bacterial STDs like gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis, are relatively easy to cure with antibiotics if detected and treated early. Genital herpes, genital warts, Hepatitis B and HIV are viral infections that cannot be cured, but the symptoms can be treated and managed. Sometimes you can have an STD with no signs or symptoms. Other times, the symptoms spontaneously go away, but you still have the infection.

How are STDs spread?

STDs can be spread during vaginal, oral and anal sexual contact with an infected person. Skin to skin contact with the mouth or genitals can spread certain STDs, even if penetration did not occur.

You can protect yourself from STDs

Anyone who is sexually active can get or transmit an STD, so it's important to reduce your risk.

Abstain from sexual contact to eliminate all risk or engage in behaviors that don’t involved skin to skin contact, or contact with the bodily fluids of your partner(s) like: fantasy, massage and mutual masturbation. If you decide to engage in other sexual behaviors consider the following:

What To Do

It's normal to feel guilty, ashamed or embarrassed if you think you have an STD. If you do have these feelings, don't let them prevent you from getting tested.

How can I talk to my partner about STDs?

Before I become infected

The key to prevention is to limit your risk. It can be difficult to bring up the topic with a prospective sexual partner. Keep in mind that if your partner cares about you and you about him/her, you will want to keep each other safe from any diseases. Below are some tips to help communication before you have sex.

After I am diagnosed with an STD

It can be scary and shocking to be diagnosed with an STD, especially if it is viral and not curable (like herpes or human papilloma virus). However, many couples face these diagnoses together and learn ways to enjoy a fully satisfying sexual life. If you're not currently in a relationship, you can still enjoy dating and sexual activities with a new partner, as long as precautions are taken to reduce the likelihood of transmission. Inform your new partner of your history prior to sexual activities.

Most bacterial STDs are treated with a high dose of antibiotics. It is important to do exactly what your provider recommends, and be sure to use all of your medicine. You should also consider telling your past and present sexual partner(s). If they aren't treated, they can spread the STD - they can even give it to you again. Ask your provider when you can resume sexual activity.

Where To Go – McKinley Health Center:

Other Resources

BACTERIAL STDs (CURABLE with medication treatment)

Bacterial STD
CHLAMYDIA

Diagnosis:
Men: Urethral swab or urine specimen*    
Women:
Vaginal/cervical swab or urine specimen*

When to be tested:
2-3 weeks after exposure. * All Gonorrhea/Chlamydia urine specimen tests are scheduled through the Lab – It is important not to void/urinate 2 hours before testing.

What to watch for:
• Symptoms may appear 7-21 days after infection.
• Many women and some men have no symptoms.

Men:
• Watery or white discharge from the penis.
• Burning or pain when you urinate.
• Pain or swelling in the testicles.

Women:
• Unusual discharge from the vagina.
• Bleeding from the vagina between periods.
• Burning or pain when you urinate.
• Abdominal pain, sometimes fever and nausea.

How did you get this STD?
• Vaginal, anal and sometimes oral sex with someone who has chlamydia.
• All sexual partners (of a person testing positive for chlamydia) in the last 60 days need treatment regardless of the clinical findings.

What can happen?
• Can be cured if treated with recommended medications.
• YOU CAN GIVE CHLAMYDIA TO YOUR SEXUAL PARTNER(S).
• Can lead to a more serious infection.
• Reproductive organs can be damaged.
• Fertility may be affected for both men and women, if left untreated.
• May be transmitted to newborns during childbirth.


Bacterial STD
GONORRHEA

Diagnosis:
Oral or anal swab or urine specimen*. Men: Urethral swab. Women: Cervical swab.

When to be tested:
2-3 weeks after exposure. * All Gonorrhea/Chlamydia urine specimen tests are scheduled through the Lab – It is important not to void/urinate 2 hours before testing.

What to watch for:
• Symptoms may appear 7-21 days after infection.
• Many women and some men have no symptoms.

Men:
• Watery or white discharge from the penis.
• Burning or pain when you urinate.
• Pain or swelling in the testicles.

Women:
• Unusual discharge from the vagina.
• Bleeding from the vagina between periods.
• Burning or pain when you urinate.
• Abdominal pain, sometimes fever and nausea.

How did you get this STD?
• Vaginal, oral or anal sex with someone who has gonorrhea.
• All sexual partners (of a person testing positive for gonorrhea) in the last 60 days need treatment regardless of the clinical findings.

What can happen?
• Can be cured if treated; drug resistant cases are growing nationwide.
• You should be retested 3 months after treatment, to make sure you have not been re-infected.
• YOU CAN GIVE GONORRHEA TO YOUR SEXUAL PARTNER(S).
• Can lead to more serious infection.
• Reproductive organs can be damaged.
• Fertility may be affected for both men and women, if left untreated.
• May be transmitted to newborns during childbirth.


Bacterial STD
SYPHILIS

Diagnosis:
Blood draw

When to be tested:
12 weeks (3 months) after exposure

What to watch for:
1st Stage:
• Symptoms usually appear 1-2 weeks after infection.
• A painless, reddish-brown sore/chancre on the mouth or genitals.
• Chancre lasts 1-5 weeks.
• Chancre heals.
2nd Stage:
• Symptoms usually appear 2-6 weeks after chancre disappears.
• A rash appears on the body.
• Flu-like feelings.
• Rash and flu-like feelings go away, but you still have syphilis.

How did you get this STD?
• Vaginal, oral or anal sex with someone who has syphilis.
• Sexual partners need treatment.

What can happen?
• Can be cured if treated with recommended medications.
• YOU CAN GIVE SYPHILIS TO YOUR SEXUAL PARTNER(S).
• A pregnant woman with syphilis can pass it to her baby (in the uterus).
• Can cause heart disease, brain damage, blindness and death if left untreated.


Bacterial STD
NGU
Men - (Nongonococcal or nonspecific Urethritis, NSU) Women – Cervicitis

Diagnosis:
Non-specific diagnosis
Men: Urethral swab or urine sample. Women: Cervical swab

When to be tested:
2-3 weeks after exposure

What to watch for:
• Symptoms usually appear 7-21 days after infection.
• Most women and some men have no symptoms.
• Discharge or burning in the vagina.
• Burning or pain when you urinate.
• Yellow or white discharge from the penis.

How did you get this STD?
• Vaginal or anal sex with someone who has a NGU infection.
• Sexual partners need testing and possible treatment.

What can happen?
• Can be cured if treated with recommended medications.
• YOU CAN GIVE NGU INFECTIONS TO YOUR SEXUAL PARTNER(S).
• Can lead to more serious infection.
• Reproductive organs can be damaged.
• Fertility may be affected for both men and women, if left untreated.
• May be transmitted to newborns during childbirth.


Bacterial STD
TRICHOMONIASIS (Trich)

Diagnosis:
Men: Urine test           Women: Vaginal swab

When to be tested:
2-3 weeks after exposure

What to watch for:
• Symptoms usually appear 4-20 days after infection.
• Some women and most men have no symptoms.

Women:
• Heavy, yellow/green or grey discharge from the vagina.
• Itching, redness and swelling around the genitals.
• Vaginal odor.
• Pain with intercourse or when you urinate.

Men:
• Thin, white discharge from the penis.
• Burning or pain when you urinate.

How did you get this STD?
• Vaginal sex with someone who has trichomoniasis.
• Sometimes passed by sharing moist objects - such as towels, washcloths, bathing suits and sex toys.
• Partners need treatment.
What can happen?
• Can be cured if treated with recommended medications.
• YOU CAN GIVE TRICHOMONIASIS TO YOUR SEXUAL PARTNER(S).
• Uncomfortable symptoms will continue.
• May cause pregnancy complications.


VIRAL STDs (Treatable, not curable)

Viral STD
GENITAL HERPES (HSV-1 and HSV-2)

Diagnosis:
Made by taking a swab sample from active sores/lesions. Blood tests may assist diagnosis in patients with history of unexplained ulcerative disease.

When to be tested:
Culture/swab when sores are present. Blood test when sores are not present, at least 100 days after contact/post-exposure. (It can take from 3 weeks to 4 months after exposure to HSV for antibodies to be detected in the blood.)

When not to be tested:
The value of blood test is reduced in low risk populations (those without a history of genital ulcers). Blood tests, which detect antibodies to HSV-1 or HSV-2 infection can be helpful, although the results are not always clear-cut.

What to watch for:
• Symptoms usually appear 2-30 days after infection with the virus.
• Some people have mild or no symptoms.
• Flu-like symptoms.
• Small, painful blisters on the genitals (or mouth).
• Itching or burning before blisters appear.
• Painful ulcers when the blisters break.

How did you get this STD?
• Vaginal, oral or anal sex - or skin to skin contact with someone who has herpes.
• Oral herpes can be transmitted to the genitals during oral sex.
• Asymptomatic transmission can occur (when no blisters are visible).
What can happen?
• YOU CAN GIVE HERPES TO YOUR SEXUAL PARTNER(S).
• Herpes symptoms can be treated, but an infected person will always have the virus.
• May be transmitted to newborns during childbirth.


Viral STD
HEPATITIS B

Diagnosis:
Blood draw

When to be tested:
12 weeks (three months) after exposure

What to watch for:
• Symptoms usually appear 2-6 months after infection.
• Fatigue and weakness.
• Anorexia (loss of appetite).
• Jaundice and darkened urine.
• Fever and abdominal pain.
• Majority of those infected have no symptoms.

How did you get this STD?
• Vaginal, oral or anal sex with someone who has the virus (it is 100 times more infectious than HIV).
• Sharing needles (to inject drugs) with someone who is infected.
• Close, frequent contact with infected blood, semen, vaginal secretions, saliva or someone with whom you share a needle.
What can happen?
• YOU CAN GIVE HEPATITIS B TO YOUR SEXUAL PARTNER(S).
• You can develop a lifelong infection (carrier state), chronic liver disease or hepatoma (liver cancer).
• You can infect future children if you become a carrier.
• Vaccination can prevent Hepatitis B.


Viral STD
HUMAN PAPILLOMA VIRUS, GENITAL WARTS (HPV)

Diagnosis:
Men: Visual exam     Women: Visual exam; sometimes detected on pap smear.

When to be tested:
12 weeks (three months) after exposure

What to watch for:
• This is the most common STD in college populations!
• Symptoms usually appear within 3-6 months after infection with the virus.
• In some cases, symptoms may not appear for years (maybe 30 yrs).
• Small, bumpy growths on the genitals and anus.
• Itching and burning around the genitals.
• Intra-anal warts may be transmitted with anal-receptive intercourse
• Most warts do not go away without treatment.

How did you get this STD?
• Vaginal, oral or anal sex or skin to skin contact with someone who has the virus.
• Asymptomatic transmission (no visible warts) can occur.
What can happen?
• Vaccination is available to prevent the most serious strains of HPV.
• YOU CAN GIVE HPV TO YOUR SEXUAL PARTNER(S).
• Viral load in young healthy individuals can be cleared to non-detectable levels in an average of 8-24 months.
• More warts may appear; but transmission is possible without visible lesions/warts.
• May lead to abnormal pap test results, cervical cancer, penile cancer or anal cancer.
• May be transmitted to newborns during childbirth.


Viral STD
HIV/AIDS

Diagnosis:
Blood draw

When to be tested:
12 weeks (three months) after exposure

What to watch for:
• Symptoms appear several months to several years after infection with the virus.
• Unexplained weight loss.
• Persistent diarrhea.
• Swollen lymph glands.
• Purple bumps on the skin and inside the mouth, nose and rectum.
• Recurrent yeast infections.

How did you get this STD?
• Vaginal, anal and possibly oral sex with someone who is infected with the virus.
• Sharing needles (to inject drugs) with someone who is infected with the virus.
What can happen?
• YOU CAN GIVE HIV TO YOUR SEXUAL PARTNER(S) OR SOMEONE WITH WHOM YOU SHARE A NEEDLE.
• HIV cannot be cured. Most people die from a disease linked to HIV infection.
• A pregnant woman can pass the virus to her baby.


Remember: You can be infected without symptoms if you have been exposed to an STD.
Symptoms should be taken seriously. Even if symptoms "go away" on their own, you may still be infected.

References:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines 2006. MMWR 2006;55(No. RR-11). August 4, 2006.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance, 2006. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, November 2007.