Given that winter is popularly known as “cuffing season,” it makes sense that the free spirit of summer is the polar opposite: singles season. With people meeting, hooking up, making connections, and “Netflix and Chill”-ing, there are particular precautions that need to be taken. Most notably, actions to prevent contraction of Sexually Transmitted Infections (previously known as STDs).
Sexually Transmitted Infections are contagious infections passed between people during sexual contaxt, whether it be vaginal, anal, or oral contact, as well as through exchange of other bodily fluids such as blood. Semen, vaginal fluids, blood, and contact with open sores or mucous membranes (such as part of the eyes, nose, mouth, anus, and vagina) are all involved in the contraction and spread of STIs.
While these infections are often stigmatized, it is important to understand that the incidence of disease is not rare. According to the WHO, “More than 1 million STIs are acquired every day.” This number doesn’t even acount for the number of people living with an incurable condition, such as HIV or AIDS, or individuals who are infected but have not undergone treatment. Additionally, it doesn’t account for those who are unknowingly affected because they are asymptomatic. Let’s discuss some of the most common STIs.
Chlamydia- This bacterial infection can be asymptomatic, so infected individuals may not know they have it. Some symptoms include those common to general illnesses, such as fever and abdominal pain. However, infection in women can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease which is an infection of the repoductive organs that can be serious if not treated early and appropriately.
Gonorrhea- This bacterial STI can also cause PID and be asymptomatic for some people. For others, it can cause discharge and pain with urination.
Herpes- The herpes virus causes blisters and sores is caused by the HSV-1 strain. The HSV-2 strain causes painful, watery blisters. While some people are asymptomatic or experience occasional outbreaks. This condition cannot be cured, but it can be managed with treatment.
HIV/AIDS-HIV is a viral infection that affects the immune system. This virus attacks white blood cells and weakens the efficiency of the immune system. If the condition progresses beyond a particular threshold, the diagnosis of AIDS is given. With early treatment and medical care, the progression of HIV can be slowed or halted to the point that AIDS never develops.
HPV- There are many stains of viruses in the HPV family. The symptoms of these infections vary and in most cases, the infection resolves on its own. However, HPV has been linked to certain forms of cancer affecting the repoductive system in both males and females. There is currently a vaccine available that can prevent the most common strains that are linked to cervical cancer.
Hepatits B-This virus can be spread by more than repoductive fluids. Items of personal hygeine can spread the illness. There are aproximately 257 million people living with Hep B. This infection affects the liver and can cause cirrhosis or even liver cancer. There is a vaccine for this STI available.
Syphilis– This bacterial infection is divided into 3 stages, each with its own distinct set of symptoms. In the primary stage, there are sores around the infections site. In the secondary stage, symptoms spread to include systemic signs. This includes a skin rash, lymph node swelling and fever. In the tertiary phase, the infection has continued to spread to serious stages and can infect the heart, brain and organs. This infection can be effectively treated with early management and prescription antibiotics.
Sexually Transmitted Infections result from sexual contact. They can be prevented, limiting the spread of these infections through safe sex practices and precautions.