When one talks of STIs, the fear of contracting it is there. I remember the first time I heard of AIDS or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome caused by HIV or Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It sent the shivers down my spine. I was afraid to sit in the public bus or taxi. I was afraid to enter the public toilets. I was scared to consume food at the eateries for fear that some AIDS victim would have frequented the place.Apart from that, word circulated that drug addicts with AIDS, resorted to extortion, by using their unhygienic hypodermic needles as deadly weapons. I bore the pain of a bad tooth and avoided the dentist. I had sleepless nights worrying over an injection I was forced to take at the clinic. Touching personal items like tooth brushes and towels of others were taboo for me.
This brought to mind an article I read many years ago entitled,‘The boy in the bubble.’ I concluded that, that sounds like the first reported and recorded case of AIDS. I still cannot remember to date when or where the case was reported.
However, I have come to understand that AIDS cannot be contracted easily through ordinary contact. It was through infected blood and blood products, including semen and vaginal discharge that one contracts AIDS. There are three main ways of contracting AIDS. Firstly, when one has many partners for sexual activities and has unprotected vaginal and anal sex, or even oral sex, there is a high chance of contracting AIDS from an infected person. This includes gay sex relationships as well. Secondly, if one gets blood transfusion from blood which had not been screened properly for STIs like AIDS, there is a likelihood of contracting AIDS. Thirdly, a child can contract AIDS from a HIV positive mother through the placenta and mother’s milk. Full blown AIDS leads to many health complications as the virus targets and destroys the immune system. To date, there is no real cure or vaccine to fight AIDS.
Well that’s as far as AIDS is concerned. Now, let’s venture into the realms of the other feared STIs. Syphilis is next on the list as the deadliest STI. It is contracted via sexual intercourse, including anal and oral sex encounters. Expectant women with syphilis can transmit the disease known as congenital syphilis, to the foetus. The open sores in syphilis can give way to HIV infection as well. If treated early syphilis can be cured but if left untreated it can give rise to further health complications. Antibiotics are used to treat syphilis as it is caused by bacteria.
Another STI is gonorrhea. It is also caused by bacteria and can be treated with antibiotics. Like syphilis it is contracted through unprotected sex encounters, including oral and anal sex. Expectant mothers can pass the disease to their newborn through vaginal birth. If not treated gonorrhea too can give rise to further health complications.
Genital herpes is a viral disease transmitted through unprotected sex encounters with several partners, some of whom having the disease. Pregnant women with genital herpes contracted at later stage of pregnancy can pose risk of transmission to their newborn. However cases of this kind of transmission is often rare. In most cases, a caesarean operation is done to deliver babies of mothers with genital herpes.Only medication to suppress the disease and prevent it from being transmitted is available at the moment. Those with genital herpes are also vulnerable to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Genital Human Papilloma Virus, commonly known as HPV is the most common STI. Like the other STIs, it too is transmitted during sexual encounters. It can infect the genitals as well as the mouth and throat. Certain HPV can cause cancers. The HPV types that cause genital warts do not cause cancers.Vaccines are available to prevent HPV infections. Women should go for regular ‘papsmear’ test to arrest any development of cervical cancer. But the best form of prevention is by abstaining from unprotected sexual activity with multiple partners.
Trichomoniasis is caused by a parasitic protozoan transmitted through unprotected sexual encounter with multiple partners. It is easy to cure and there is a high risk of contracting HIV if left untreated. Pregnant women with Trichomoniasis are liable to give birth to premature, low weight babies.
Hepatitis B is a highly contagious disease spread through infectious blood or body fluids containing blood. The mode of transmission of the Hepatitis B virus is similar to HIV. In fact Hepatitis B virus is more infectious than HIV. An outbreak of Hepatitis B can be prevented through vaccination against the disease.
Chlaymydia is a common STI caused by bacteria and though it is easy to cure, it leaves one infertile.
Bacterial Vaginiosis or BV is common in women who have more harmful bacteria than the beneficial bacteria in the vagina. Some activities or habits, like having sexual encounters with multiple partners or even douching, can upset the balance and create an inbalance in the flora within the vagina.