Despite the increase in confidential STD testing services which have made it easier for more people to get STD tests, STD infection rates are on the rise.
According to the CDC, there were more STD infections in 2016 than at any other time in US history. A large majority of these infections were gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis. Other infections like HIV have also been rising among certain vulnerable groups.
Some of these STDs can be successfully treated (especially with early diagnosis) while others are incurable. Do you know which STDs belong to which group?
Treatable STDs are usually bacterial. That is, they are caused by bacteria. Treatment usually involves a round of antibiotics which quickly clears up the infection. Remember to get another test in three months after treatment.
Note that simply because an STD is treatable doesn’t meant it’s not serious. Most of these STDs can cause serious health problems especially if left untreated. Some can permanently damage various organs of your body including the reproductive system.
For pregnant women, many of these STDs are very dangerous to babies. You can transmit the STD either when the baby is in the uterus or during childbirth. In many cases, infection results in serious deformities and sometimes death.
Chlamydia is one of the most common STDs in the United States. Like most other sexually transmitted infections you can get Chlamydia via anal, oral or vaginal sex. Pregnant women can also pass it on to the baby during delivery.
It is caused by the Chlamydia trachomatis bacterium.
Because symptoms can take a few weeks to show it’s important to get regular STD tests especially if you have multiple sexual partners.
While a round of antibiotics will easily cure the infection, it cannot treat any resulting organ damage.
Another very common STD caused by the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacterium.
Symptomps can take a couple of weeks or more to show, if they show at all. In rare cases the infection can spread to the heart and joints.
Pregnant women can pass the infection to their babies during childbirth.
As with chlamydia, antibiotics are used to treat the infection. Some of the commonly used antibiotics include ceftriaxone and azithromycin.
There is an increase in cases of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea which requires a different type of treatment.
Syphilis is caused by the Treponema pallidum bacterium. There are four different stages of infection depending on how far it has gone: primary, secondary, latent and tertiary.
Syphilis is one of the STDs that has been on a worrying rise with some experts blaming things like dating apps and a shortage of funds to address the health crisis in many states.
Without early treatment, syphilis can seriously damage internal organs.
Pregnant mothers can also transmit it to their babies during pregnancy or birth. This results in congenital syphilis, a deadly infection in babies.
Treatment will depend on the stage of infection. The more the infection has progressed the larger the antibiotic dose the doctor will prescribe.
Trichomoniasis or trich is caused by the parasite Trichomonas vaginalis. Symptoms occur several weeks after infection and most people don’t show any symptoms at all.
Trich can spread through sex, including skin-to-skin contact during sexual intimacy.
This STD is easy to treat using a single dose of metronidazole.
These are the STDs for which no cure has been found yet but there are medications to manage them.
Incurable STDs are usually viral, meaning they are caused by viruses rather than bacteria. That’s what makes them so difficult to treat.
HIVHIV, which leads to AIDS, attacks the body’s immunity making it difficult to fight off other diseases.
HIV infection rates have been coming down in recent years though certain groups remain vulnerable.
The reason why HIV cannot be completely cured is that it implants its DNA in the body’s immune cells (called CD4+ cells). These cells persist in the body indefinitely. So even if there is no detectable HIV viral load in the blood it’s still residing somewhere in the body.
Thankfully advances in antiretroviral treatment have made it much easier to manage HIV.
HIV+ persons can still live long and healthy lives. Even pregnant women with HIV can be treated to prevent transmission to their babies.
This includes both oral and genital herpes.
Herpes occurs in cycles; one period without symptoms followed by another with active signs and symptoms.
Over time the active period become more frequent and serious.
Management of the infection includes various antiviral drugs to reduce the frequency and severity of symptoms as well as topical medication to treat sores on the mouth.
Human Papillomavirus or more commonly, genital warts, is a viral infection spread by sexual or skin to skin contact.
While there is no treatment, it clears naturally in most people within 2 years. But experts still don’t know whether it clears completely or just lies dormant in the body.
Chronic Hepatitis B and C
While hepatitis clears up naturally in most people it can persist beyond the usual 6 months. That’s when you get chronic hepatitis.
Management involves medication to slow down liver damage.