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Introduction to STDs

Sexually transmitted diseases, commonly referred to as STDs, refer to diseases whose major mode of transmission is unprotected sex. However, some STDs can be transmitted during breastfeeding, childbirth or when using needles and other sharp objects. Only STD testing services provide low-cost peace of mind; low-cost in that most STD testing does not require payment. An STD differs from an STI (sexually transmitted infection) in that an infection refers to the transmitted bacterium, virus or parasite while an STD refers to the same condition but advanced enough to exhibit symptoms. Unprotected sex refers to acts of sex, oral, vaginal and or anal, whereby those engaging do not use a condom (whether male or female) or other protective measures.

STD testing

STD testing refers to the procedure of identifying/detecting the presence of an STD in a person. The test can be sought, free of charge, in many of the available U.S health care centers, with or without prior appointment with a health care provider. The tests are not considered mandatory, in most states, for entry into learning or working institutions, but if and when a person engages in unprotected sex or experiences symptoms of some of the common STDs, he/ she should request for a test. ‘Shame’ and or stigma associated with STDs hinder most people from seeking help. It is, however, important to note that most STDs can be easily cured, especially when detected early, but that if left untreated, for long, can result in more serious conditions; infertility, death and mental illness among others.

Common symptoms

While some STDs do not exhibit symptoms, at least not immediately after exposure, some do have symptoms. Common symptoms include genital swellings, wounds and itching, redness and or pain around the penis, vulva, labia and anus, pain when urinating, uncommon smelly discharge from the penis, vagina and or anus, lower abdominal pains for, pain in one or both testicles in men and pain during sexual intercourse/ activity among others. The above symptoms should never be ignored as they may be an indication of an advanced state of the disease, and a person who experiences such should get an STD test. The absence of symptoms does not necessarily mean the absence of an STD/ STI. Any person, who feels s/he has been exposed, through unprotected sex or other transmission means, should get tested, just to be sure.

Broad categories of STDs

The nature of an STD determines, to a great deal, possible symptoms that that disease will exhibit and also the treatment and duration of treatment the patient will receive. STDs can be broadly categorized into three; viral (caused by viruses), bacterial (caused by bacteria) and parasitic (caused by parasites). Viral STDs, perhaps considered the most dangerous due to the stubborn nature of viruses in getting eliminated through medication, include HIV, genital warts/ human papillomavirus (HPV), genital herpes and water warts among others. Bacterial STDs comprise syphilis, gonorrhea and Chlamydia among others while parasitic STDS include scabies, pubic lice and Trichomoniasis among others.

Opportunistic infections

STDs can be largely considered opportunistic infections, as their entry and establishment in a person’s body may be dependent on that person’s immune system status. People suffering from vaginosis, HIV and yeast infections among other illnesses, which seriously compromise their immunity, stand a higher risk of catching STDs if and when exposed to the causing virus, bacteria or parasite. It is, thus, possible for a person to escape an STI infection, even when exposed, if his/ her immune system is high and the level of risk low.

STD testing procedures

Depending on the nature or symptoms of the suspected STD, a health care provider might conduct any of the following procedures, or a combination, to check the presence or absence of an STI. A physical examination involves the health care provider observing the genitals of the person, through sight and touch. This method may not exclusively identify the presence of any one STD, as many share the symptoms, and further tests may be required. Blood tests need testing of blood samples, drawn from skin pricks or veins, in labs. This test may require hours or days to yield results. Drawing matters from the wounds, genitals and or mouth, and testing them under a microscope, in a lab, is another procedure of testing for STD. It is important to note that STD testing takes different forms and that no single method can be expected to test for the presence of all STDs. Also, contrary to what most people believe/ assume, STD testing is done on request basis, and a person should not assume just because s/he went to a health care provider, for whatever ailment, s/he will automatically be tested for an STD.

Conclusion

STD testing services provide low-cost peace of mind. This is mostly because there are many STDs with different or similar symptoms, yet others do not even have symptoms. The only way to have peace of mind, if and when one suspects s/he has been exposed to an STI, is to get one of the many free tests offered by many health care providers. Treatment and or protection measures can then be taken when one gets the results.


 





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