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Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Sexually Transmitted Diseases, commonly known as STD’s, are diseases that can be contracted and spread by having sex with someone who has one of the diseases. Sexual activity can include contact with the mouth, anus, vagina and penis (all of which are capable of spreading STD’s). These can be serious illnesses and require immediate attention. Some STD’s, such as AIDS, are deadly and have no cure, therefore it is important to learn ways to protect yourself from STD’s such as: genital herpes, hepatitis B, chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhea, and HIV/AIDS.

Genital Herpes- Genital herpes is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States, affecting about 1 out of every 5 people. Genital herpes is a contagious infection that is spread in several ways. One of which is through sexual contact (including anal and oral sex) with a person who has the infected sores, while another way to spread the disease is during birth if the mother has an active infection. Symptoms include: swollen glands, inflamed skin (on or near sex organs), blister-like sores, fever, headache, burning sensation during urination, as well as muscle aches.

Hepatitis B- Hepatitis B is an STD that mainly affects the liver. The damage caused by the Hepatitis B virus can cause scarring, failure, and cancer of the liver. While some people can eventually grow immune to the virus after being infected for several months, others continue to get worse. However, it is important to get regular check-ups, for you can contract, and live with the disease without noticing any symptoms. The virus can be spread through unprotected sex, as well as by kissing, and even sharing food or drinks.

Chlamydia- Chlamydia is another one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the United States, and can sometimes be passed on to sexual partners unknowingly due to the possibility that symptoms don’t always appear. However, when they do, men usually experience: painful urination, pain and swelling, as well as cloudy discharge from the penis. Women with Chlamydia usually experience: painful urination, painful periods, itching/burning, as well as abdominal pains and even fevers.

Syphilis- Once a major health risk, syphilis is now one of the least common sexually transmitted diseases. It is a bacterium that can spread via sexual activity, kissing, as well as close bodily contact (but can also be spread from mother to child during birth). Once again, it is important to get regular check-ups if you are sexually active. Syphilis can be diagnosed quickly and inexpensively by means of a simple blood test.

Gonorrhea- Gonorrhea, which is most often spread by people who have numerous sexual partners, is a disease passed on via sexual contact and through birth. Gonorrhea, a fairly common STD, is a bacterium that thrives in warm, moist areas (such as the cervix and uterus in women, and the urethra in men). Symptoms don’t always appear, so regular check-ups are recommended.

When symptoms arise, women can experience: abdominal pain, burning during urination, swollen glands, red/itchy eyes, as well as yellow/green discharge from the vagina. Men with gonorrhea experience symptoms of: burning during urination, swollen glands, as well as yellow/green discharge from the penis.

HIV/AIDS- HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is the virus that causes AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome). HIV breaks down ones immune system, which is responsible for protecting the body from certain diseases. Therefore, ones body becomes less effective in fighting infections and cancer. Once a person acquires certain diseases (such as cancer or other infections) they are said to have developed full blown AIDS. HIV and AIDS are not identical; and it can take many years for someone with HIV to develop AIDS. However, neither of the two can be cured and people will most likely die from the disease.

HIV/AIDS can be contracted many different ways, such as: the exchange of blood (having sex or sharing needles while abusing drugs), semen, through broken skin, as well as through breast milk. HIV can be spread through all forms of sex including oral sex and anal sex. Mothers with HIV can even pass the disease onto their children. Signs of HIV can only be found in blood tests, and one can be infected for years without knowing so.

All content © Copyright Kristin Brooks Hope Center 2005