Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are passed from one person to another through intimate physical contact --such as heavy petting-- and from sexual activity including vaginal, oral and anal sex. HIV can also be spread through the sharing of needles. STDs are not transmitted through day-to-day contact in social settings such as schools or at the workplace, nor are they transmitted through casual contact -- including kissing, shaking hands or hugging. Dirty toilet seats, mosquitoes, eating utensils and drinking glasses pose no risks of transmission.
Symptoms of an STD infection
- Symptoms and signs of disease may include vaginal discharge, penile discharge, and ulcers on or around the genitals and pelvic pain.
- STDs do not always cause symptoms, so it is possible to have an infection and not know it.
- Sometimes, STD infections cause symptoms that alert the infected person. In many instances the symptoms are very slight and may not be noticed, or there are no signs or symptoms.
- Any infected person --with or without symptoms-- places their health at risk and risks the possibility of infecting any person with whom they have sexual contact.
- Waiting for signs of an infection before testing can be a costly and sometimes fatal.
The importance of testing
- There are dozens of STDs.
- STDs caused by bacteria or other organisms are usually curable with antibiotics, requiring only one clinic visit.
- STDs caused by a virus are not curable, but can be treated, managed and controlled.
- Getting tested can help determine the type of STD present and what treatment may be needed.
The importance of treatment
- STD infections, left untreated, can spread to other areas of the body, causing serious medical conditions such as crippling arthritis, blindness, heart attack and death.
- When a pregnant woman with an STD infection is untreated, her unborn infant is at risk for serious health problems, including death.
- Infants can be infected with HIV before birth, during birth and through breast-feeding after birth from an infected mother.
- When someone develops an STD infection, they are also at a high risk of acquiring HIV. Conversely, when an HIV-infected person is also infected with another STD, they are much more likely to transmit HIV than someone who is only HIV-infected.
- STD treatment reduces the ability of an HIV-positive individual to transmit HIV.
STDs On The Rise - report from the National Coalition of STD Directors