Things you need to know about STDs

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are infections that pass from one person to another through sexual contact. They are also known as sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or venereal diseases (VD).

Some STDs can spread through the use of unsterilized drug needles, from mother to infant during childbirth or breast-feeding, and blood transfusions.

The genital areas are generally moist and warm environments, ideal for the growth of yeasts, viruses, and bacteria.

Individuals may spread microorganisms that occupy the skin or mucous membranes of the genitals. Infectious organisms can also move between individuals in semen, vaginal secretions, or blood during sexual intercourse.

Individuals pass on STDs more easily when they are not using contraceptive devices, such as condoms, dams, and sanitizing sex toys.

Some infections can transmit through sexual contact but are not classed as STDs. Of example, meningitis can be passed on during sexual contact, but people can develop a meningitis infection for other reasons. It is therefore not classed as an STD.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that more than 1 million new STDs are acquired worldwide each day.

People aged 15 to 24 years get half of all new STDs, and 1 in 4 sexually active teenage females has an STD. STD rates among seniors are growing though.

The following paragraphs describe the most popular STD’s.


Chlamydia is an STD caused by trachomatia chlamydia (C. trachomatis). This bacterium infects only humans. Chlamydia is the most common cause of infectious genital and eye diseases worldwide. The most popular bacterial STD is also this.

In 2015, almost 3 per cent of girls aged 15 to 19 had chlamydia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

People with chlamydia usually experience no symptoms. Typically, most symptoms are unspecific, and may include:

  • bladder infection
  • a change in vaginal discharge
  • mild lower abdominal pain

If a person is not treated for chlamydia, the symptoms may be as follows:

  • pelvic pain
  • painful sexual intercourse, either intermittently or every time
  • bleeding between periods


Chancroid is also known as chancre soft and molle ulcus. It is a bacterial infection caused by the so called Haemophilus ducreyi streptobacillus. The infection triggers painful genital sores, and is transmitted only through sexual contact.

In developing nations, this infection is more common especially among commercial sex workers and some lower socioeconomic groups. This is due to the lack of access to health care, the stigma attached to seeking help, a lack of adequate sexual health awareness and other factors.

In the United States only 11 cases of chancroid were reported in 2015. Chancroid increases the risk of contracting HIV, and the risk of contracting chancroid decreases with HIV.

The patient develops a bump within 1 day to 2 weeks of acquiring the infection which transforms into an ulcer within one day. The ulcer will stretch anywhere 1/8 of an inch and 2 inches wide. It will be very painful and may have well-defined boundaries broken, and at its base a yellowish-gray content.

If the ulcer’s base is grazed it normally bleeds. The lymph nodes enlarge in some cases, and become painful.

Females often have at least four ulcers while men usually only have one. Males tend to experience fewer and fewer serious symptoms. The ulcers typically appear in uncircumcised males or, in females, on the labia minora or fourchette at the groove at the back of the glans penis.

Chancroid is treated with a single oral dose of azithromycin, a 7 day course of erythromycin, or a single dose of ceftriaxone.

Crabs, or pubic lice

Pubic manifestations of the lice are transmitted mainly by sexual contact. Pets play no part in human lice transmission.

The lice sticks to the pubic hair, and can sometimes be found in the knives, moustache, beard, eyelashes, and eyebrows. They’re fed on human blood.

The common word “crabs” originates from the lice’s crab-like appearance

Genital herpes

The herpes simplex virus (HSV), causes this STD. The virus affects the body’s skin, cervix, genitals, and certain other parts. There are two versions of these:

  • HSV-1, also known as herpes type 1
  • HSV-2, also known as herpes type 2

Herpes describes a chronic condition. A significant number of herpes sufferers never show symptoms and do not know their herpes status.

HSV is easily transmissible by direct contact between humans and humans. Type 2 HSV transmission most commonly occurs via vaginal, oral, or anal sex. Type 1 is transmitted more commonly through shared straws, utensils, and surfaces.

After entering the human body, the virus mostly remains dormant and shows no symptoms.

The symptoms associated with genital herpes may include: blisters and cervical ulceration.

  • vaginal discharge
  • pain on urinating
  • fever
  • generally feeling unwell
  • cold sores around the mouth in type 1 HSV

Red blisters can also occur on outside genital area, rectum, knees, and buttocks. These can be painful, especially when they burst out and cause ulcers.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B will destroy the liver forever.

The hepatitis B virus (HBV) causes this STD.

It is transmitted with infected semen, blood, and other body fluids. The HBV is transmitted in the following manner:

  • unprotected sex
  • using an unsterilized syringe
  • being accidentally pricked by a sharp object
  • drinking infected breast milk
  • being bitten by a person with hepatitis B

The liver swells, and as a result of HBV, an person may suffer serious liver damage. This can eventually lead to cancer and sometimes the disease can become chronic. Blood donation centers also check to ensure donors do not have hepatitis B.


Trichomoniasis is a common STD capable of affecting both sexes. But women are more likely to have signs. A single-celled protozoan worm, Trichomonas vaginalis, is responsible for the infection.

The vagina is the most common source of infection for women, while it is the urethra for men. Transmission can occur either through sexual intercourse or through contact with the vulva.

While women can get the infection from male or female sexual partners, men almost always get infected by having sex with women.

Trichomoniasis symptoms include:

  • vaginal odor
  • vaginal discharge
  • pain or discomfort during sexual intercourse
  • pain when urinating

A woman with trichomoniasis has a greater chance of acquiring HIV if exposed to the virus. A woman with trichomoniasis and HIV also has a greater chance of transmitting HIV virus to other sexual partners.


The HIV virus destroys the immune system, leaving the host much more susceptible to infections and diseases. If the virus is left untreated, then the resistance to infection can deteriorate.

HIV can be found in semen, blood, breast milk, rectal and vaginal fluids. HIV can be spread by blood-to-blood contact, sexual contact, breastfeeding, childbirth, sharing of injection drug supplies, such as needles and syringes, and, in rare cases, blood transfusion.

The amount of the infection present inside the body can be reduced to an undetectable level with treatment. This means the amount of HIV virus within the blood is so small this blood tests can not detect it. It also means HIV can not be passed on to others. A person with undetectable HIV must continue to treat them as usual because the virus is being treated and not cured.

If HIV progresses untreated and reaches stage 3, known as AIDS, it can be fatal. Modern medicine, however, means that HIV does not need to reduce the life expectancy.

Human papillomavirus (HPV)

Human papillomavirus is a name for a group of viruses affecting the skin and mucous membranes, such as the throat, cervix, anus and mouth.

There are more than 100 types of HPV, around 40 of which can affect the genital areas. These types can transmit to the mouth and throat, too.

This can lead to HPV infection:

  • abnormal cell growth and alteration within the cervix, significantly increasing the risk of cervical cancer
  • genital warts

Most HPV-patients have no symptoms and are not aware of them. HPV is so common in the United States that nearly every sexually active male and female transmits the virus throughout their lifetime.

HPV is transmitted most commonly through vaginal or anal sex, oral sex and genital to genital contact. Individuals with HPV but no signs and symptoms can still infect others.

A pregnant woman with HPV may be able to transmit the virus to her baby during childbirth, although that is very rare.

Vaccination is the most effective way of preventing HPV.

Molluscum contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum is a contagious, viral skin infection.

There are four types:

  • MCV-1, the most common type
  • MCV-2, the most commonly sexually transmitted type
  • MCV-3
  • MCV-4

When the virus infects young children, it is not considered an STD.

Symptoms involve tiny, circular bumps on the skin, and indents. The bumps usually go away if left untreated but this can take up to 2 years. A doctor will dissolve or freeze the bumps with chemicals, or electric current. There are certain prescription medicines that will eventually get rid of growths.


Scabies is a infectious skin condition caused by a tiny mite called Sarcoptes scabiei. They burrow in and lay their eggs in the fur.

A person who has scabies develops a skin rash and has extreme itchiness. Persons with scabies are often unaware of their disease for several weeks after initial infection, suggesting rapid spread of scabies infestations.

The origin of scabies is unclear, although some suggest the condition is related to poor living conditions and a lack of personal hygiene. There is no scientific evidence of that, though.

Scabies is most commonly transmitted through direct contact with the body, such as prolonged holding of hands or sexual intercourse. Hugging or just shaking hands with someone who has scabies is unlikely to result in transmission.

The mite scabies are not allowed to jump or move. However after leaving the human body, it can live for 1 to 2 days. That means sharing clothes or bedding with an person who has scabies increases the risk of infection.

However the most common route of transmission is prolonged physical contact, as is likely to occur during sexual intercourse.

Scabies symptoms may not appear for several weeks following initial transmission, and may include:

  • A skin rash: The scabies mite leaves small red spots, known as burrow marks. They look like tiny insect bites, and some people may think it is eczema. Burrow marks typically appear as a small line of at least four tiny spots and appear around the area of the elbows, wrists, and in between the toes and fingers. Women experience this rash around the nipples and men near the genitals.
  • Intense itching: This gets worse at night or after taking a hot shower.
  • Sores: After scratching the rash, the area can become inflamed, and crusty sores may develop.

The rash may appear less commonly on the buttocks, ankles, armpits, genitals, groin, scalp, neck, face, head, shoulders, waist, feet soles, lower legs, and knees.


The syphilis is a product of a bacterium called Treponema pallidum. It is spread by sexual contact, and there will be a syphilitic lesion in the person who passes the infection. A woman who is pregnant and who also has syphilis can pass this STD on to her infant, which can lead to death or severe congenital deformities.

There is an incubation period of between 9 and 90 days after initial infection, with an average incubation period of 21 days before the symptoms of the disease arise. Each syphilis stage has signs and symptoms which are characteristic. Some individuals with syphilis have no symptoms while others may have milder presentations.

For some people with the condition, the bacterium is still in the body even if the symptoms disappear, and can cause serious health problems later.


This bacterial infection which is sexually transmitted normally targets the mucous membranes. Sometimes known as the Drip or the Clap.

The highly contagious bacterium resides in the cooler and more moister cavities of the body.

Most people with gonorrhea show no symptoms or signs. The females can develop pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) if left untreated. Males can develop prostate gland, urethra, or epidididymal inflammation.

Neisseria gonorrhoeae is responsible for the disease. The bacteria in the vagina, penis, mouth, rectum or eye may live. They may be transmitted during intercourse.

We risk spreading the bacteria to other parts of the body, as soon as a person contracts gonorrhea. An person can rub his or her eye accidentally and spread the infection. This prolongs the period of treatment. During childbirth, a pregnant woman may pass the infection on to the infant.

The disease is blamed for Neisseria gonorrhoeae. The bacteria can live in the vagina, penis, mouth, rectum, or eye. They may be transmitted during intercourse.

As soon as a person contracts gonorrhea we risk spreading the bacteria to other parts of the body. An person may accidentally rub his or her eye, and spread the infection. That is prolonging the care time. A pregnant woman may pass the infection on to her baby during childbirth.

Males may experience the following symptoms:

  • burning during urination
  • testicular pain or swelling
  • a green, white, or yellow discharge from the penis

Females are less likely to show symptoms, but if they do, these may include:

  • spotting after sexual intercourse
  • swelling of the vulva, or vulvitis
  • irregular bleeding between periods
  • pink eye, or conjunctivitis
  • pain in the pelvic area
  • burning or pain during urination

A person with gonorrhea can experience anal itching, painful bowel movements, and sometimes discharge if the rectum is infected. When transmission is caused by oral sex, a burning sensation can occur in the throat and swollen glands.


Condoms can help prevent the spread of STDs.
Condoms can help prevent the spread of STDs.

The most natural way to prevent the spread of STDs is to use sex with a condom. Condoms are known as barrier contraceptives, as they provide microbes with a physical barrier.

Use a new latex preservative for each oral, vaginal, or anal sex act. The condoms are available for online purchase.

When using a latex condom avoid using an oil-based lubricant, such as petroleum jelly. Forms of contraception which are non-barrier, such as oral contraceptives or intrauterine devices, do nothing to protect people from sexually transmitted infections.

Here are more steps you can take to reduce an STD risk:

  • Abstinence: Abstaining from any sexual act is the most effective way to avoid an STD.
  • Monogamy to one uninfected partner: A long-term, monogamous relationship with one person who is not infected can reduce the risk of contracting an STD.
  • Vaccinations: There are vaccinations that can protect an individual from eventually developing some types of cancer that are caused by HPV and hepatitis B.
  • Check for infections: Before sexual intercourse with a new partner, check that the partner and yourself have no STDs.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation: People who have consumed too much alcohol are more likely to engage in risky behavior. Avoid using recreational drugs, which may also affect judgment.
  • Explain you want safe sex: Before engaging in any sexual act with a new partner, communicate that you would only consider safe sex.
  • Education: Parents, schools, and society need to teach children about the importance of safe sex, and explain how to prevent becoming infected with an STD, including information relevant to the LGBTQ community.

Take a cautious approach to getting involved with someone else, and it could shield you from a range of health concerns that go further down the line.

Chukwuebuka Martins
Chukwuebuka Martins
Chukwuebuka Martins is a writer, researcher, and health enthusiast who specializes in human physiology. He takes great pleasure in penning informative articles on many aspects of physical wellness, which he then thoroughly enjoys sharing to the general public.

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