STIs: Silent Disruptors

Sexually transmitted diseases are diseases that occur as result of infections commonly spread through sex (oral sex, anal sex and vaginal sex). At the early stage of the infection, no symptom is observed but when they appear, they are known as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The World Health Organization estimates that more than 1million people are infected with one form of sexually transmitted infection daily.
Symptoms may include a painful or burning urination, unusual vaginal discharge or bleeding, pain during sex, fever, lower abdominal pain, sore or bumps on genital or genital areas. They are caused by various microorganisms which may pass from person to person through blood, semen, vaginal or other body fluids. This indicates that they may not compulsorily be transmitted through sex. These microorganisms include bacteria (which cause gonorrhoea, chlamydia and syphilis); viruses (genital herpes and HIV) and protozoa (which cause trichomoniasis). Of the 8 known sexually transmitted diseases, only four of them are treatable (gonorrhoea, chlamydia, trichomoniasis and syphilis), the other four that cannot be cured are infections caused by hepatitis B virus, HIV, herpes simplex virus and human papillomavirus.
The risk of infection is increased in the following:
      ·         Persons who have multiple sexual partners
      ·         Persons who have been raped
      ·         Persons who have history of sexually transmitted infections
      ·         Men who have sex with men.
      ·         Persons who indulge in risky behaviours such as substance abuse, injecting drugs etc.
      ·         Persons who have unprotected sex.
      ·         Young persons. Young women’s bodies are more susceptible to STDs
Because sexually transmitted infections have no symptoms at the onset, it is easily spread and commonly overlooked for treatment hence, complications may arise. Complications include: pelvic pain, infertility, complications during pregnancy, certain cancers, eye inflammation etc.
STIs caused by bacteria are generally easier to treat but have their drugs most abused hence, an increase in drug resistant organisms. Most viral infections can be managed but cannot be cured. Therefore, prevention is best recommended. Prevention requires some conscious steps which basically includes abstaining from sex. Abstinence is the most effective way of preventing STI. Other preventive measures are:
   Ø  Get vaccinated. Vaccines are available for some STIs such as Hepatitis B and human papilloma virus.
    Ø  Stick to one faithful sexual partner.
    Ø  Do not indulge in risky behaviours such as drug abuse etc
    Ø  Practise safe sex
   Ø  Male circumcision is believed to reduce the risk of contracting the virus from a female during intercourse.
   Ø  Tenofovir gel, when used as a vaginal microbicide, has shown some effectiveness against herpes simplex virus.
   By Ifeyinwa Ugo-Amadi


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