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Fitness & Health
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Sexually transmitted disease, also known as sexually transmitted infection or venereal disease, is a sickness that has a transmission between humans or animals by means of sexual behavior, including intercourse, anal sex, and oral sex. But in the past, these illnesses have been called STD's or VD, in the last few years the term STI has been the preferred term, as it has a broader range of meaning; a person may be infected, and may infect others, without showing signs of infection. Some STI's can also be contracted by the use of drug needles after its been used by an infected person, as well as through breastfeeding and childbirth. STI have been well known for 100's of years.
Classification and terminology
Health officials introduced the term STI, which doctors are increasingly using alongside the term STD in order to distinguish it from the former. According to the Ethiopian Aids Resource Center, "Sometimes the terms STI and STD are used interchangeably. So This can be confusing and not accurate, so it helps first to understand the difference between disease and infection. Infection means that a virus—germ, parasite, or bacteria—that can cause sickness when present inside a humans body. Infected people don't necessarily have any signs or symptoms that the bacteria is actually hurting his or her body; they don't feel sick. Disease means that the infection is actually causing the infected human to feel sick, or to know something is wrong. For this reason, the term STI—which refers to infection with any germ that can cause an STD, even if the infected person has no symptoms—is a much broader term than STD." The distinction being made, is closer to that between a colonization and an infection, rather than between an infection and a disease
The term STD refers only to infections that are causing signs and symptoms. As most of the people don't know that they are infected with an STD until they start showing signs of disease, most people use the term STD, even though the term STI is also appropriate in many cases.
The term STD is sometimes used since it is less restrictive in consideration of other factors or means of transmission. For example, meningitis is transmissible by means of sexual contact but is not labeled as an STI because sexual contact is not the primary vector for the pathogens that cause meningitis. This discrepancy is addressed by the probability of infection by means other than sexual contact. An STI is an infection that has a negligible probability of transmission by means other than sexual contact, but has a realistic means of transmission by sexual contact. One may presume that, if a person is infected with an STI, chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital herpes, it was transmitted by sexual contact.
The infections in the list are usally transmitted by sexual acts. Alot of infectious diseases, including the common cold, influenza, pneumonia, and most others that are passed on by person-to-person and can also be contracted during sexual intercourse, if one person is infected, due to the close contact involved. However, even though these diseases may be transmitted during sex, they are not considered STDs.
Viral hepatitis (Hepatitis B virus)—saliva, venereal fluids.
Sexually transmitted enteric infections
Various bacterial, viral or parasitic pathogens are transmitted by sexual practices that promote anal-oral contamination. Sharing sex toys without washing or multiple partnered barebacking can promote anal-anal contamination. Although the bacterial pathogens may coexist with or cause proctitis, they usually produce symptoms suggesting disease more proximal in the GI tract.
Many STDs are tpassed through the mucous membranes of the penis, anal, vulvar, urinary tract and the mouth, throat, respiratory tract and eyes. The visible membrane covering the head of the penis is a mucous membrane, though it produces no mucus. Mucous membranes differ from skin in that they allow certain pathogens into the body. Pathogens are able to pass through abrasions of the skin, even tiny ones. The shaft of the penis is particularly susceptible due to the friction caused during sex. The primary sources of infection in ascending order are venereal fluids, saliva, mucosal or skin, infections may also be transmitted from feces, urine and sweat. The amount required to cause infection varies with each pathogen but is always less than you can see with the eye.
This is one reason that the probability of transmitting many infections is far higher from sex than by more casual means of transmission, such as non-sexual contact—touching, hugging, shaking hands—but it is not the only reason. Although mucous membranes exist in the mouth as in the genitals, many STIs seem to be easier to transmit through oral sex than through deep kissing. According to a safe sex chart, many infections that are easily transmitted from the mouth to the genitals or from the genitals to the mouth, are much harder to transmit from one mouth to another.With HIV, genital fluids happen to contain much more of the pathogen than saliva. Some infections labeled as STIs can be transmitted by direct skin contact. Herpes simplex and HPV are both examples. KSHV, on the other hand, may be transmitted by deep-kissing but also when saliva is used as a sexual lubricant.
Depending on the STD, a person may still be able to spread the infection if no signs of disease are present. For example, a person is much more likely to spread herpes infection when blisters are present than when they are absent. However, a person can spread HIV infection at any time, even if he/she has not developed symptoms of AIDS.
All sexual behaviors that involve contact with the bodily fluids of another person should be considered to contain some risk of transmission of sexually transmitted diseases. Most attention has focused on controlling HIV, which causes AIDS, but each STD presents a different situation.
As may be noted from the name, sexually transmitted diseases are transmitted from one person to another by certain sexual activities rather than being actually caused by those sexual activities. Bacteria, fungi, protozoa or viruses are still the causative agents. It is not possible to catch any sexually transmitted disease from a sexual activity with a person who is not carrying a disease; conversely, a person who has an STD got it from contact with someone who had it, or his/her bodily fluids. Some STDs such as HIV can be transmitted from mother to child either during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
Although the likelihood of transmitting various diseases by various sexual activities varies a great deal, in general, all sexual activities between two people should be considered as being a two-way route for the transmission of STDs, i.e., "giving" or "receiving" are both risky although receiving carries a higher risk.
Healthcare professionals suggest safer sex, such as the use of condoms, as the most reliable way of decreasing the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases during sexual activity, but safer sex should by no means be considered an absolute safeguard. The transfer of and exposure to bodily fluids, such as blood transfusions and other blood products, sharing injection needles, needle-stick injuries (when medical staff are inadvertently jabbed or pricked with needles during medical procedures), sharing tattoo needles, and childbirth are other avenues of transmission. These different means put certain groups, such as medical workers, and haemophiliacs and drug users, particularly at risk.
Recent epidemiological studies have investigated the networks that are defined by sexual relationships between individuals, and discovered that the properties of sexual networks are crucial to the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. In particular, assortative mixing between people with large numbers of sexual partners seems to be an important factor.
It is possible to be an asymptomatic carrier of sexually transmitted diseases. In particular, sexually transmitted diseases in women often cause the serious condition of pelvic inflammatory disease.
Prevention is key in stopping incurable STIs, such as herpes & HIV.
Not all sexual activities involve contact: cybersex, phonesex or masturbation from a distance are methods of avoiding contact. Use of condoms reduces contact and risk.
Both partners should get tested for STd's before having a sexual relationship, or before resuming contact if a partner engaged in contact with someone else. A lot of stds are not traceable after contracting, so enough time must be allowed between possible exposures and testing for the tests to be accurate. Certain STD, particularly viruses like HPV, may be almost impossible to trace with current medical procedures.
Many diseases that establish permanent infections can so occupy the immune system so that other diseases become more easily transmitted. The immune system led by defensins against HIV can prevent contracting of HIV when viral counts are very low, but if busy with other viruses or overwhelmed, HIV can establish itself. Certain viral STI's also greatly increase the risk of death for HIV infected patients.
Vaccines are available that protect against some viral STDs, such as Hepatitis B and some types of HPV. Vaccination before initiation of sexual contact is advised to assure maximal protection.
Condoms only provide protection when used properly as a barrier, and only to and from the area that it covers. Uncovered areas are still susceptible to many STDs. In the case of HIV, sexual transmission routes almost always involve the penis, as HIV cannot spread through unbroken skin, thus properly shielding the insertive penis with a properly worn condom from the vagina and anus effectively stops HIV transmission. An infected fluid to broken skin borne direct transmission of HIV would not be considered "sexually transmitted", but can still theoretically occur during sexual contact, this can be avoided simply by not engaging in sexual contact when having open bleeding wounds. Other STDs, even viral infections, can be prevented with the use of latex condoms as a barrier. Some microorganisms and viruses are small enough to pass through the pores in natural skin condoms, but are still too large to pass through latex condoms.
Proper usage entails:
Not putting the condom on too tight at the end, and leaving 1.5 cm room at the tip for ejaculation. Putting the condom on snug can and often does lead to failure.
Not following the first five guidelines above perpetuates the common misconception that condoms aren't tested or designed properly.
In order to best protect oneself and the partner from STIs, the old condom and its contents should be assumed to be still infectious. Therefore the old condom must be properly disposed of. A new condom should be used for each act of intercourse, as multiple usage increases the chance of breakage, defeating the primary purpose as a barrier.
Nonoxynol-9 a vaginal microbicide was hoped to decrease STD rates. Trials however have found it ineffective.
STI tests may test for a single infection, or consist of a number of individual tests for any of a wide range of STIs, including tests for syphilis, trichomonas, gonorrhea, chlamydia, herpes, hepatitis and HIV tests. No procedure tests for all infectious agents.
STI tests may be used for a number of reasons:
as a diagnostic test to determine the cause of symptoms or illness
Not all STIs are symptomatic, and symptoms may not appear immediately after infection. In some instances a disease can be carried with no symptoms, which leaves a greater risk of passing the disease on to others. Depending on the disease, some untreated STIs can lead to infertility, chronic pain or even death. Early identification and treatment results in less chance to spread disease, and for some conditions may improve the outcomes of treatment.
There is often a window period after initial infection during which an STI test will be negative. During this period the infection may be transmissible. The duration of this period varies depending on the infection and the test.
High risk exposure such as what occurs in rape cases may be treated prophylacticly using antibiotic combinations such as azithromycin, cefixime, and metronidazole.
An option for treating partners of patients (index cases) diagnosed with chlamydia or gonorrhea is patient-delivered partner therapy, which is the clinical practice of treating the sex partners of index cases by providing prescriptions or medications to the patient to take to his/her partner without the health care provider first examining the partner.
STD incidence rates remain high in most of the world, despite diagnostic and therapeutic advances that can rapidly render patients with many STDs noninfectious and cure most. In many cultures, changing sexual morals and oral contraceptive use have eliminated traditional sexual restraints, especially for women, and both physicians and patients have difficulty dealing openly and candidly with sexual issues. Additionally, development and spread of drug-resistant bacteria makes some STDs harder to cure. The effect of travel is most dramatically illustrated by the rapid spread of the AIDS virus (HIV-1) from Africa to Europe and the Americas in the late 1970s.
Commonly reported prevalences of STIs among sexually active adolescent girls both with and without lower genital tract symptoms include chlamydia (10–25%), gonorrhea (3–18%), syphilis (0–3%), Trichomonas vaginalis (8–16%), and herpes simplex virus (2–12%).Among adolescent boys with no symptoms of urethritis, isolation rates include chlamydia (9–11%) and gonorrhea (2–3%).
In 1996, the World Health Organization estimated that more than 1 million people were being infected daily. About 60% of these infections occur in young people <25 years of age, and of these 30% are <20 years. Between the ages of 14 and 19, STDs occur more frequently in girls than boys by a ratio of nearly 2:1; this equalizes by age 20. An estimated 340 million new cases of syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia and trichomoniasis occurred throughout the world in 1999.
American propaganda poster targeted at World War II soldiers and sailors appealed to their patriotism in urging them to protect themselves. The text at the bottom of the poster reads, "You can't beat the Axis if you get VD." Images of women were used to catch the eye on many VD posters.
Prior to the invention of modern medicines, sexually transmitted diseases were generally incurable, and treatment was limited to treating the symptoms of the disease. The first voluntary hospital for venereal diseases was founded in 1746 at London Lock Hospital. Treatment was not always voluntary: in the second half of the 19th century, the Contagious Diseases Act was used to arrest suspected prostitutes.
The first effective treatment for a sexually transmitted disease was salvarsan, a treatment for syphilis. With the discovery of antibiotics, a large number of sexually transmitted diseases became easily curable, and this, combined with effective public health campaigns against STDs, led to a public perception during the 1960s and 1970s that they have ceased to be a serious medical threat.
During this period, the importance of contact tracing in treating STIs was recognized. By tracing the sexual partners of infected individuals, testing them for infection, treating the infected and tracing their contacts in turn, STI clinics could be very effective at suppressing infections in the general population.
In the 1980s, first genital herpes and then AIDS emerged into the public consciousness as sexually transmitted diseases that could not be cured by modern medicine. AIDS in particular has a long asymptomatic period—during which time HIV (the human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS) can replicate and the disease can be transmitted to others—followed by a symptomatic period, which leads rapidly to death unless treated. Recognition that AIDS threatened a global pandemic led to public information campaigns and the development of treatments that allow AIDS to be managed by suppressing the replication of HIV for as long as possible. Contact tracing continues to be an important measure, even when diseases are incurable, as it helps to contain infection.
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