The straight facts about sexually transmitted diseases

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), also commonly called sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and venereal disease (VD), are diseases and syndromes that are transferred via sexual acts. Many are carried in bodily fluids such as semen, vaginal fluid and blood and require intercourse for transmission, but others can be exchanged through saliva or simply touching an infected area.

Unfortunately, STDs are relatively common among college-aged people. In fact, almost 65 percent of all people affected by an STD are under the age of 25. The most common STDs on college campuses include herpes, chlamydia, genital warts and human papillomavirus (HPV). Other, less common (but equally serious) STDs include gonorrhea, hepatitis, syphilis, trichomoniasis and HIV/AIDS.

If untreated, STDs can have serious and potentially life-threatening health consequences, including scarring, chronic infection, sterility, blindness, brain damage, heart disease and even cancer.

Do I Have an STD?

Many students are very embarrassed by the idea of openly discussing STDs and, as a result of this, are uneducated about the risks associated with them. Such students are prone to misattributing the symptoms of an STD to another, more benign cause and not seeking treatment.

If you have any of the following symptoms, you may have an STD:

  • Sores around your mouth or your genitals
  • Swollen glands near your genitals
  • Pain or a burning sensation while urinating
  • A frequent need to urinate
  • Fever, chills or other flu-like symptoms
  • Discharge from the genitals
  • Odor or non-menstrual bleeding emanating from the vagina

Unfortunately, many STDs have no visible symptoms and may lie dormant for extended periods of time. Visual inspection of a partner’s genitals is not a reliable means of determining whether he or she has an STD. In fact, as many as 80 percent of carriers may not even know they have an STD. The only reliable method to protect yourself is to get tested along with your partner before entering a sexual relationship.

STD symptoms will not disappear if you don’t seek treatment. In fact, the longer you wait to seek treatment, the higher the risk of facing serious long-term consequences and the higher the risk that you will infect someone else. If you suspect that you have an STD, immediately consult a doctor and inform your previous sexual partners so that they can be tested and seek treatment if needed.

Can STDs Be Cured?

STDs are caused by both viral and bacterial infections. Bacterial STDs like chlamydia, syphilis and gonorrhea can be treated with antibiotics if they are caught early. Viral STDs like herpes, genital warts and HIV/AIDS can’t be cured, but there are methods for relieving their symptoms.

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