Sexually transmitted diseases were generally incurable, and treatment was limited to treating the symptoms of the disease. The first voluntary hospital for venereal diseases was founded in 1746 at London Lock Hospital. Treatment was not always voluntary: in the second half of the 19th century, the Contagious Diseases Act was used to arrest suspected prostitutes.
Sexually transmitted diseases (also known as STDs — or STIs for "sexually transmitted infections") are infectious diseases that spread from person to person through intimate contact. STDs can affect guys and girls of all ages and backgrounds who are having sex — it doesn't matter if they're rich or poor.
Unfortunately, STDs have become common among teens. Because teens are more at risk for getting some STDs, it's important to learn what you can do to protect yourself.
STDs are more than just an embarrassment. They're a serious health problem. If untreated, some STDs can cause permanent damage, such as infertility (the inability to have a baby) and even death (in the case of HIV/AIDS).
FACTS OF LIFE:
- For the vast majority, sexual relations begin in adolescence.
- Unprotected sexual relations increase risks of unwanted pregnancy and early childbirth, as well as unsafe abortion and sexually transmitted diseases (STD) including HIV/AIDS.
- Lack of knowledge and access to contraceptives as well as vulnerability to sexual abuse puts adolescents at highest risk of unwanted pregnancy.
- In developing countries, maternal mortality in girls under 18 is two to five times higher than in women from 18 to 25.
- Worldwide, more than 10% of all births are to women 15 to 19 years of age.
- Adolescent abortions are estimated between 1 and 4.4 million per year, most of which are unsafe because they are performed illegally and under hazardous circumstances by unskilled practitioners.
- Each year more than one out of 20 adolescents contracts a curable STD, not including viral infections.
In the 1980s, first genital herpes and then AIDS emerged into the public consciousness as sexually transmitted diseases that could not be cured by modern medicine. AIDS in particular has a long asymptomatic period—during which time HIV (the human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS) can replicate and the disease can be transmitted to others—followed by a symptomatic period, which leads rapidly to death unless treated. Recognition that AIDS threatened a global pandemic led to public information campaigns and the development of treatments that allow AIDS to be managed by suppressing the replication of HIV for as long as possible. Contact tracing continues to be an important measure, even when diseases are incurable, as it helps to contain infection.
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are infectious diseases that are spread through sexual contact. STDs are among the most common infectious diseases in the world today. There are more than 20 types, affecting more than 13 million men and women in the United States each year. Some of the most common STDs include chlamydia infection, genital herpes, genital warts, gonorrhea, HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), and syphilisyphilis.
Signs and Symptoms:
STDs often happen without symptoms, particularly in women. However, STDs may have the following signs and symptoms:
- Discharge from the penis or vagina
- Pustules (pus-containing blisters)
- Genital sores including ulcers, blisters, rashes, and warts.
- Abdominal pain
- Rectal infection and inflammation of the rectum
- Muscle pain
- Painful urination
- Painful sex
- Bleeding between menstrual cycles
- Repeated urinary tract infections
- Swollen lymph glands in the groin
What Causes It?:
STDs are caused by viruses, bacteria, and parasites spread primarily (but not always) through sexual contact. Some STDs can be passed from a mother to her baby during delivery and through breast-feeding while infected. Others may be passed by sharing infected needles. Some of the most common STDs, and the microorganisms that cause them, include:
- AIDS: human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
- Chlamydia infection: Chlamydia trachomatis
- Genital herpes: herpes simplex virus (HSV)
- Genital warts: human papillomavirus (HPV)
- Gonorrhea: Neisseria gonorrhoeae
- Syphilis: Treponema pallidum
- Other infections can be spread through sexual contact or non-sexual contact, such as the Epstein-Barr virus, hepatitis A, and candidal (yeast) infections.
Who's Most At Risk?:
These conditions or characteristics put you at risk for developing STDs:
Sexually active adults ages 18 - 28. Teens are at highest risk for acquiring an STD for the first time.
Having a sexual partner with an STD. In many cases, the person may not have symptoms.
Having many sexual partners, or a partner who has many sexual partners.
Having sex without a condom or other protection.
Having one STD increases the chance of getting another.
Living under stress from poverty, poor nutrition, or lack of health care.
Having anal intercourse increases risk for HIV, gonorrhea, and syphilis.
Having a weakened immune system.
Using IV drugs and sharing needles.