What You Need to Know: April is STI Awareness Month
STD Awareness Week is in April and runs from the 9th through the 15th. This week is used to spread awareness and educate the general public about sexually transmitted diseases and infections.
Here's what you need to know:
Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)
BV results from an imbalance of “good” and “harmful” bacteria in a vagina. Douching, not using condoms, and having new or multiple sex partners can upset the balance of vaginal bacteria, increasing your risk of getting BV. Having Bacterial Vaginosis can also increase your chances of acquiring other STIs. A medical professional can treat this condition with antibiotics. Signs and symptoms include:
A thin white or gray vaginal discharge,
pain, itching, or burning in the vagina,
a strong fish-like odor,
burning when peeing, and
itching around the outside of the vagina.
Chlamydia is common among both men and women. You can get chlamydia through oral, anal, or vaginal sex. It can cause permanent damage to a woman’s reproductive system and make it difficult or impossible to get pregnant later. Chlamydia can also cause a potentially fatal ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy that occurs outside the womb). A pregnant woman can transfer this infection to her baby during childbirth. A medical professional can treat this condition with antibiotics. Symptoms can include:
Burning while urinating
abnormal vaginal or penile discharge
pain or swelling in one or both testicles, and
rectal pain, bleeding, or discharge
Gonorrhea is an STD that can cause infection in the genitals, rectum, and throat. You can acquire gonorrhea through oral, anal, and vaginal sex. You also can pass gonorrhea to your baby through childbirth. A medical professional can treat this condition with antibiotics. Symptoms can include:
pain or burning with urination
increased vaginal discharge
bleeding between periods
white, yellow, or green penile discharge
painful or swollen testicles
painful bowel movements
rectal pain, bleeding, discharge, and
A syphilis infection develops in stages (primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary), and each stage can have different signs and symptoms. You can contract syphilis through oral, anal, and vaginal sex. If you are pregnant, you can pass the infection to your baby. Having syphilis can lead to a low birth weight baby or a stillborn. You must still receive treatment to prevent it from moving on to the next stage. Symptoms of primary syphilis include:
Sores where the infection entered your body.
It can be on your penis, vagina, anus, rectum, lips, or mouth.
Sores are usually firm, round, and painless.
The sore usually lasts 3-6 weeks whether you receive treatment or not.
Symptoms of secondary syphilis include:
Sores in your mouth, vagina, or anus
Sores can also be on the palms of your hands or the soles of your feet and look rough and red or reddish brown.
muscle aches, and
fatigue. Again this rash will go away whether you receive treatment or not. The disease will progress to the next stage if you do not receive treatment.
Tertiary syphilis is severe and would occur 10–30 years after your infection began. In tertiary syphilis, the disease damages your internal organs and can result in death. Without treatment, syphilis can spread to your eyes, ears, and brain (nervous system). Doctors treat syphilis with antibiotics; however, it will not undo all the damage caused.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)/Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
Having syphilis, gonorrhea, or herpes makes you more likely to get HIV in the future. HIV is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system. If HIV is left untreated, it can lead to AIDS. Symptoms include:
flu-like symptoms that occur 2-4 weeks after infection
swollen lymph nodes
HIV treatment (antiretroviral therapy or ART) involves taking medicine as a health care provider prescribes. HIV treatment reduces the amount of HIV in your body and helps you stay healthy. There is no cure for HIV, but you can control it with HIV treatment. HIV treatment does not prevent transmission of other sexually transmitted diseases.
Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis C virus. It can result in serious, even life-threatening, health problems like cirrhosis and liver cancer. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C. The best way to prevent hepatitis C is by avoiding behaviors that can spread the disease, such as sex with a Hep C-positive person, IV drug use, and birth to a Hep C-positive mother. Signs and symptoms include:
clay colored stool
loss of appetite
Jaundice (yellowing of the skin)
Testing is necessary because treatments can cure most people with hepatitis C in 8 to 12 weeks.
“Trich'' is a very common STD caused by infection with Trichomonas vaginalis (a protozoan parasite). It is most commonly found in the lower genital tract (vulva, vagina, cervix, or urethra). In men, the infection is most commonly found inside the penis. This infection does not usually infect the hands, mouth, or anus. Doctors may treat this infection with antibiotics. Symptoms may include:
redness or soreness of the genitals
pain with urination
a clear, white, yellowish, or greenish vaginal discharge with a fishy smell
burning after peeing or ejaculating
discharge from the penis
There are two types of herpes virus, Herpes Simplex Virus 1(HSV1) and Herpes Simplex Virus 2 (HSV2). Both can cause genital herpes. HSV1 usually causes oral sores and can be transmitted during oral sex. Herpes sores typically appear as one or more blisters on or around the genitals, rectum, or mouth. The blisters break and leave painful sores that may take a week or more to heal. Flu-like symptoms also may occur during the first outbreak. People who experience an initial flare-up of herpes can have repeated occurrences, especially if they have HSV-2. However, repeat outbreaks are usually shorter and less severe than the first. Although genital herpes is a lifelong infection, the number of outbreaks may decrease over time. There is no cure for genital herpes.
HPV - Human Papilloma Virus
There are many different types of HPV. HPV is transmitted through oral, anal, and vaginal sex. In most cases (9 out of 10), HPV goes away on its own within two years without health problems, but when HPV does not go away, it can cause health problems like genital warts and cancer. There is no treatment for HPV itself, but your doctor can help manage the other health problems the virus might cause.
Mgen can infect the cervix (opening to the uterus), inside the penis (the urethra), or the rectum. Symptoms include burning with urination and vaginal or penile discharge. Untreated Mgen can cause PID in women. This infection is treated with antibiotics.
Abstinence is the only reliable way to prevent STDs/STIs. Condoms and contraceptives do not provide reliable prevention of infection. There are several vaccinations available that help prevent Hep B and HPV.
The Hope Clinic provides free STD testing, limited treatment, and education. The CDC recommends that, if you are not abstinent or monogamous, you get tested at least yearly and every three months if you have any risky behaviors. You can call 409-898-4005 today to schedule your free testing! Many STDs can be easily diagnosed and treated. If either you or your partner is infected, you must receive treatment simultaneously to avoid getting re-infected.
We test for Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Hepatitis C, HIV, and Syphilis at the Hope Clinic. Make an appointment today!
CDC (2023, January 31). Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/std/default.htm
CDC (2020, July 28). Viral Hepatitis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hcv/index.htm