STD Facts — What are STDs?Any disease that can be spread from one person to another during sexual interaction (intercourse and/or other kinds of sexual activity) is called a STD. There are more than 20 known STDs. We’ll tell you about some of the most common types and how they can affect women. Since STDs are most prevalent among teens and people in their 20s (two-thirds occur in those under the age of 25), this is important information for you. STD Facts — Prevention Statistics show that the younger you are when you begin to experiment with sexual activity and the more partners you have, the greater your chance of getting a STD. This isn’t a moral opinion—it’s a fact. So, here are some tips: Abstain from sexual intercourse (and sexual activity like anal and oral sex). Hugging and fondling that doesn’t include direct genital contact or deep, open mouth kissing are safe. If you decide to have sex, have only one partner and ask your partner not to have sex with anyone else. Get tested. You and your partner should be tested before you become sexually active if you have any suspicion that either of you has a STD. If either of you has a STD, you both need to be treated. Find out about your partner’s sexual history—especially in relation to number of partners, IV drug use, and any previous STDs. Always use a condom even if you use another form of birth control. STD Facts — HIV/AIDS What is it?This viral infection (human immunodeficiency virus) may start with no symptoms or with an illness that may be like mononucleosis. After a while (up to ten years later), as the immune system gets weaker and full-blown, AIDS develops, infections can set in, and cancerous cells can develop. How do you get it?AIDS is transmitted through the exchange of body fluids (blood, vaginal discharge, and semen). Almost half the people with HIV in the United States are women—and that percentage is growing. The most common way HIV is contracted is through heterosexual (man/woman) intercourse. A man carrying HIV can easily infect a woman through intercourse because the walls of the vagina are a large, vascular area where the virus can penetrate the blood stream. Semen carries a high volume of the virus. Unprotected oral sex with a man could also cause infection in a woman, since a woman may have small cuts in the mouth (tongue or gums). Another cause of AIDS is the sharing of needles by intravenous drug users. The infected blood left on the needle can spread the disease to the next user. To a lesser extent, some people have contracted AIDS from tainted blood used in a blood transfusion. Finally, babies can get HIV from their mothers through breast milk. It’s unlikely that HIV can be spread through kissing or casual interactions. How can you avoid it?See the end of this section for general information on how to avoid STDs. Abstinence from sexual intercourse or activity where bodily fluids are exchanged (like anal or oral sex) eliminates the risk. Use of condoms greatly lowers the risk. How is it treated?Drug treatments often alleviate symptoms and may give a person years of survival without secondary ("opportunistic") diseases. As of now, there is no cure and AIDS is eventually fatal. If you want more information, there is a confidential AIDS hotline (1-800-342-AIDS). STD Facts — Genital Herpes What is it?Genital herpes is a viral infection that starts as a flu-like illness with painful, open sores or blisters in the genital area. The sores usually last 2 –3 weeks. Since the virus stays in the body forever, about 90% of women have outbreaks (ranging from once a year up to eight times a year). The recurrences tend to be milder than the first outbreak. Herpes is best diagnosed when your doctor can see the sores and take cells for testing. There’s also a blood test, but it’s less reliable. Herpes does not increase your risk of cervical cancer. How do you get it?Genital herpes is contracted during sexual intercourse with an infected partner, or through oral sex with a partner who has oral herpes (cold sores). Although it’s rare, herpes can be passed along to a baby during delivery with serious consequences. It does not increase your risk of cervical cancer. A word of cautionIf a woman touches her own sores and then touches her eyes, mouth or genitals, she can infect a new area. It may help to cover any sores, if possible, and not touch them. If you do touch a sore, wash your hands afterwards, because it can be spread through skin-to-skin contact. Anti-viral drugs can help make outbreaks shorter and less severe, but they do not cure the illness. There is currently no cure for genital herpes. STD Facts — HPV (genital warts) What is it?HPV (human papillomavirus) or genital warts (condyloma acuminata) is a viral infection (actually two different types!) that usually causes warty growths on the genitals and/or around the anus and/or cervix. These warts are flesh-colored, usually painless (although they may itch, burn and bleed), flat or raised, single or multiple, small, large or in clusters. Sometimes the warts don’t appear for weeks, months or even years after one has contracted the virus. The warts tend to come back since the virus stays in the body. How is it treated? To diagnose warts, a doctor can do the following: a Pap test; a culposcopy (examining the cervix with magnification); a biopsy; or a laboratory test (not yet proven to be conclusive). The visible warts may be removed in a variety of ways. See a doctor. Never use over-the counter wart remedies in the genital area. STD Facts — Chlamydia What is it? This is the most common of all bacterial STDs. It may cause abnormal vaginal discharge, burning with urination, lower abdominal pain, spotting after intercourse, or bleeding between periods. However, chlamydia may cause no symptoms at all. Chlamydia must be taken seriously because the infection can spread further into the uterus and fallopian tubes (pelvic inflammatory disease), which lead to infertility or tubal pregnancy. How is it treated? Chlamydia can be treated and cured with antibiotics. STD Facts — Gonorrhea What is it? The common symptoms of gonorrhea are vaginal discharge and burning with urination, but there may be no symptoms. It commonly leads to PID (pelvic inflammatory disease). How is it treated? Gonorrhea can be treated and cured with antibiotics. STD Facts — Syphilis What is it? Syphilis produces its symptoms in stages. In the early stage there’s usually a painless sore in or near the vagina (or mouth, anus or hands) and swollen lymph nodes in the area of the sore. The infection could be dormant for years until Stage 2—when there’s a skin rash that lasts for months often on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. Stage 3 affects the heart, the central nervous system and other internal organs. How is it treated? It can be cured with antibiotics, usually penicillin. STD Facts — Other STDsSome other STDs you may hear about are trichomoniasis, bacterial vaginosis, cytomegalovirus, scabies, and pubic lice. Get information on std facts and read how to prevent std's at BeingGirl.com.