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Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)

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    D E S C R I P T I O N

    Sexually transmitted diseases or STDs (formerly called venereal diseases) are among the world's most common infectious diseases. These bacterial or viral diseases are spread through sexual contact. There are more than 20 STDs, including acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), gonorrhea, herpes, chancroid, chlamydia, syphilis and venereal warts. Some STDs are devastating and life threatening, while others may be hardly noticeable. All, however, are best avoided through preventative measures. The incidence of STDs is rapidly increasing worldwide.

    R I S K

    As STDs are transmitted through sexual contact, people who have sex with infected partners, with multiple partners or with partners who themselves have multiple sex partners are at greatest risk. Use of a condom may reduce but won't eliminate the risk of STD infection. Having STDs other than AIDS increases one's risk for becoming infected with the AIDS virus. Users of intravenous drugs are at an additional risk for contracting AIDS.

    S Y M P T O M S

    Many STDs produce no symptoms, particularly in women. It is still important to treat these diseases because they can be passed on to other partners and because they may cause infertility in women. Other STD symptoms include abnormal genital discharge, painful urination and genital blisters, sores or warts. In the case of AIDS, the early symptoms may include fever, headache and enlarged lymph nodes; more severe symptoms come later, especially as opportunistic infections can set in, taking advantage of the AIDS patient's ravaged immune system. But if you think you are or have been at risk for an STD, don't wait for symptoms. Go ahead and get tested.

    T R E A T M E N T

    Depending on the type of infection, STDs are treated with antibiotic or antiviral drugs. Most bacterial infections can be cleared up with antibiotics, but there is no cure for viral diseases like herpes and AIDS. These can only be managed to a degree.

    P R E V E N T I O N

    The best way to prevent STDs is to avoid sexual contact with others. If you do decide to engage in sexual activity, you can do the following to reduce your risk of contracting an STD:

    • Have a mutually monogamous sexual relationship with an uninfected partner.
    • Correctly and consistently use a condom.
    • Use clean needles if injecting intravenous drugs.
    • Prevent and control other STDs to decrease susceptibility to HIV infection (which leads to AIDS).
    • Delay having sexual relations as long as possible. The younger people are when having sex for the first time, the more at risk they become for contracting an STD. The risk of acquiring an STD also increases with the number of partners over a lifetime.

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