In sex education classes, we were probably all told “Don’t do it because you’ll get pregnant” or “Don’t do it ’cause you’ll catch STDs.” It was enough to scare us but did we really understand the concept of sexually transmitted diseases? We were so scared at the thought of sexually transmitted diseases that we’d cringe when it’s discussed in class or by our parents.
Sadly though, even in these liberal times, the stigma associated with STDs is still felt. People perceived to have contracted sexually transmitted diseases are still treated with contempt and aversion. Some people may not agree with this, but sex ,whether we like it or not, is an inevitable part of our lives. People, young and old, married or not, committed or not, gay or straight engage on it. The most that we could do is to be aware and keep an open mind to avoid contracting such.
If we are to engage in sex, or if one at one point in our lives, we encounter people with sexually transmitted diseases, we should at least know that STDs are highly curable and that infected people are not necessarily living with questionable lifestyles and moral practices. Some STDs are not acquired due to the act of sex itself but though other circumstances.
Below are some of the most reported cases of STDs, their causes, and their complications:
Bacterial Vaginosis– a woman’s vagina mostly contains “good bacteria’ and few of the “bad bacteria” and if the growth of the latter overtakes the former, then bacterial vaginosis occurs.
- Who are at risk – Any woman can get BV but not much is known about how it can be acquired. Women do not get it from infected toilet seats, sheets, swimming pools, or from touching objects around them. Women who have never had sex before may also get infected. According to studies though, certain activities like sex with multiple partners and douching (washing or soaking the inside of the vagina with water or other mixtures of fluids) can increase the risk of contracting BV.
- Symptoms – most women do not exhibit any symptoms but with some, BV is accompanied with vaginal discharge with an unpleasant fish-like odor, especially after intercourse. Discharge, if present, is usually white or gray; it can be thin. Some may also experience burning sensation during urination or itching around the outside of the vagina.
- Treatment – BV, sometimes, would clear up on its own, but treatment specially for pregnant women is recommended. It is treated with antibiotics, whose brand and dosage , should be prescribed by your doctor. BV, though highly curable, may recur even after treatment.
- Complications– Untreated BV increases the risk of HIV infections and other STDs such as herpes simplex, chlamydia and gonorrhea. Acquiring BV while pregnant will increase the risk of preterm delivery or low birth weight of the baby.
Chlamydia is known as the silent disease as it does not show any signs or symptoms in most 70-75% of those infected. It is caused by the bacterium chlamydia trachomatis and will infect the cervix in women and the urethra and rectum in both men and women. Chlamydia can, sometimes, affect other parts of the body, including the throat and eyes.
- Who are at risk – men and women who engage in unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex alike can get infected. Infection can also be transferred from the fingers to the genitals to the eyes, though it rarely happens. Mothers infected can also pass it on to her baby in normal childbirth.
- Symptoms – A woman infected with chlamydia will have an increase in vaginal discharge due to her inflamed cervix; may have pain during or bleeding after sex; will need to urinate more often; may encounter pain while urinating; can have pelvic pains and may have irregular menstrual bleeding. Men, generally, will have watery discharge, and sometimes pain and swelling in the testicles can occur. Burning sensation while passing on urine may also happen.
- Treatment – Chlamydia is treated with dosage of antibiotics and when taken correctly, can be up to 95% curable. As with other infections, antibiotics treatment should not be interrupted, otherwise you’d have to start the treatment from scratch.
- Complications-Chlamydia, when left undiagnosed and untreated can lead to serious complications for both men and women. With both sexes, chlamydia can lead to infertility (the fallopian tubs of women gets scarred while men’s tube testicles can get so inflamed which can cause sterility). Women may contract Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) which infects the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes, which will increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy or premature birth. It can also inflame the cervix, a condition called Cervicitis. This may cause growth and cyst infection which could then lead to abdominal pains and backaches. In men, it can cause accumulation of discharge in the urethra causing difficulty in urinating and may eventually lead to complications in the kidneys.
STDs should no longer be an object of embarrassment. You should be able to freely discuss your sexual and reproductive life with your doctor for correct diagnosis.