Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is no news to many people. In the markets, at bus stops, schools, even in places of worship, there is one announcement or the other about STIs and how to treat them. So much information has been given that sometimes one wonders if all of what is said about a particular STI is true, whether a fact has been a lot in the whole rubble of information that it is no longer possible to separate one from another. How much about STIs do you know?
What is an STI?
An STI is an infection passed from person to person through sexual contact. Whether it is vaginal, anal, or oral sex, STI can be transmitted from a person who is the carrier to another when there is no form of protection (by protection, it is meant the use of a condom). An STI may also be called a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or venereal disease (VD). Sex is not the only way to get an STI. Breastfeeding and sharing of sharp objects can serve as a medium of transmission.
Symptoms of STIs
A symptom is a feeling of ill-health a person gets when they are down with an infection. General symptoms of diseases include fever, headache, body pain, a feeling to throw up (nausea), and lack of appetite (anorexia) amongst others. The patient feels these, no other person can know about it except the patient speaks up about how they feel.
It is different from a sign which is outward and shows on the body of the person suffering from an infection. Examples are rashes, weight loss, yellowing of the eye, sores, etc.
These signs and symptoms can be mild, moderate, or severe depending on how much discomfort they cause. Let us look at some sing and symptoms of STIs in both men and women. It’s possible to contract an STI without developing symptoms, in this case, it is called an asymptomatic infection, but it doesn’t mean that the infection is not there. In this case, a test would detect the infection. The specific signs and symptoms can vary from one STI to another.
- pain or discomfort during sex or urination
- sores, bumps, or rashes on or around the penis, testicles, anus, buttocks, thighs, or mouth
- unusual discharge or bleeding from the penis
- painful or swollen testicles
- pain or discomfort during sex or urination
- sores, bumps, or rashes on or around the vagina, anus, buttocks, thighs, or mouth
- unusual discharge or bleeding from the vagina
- itchiness in or around the vagina
There are more than 30 different bacteria, viruses, and parasites are known to be transmitted through sexual contact. Of the more than 30, 8 are prevalent and easily spread. 4 are currently curable: Syphilis, Gonorrhoea, chlamydia, and Trichomoniasis.
The other 4 are viral infections which are incurable: Hepatitis B, Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV or herpes), HIV, and Human papillomavirus (HPV). Symptoms or disease due to incurable viral infections can be reduced or modified through treatment. Other infections include
- Pubic lice (‘crabs’)
- Lymphogranuloma venereum
- Granuloma inguinale
- Molluscum contagiosum
STDs from oral sex
Vaginal and anal sex isn’t the only way STDs are transmitted. It’s also possible to contract or transmit an STD through oral sex. In other words, STDs can be passed from one person’s genitals to another person’s mouth or throat and vice versa. Oral STDs aren’t always noticeable. When they do cause symptoms, they often include a sore throat or sores around the mouth or throat.
Depending on your sexual history, your healthcare provider might recommend STD testing even if you don’t have symptoms. This is because STDs don’t cause noticeable symptoms in many cases. But even symptom-free STDs can cause damage or be passed to other people.
To diagnose an STI will require a test. You can go to a health facility and demand a test. You might be asked to give a urine or blood sample for the test to be performed. Alternatively, there are home test kits available for diagnosing some STIs. You can get them at a pharmacy or health facility closest to you.
Different treatment options are available for different infections. Generally, for most STIs caused by bacteria, an antibiotic would be prescribed by the physician. For STIs caused by viruses, antiretroviral drugs or other treatment options would suffice. Although the aim is not to cure but to limit the damaging effect of the infection. Viruses are harder to eradicate than bacteria.
STIs are everywhere and a level of care is required from you are sexually active. These are some measure to protect yourself
- Stick with a partner
- Use a condom always for anal vaginal and oral sex. Alternatively, you can use a dental dam in the case of oral sex.
- Go for a test often and know your status
- Abstinence remains the best protection against STI transmission.
These STIs are so small, they cannot be seen with the naked eyes. Moreover, they are prevalent among the people and it is your duty and right to make wise sexual choices and protect yourself. Avoid risky sexual behavior.