Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI): All You Need to Know
1) What is an STI ?
A sexually transmitted infection (STI), also known as sexually transmitted disease (STI) and venereal disease, is an infection that is usually spreads during sex, especially during vaginal intercourse, anal sex or oral sex.
Most STIs do not show symptoms at first; which increases the risk of transmitting the disease. STIs contracted before or during birth can have serious consequences for the baby. More than 30 different bacteria, viruses and parasites can cause STIs:
- Bacterial STIs include chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis, among others.
- Viral STIs include genital herpes, HIV / AIDS and genital warts, among others.
- Parasitic STIs include among others trichomoniasis.
2) How do STIs spread ?
Most STIs spread through contact with infected body fluids such as blood, vaginal secretions or sperm. The modes of transmission are:
- Sexual transmission (genital-anal, genital-genital, oral-genital / anal)
- Skin-to-skin contact (ie, kissing, penetration-free sex, body rub)
- Mixture of infectious body fluids (blood, sperm, vaginal secretions)
- Sharing needles and other medical accessories, or sting by infected needles.
- From a pregnant woman to her fetus during delivery, or to infants through breast milk.
- Infestations (pubic lice) can also be transmitted by clothing, bedding, sheets, etc.
3) How to avoid an STI ?
The best way to avoid an STI is to not have sex. If you decide to have sex, you should:
- Make sure you use the condoms correctly.
- Use a water-based lubricant with condoms: the lubricant will prevent the condom from puncturing. Never use lubricants containing oil or grease such as Vaseline or cooking oil. These products weaken the “latex” and can cause condom breakage.
- Limit the number of sexual partners: The more partners you have, the more you are exposed to an STI.
- Choose partners who have not had sex with many other partners and will only have sex with you while you are together. You should ask your partner (s) if he has an STI, has been exposed to or has physical symptoms of an STI.
- DO NOT have sex with someone who has signs of an STI (sores, rashes, or discharge from the genital area).
Other ways to avoid an STI are:
- Do not inject drugs or have sex with someone who has injected drugs.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs because they can make you more likely to have sex with anyone.
- Get vaccinated against hepatitis B and HPV.
4) What to do if I think I have an STI?
If you have symptoms of an STI, unexplained problems, or if you think you have been exposed to an STI (even if you have no symptoms), see your doctor right away and take your test.
You can not properly test or diagnose an STI by yourself. Only your doctor can do it. Most STIs can be treated. The sooner you receive treatment, the better it is for you. More serious problems may develop if you delay. The treatment is given in a single dose, but sometimes you have to take medication for a period of time.
5) What serious problems can STIs cause?
If STIs are not treated, they can have serious side effects, such as:
- Worsening of the infection
- Infertility (unable to have children)
- Increased risk for certain types of cancer
- Brain damage
- Heart disease
- Congenital malformations
6) Treatment of STIs
STIs caused by bacteria are usually easier to treat. Viral infections can be managed but not always cured. If you are pregnant and have an STI, prompt treatment can prevent or reduce the risk of your baby’s infection.
Treatment usually consists of one of the following products, depending on the infection:
Often in a single dose, they can cure many bacterial and parasitic infections that are sexually transmitted, including gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia and trichomoniasis.
Generally, you will be treated for gonorrhea and chlamydia at the same time because both infections often appear together. Once you start an antibiotic treatment, it is crucial to adhere to the prescribed treatment and doses. If you do not think you can take the prescribed medication, tell your doctor. A shorter and simpler treatment regime may be available.
In addition, it is important to abstain from sex until you have finished the treatment and that all wounds are healed.
- Antiviral drugs
You will have fewer herpes recurrences if you follow a daily supported therapy with prescribed antiviral treatment. Antiviral drugs reduce the risk of infection, but it is still possible to give your partner herpes. Antiviral drugs can keep HIV infection for several years. But the virus persists and can still be transmitted, although the risk is lower.
The sooner you start treatment, the more effective it is. Once you start treatment – if you take your medications exactly as indicated – it is possible to reduce your virus count to almost undetectable levels.
NOTE: If you have had an STI, ask your doctor how long after the treatment you have to repeat the test. This ensures that the treatment has worked and that you have not been re-infected.