SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED INFECTIONS/HIV:




Introduction

Sex is a normal human function that can involve the expression of love and emotional feelings, and does provide a means for reproduction. Sexual intercourse, however, is not without potential harmful or unintended consequences. Two major potential health consequences of sexual intercourse are unintentional pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV infection.

STIs means sexually transmitted infections that are spread from one person to person through sexual contact including anal, oral or vagina sex.

Causes

Sexually transmitted infections are caused by:

   Bacteria (gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia)
   Parasites (trichomoniasis)
   Viruses (HIV, genital herpes, humanpapilomavirus)

Most common types of STIs, their common symptoms, diagnosis and treatment are:

Chlamydia

Symptoms: unusual discharge, painful urination, abdominal pain, pain in rectum.
Diagnosed by: swab or urine sample.
Treatment: antibiotics.

Genital warts

Symptoms: white or flesh coloured bumps around genital area that may be itchy.
Diagnosed by: visible to the eye.
Treatment: medical removal of the warts.

Gonorrhea

Symptoms: unusual discharge, painful & more frequent urination, painful defecation.
Diagnosed by: swab or urine sample.
Treatment: antibiotics.

Hepatitis

Symptoms: flu-like illness, nausea, loss of appetite, liver inflammation.
Diagnosed by: blood test.
Treatment: Hepatitis A = virus clears on its own. Hepatitis B = virus clears on its own or antiviral. Drugs needed. Hepatitis C = antiviral drugs.

Herpes

Symptoms: sores around genital area or mouth that are painful, itchy or tingle.
Diagnosed by: physical examination, genital or oral swab.
Treatment: antiviral drugs if the infection doesn’t clear on its own.

Syphilis

Symptoms: ulcers, sores, rash, swollen glands.
Diagnosed by: blood test or swab from a sore.
Treatment: injection of antibiotics

Relationship between STI and HIV

The relationship between HIV and other STI is complex because it is both biological and behavioral. Some STIs, such as syphilis, herpes, genital ulcers, cause breaks in the lining of the genital tract. Those breaks can then become entry points for HIV.

Testing for STIs

For males:
Depending on your symptoms, the doctor or nurse may:

   Check your genitals visually.
   Touch your penis and testicles to check for discharge, pain or sores.
   Take a swab from your urethra (the opening of the penis).
   Take a swab from a lesion or sore.
   Ask for a urine sample.
   Take a blood test

For females:
Depending on your symptoms, the doctor or nurse may:

   Check your genitals visually.
   Insert a speculum inside your vagina so he or she can see your vaginal walls and cervix clearly.
   Take a swab from your vagina and/or cervix.
   Take samples from your cervix using a tiny brush and spatula (if you’re getting a pap test.)
   Place his or her gloved fingers into your vagina while pressing on your abdomen with the other hand. This is to feel the ovaries and uterus.
   Take a swab from a lesion or sore.
   Ask for a urine sample.
   Take a blood Test.

Risk factors
Anyone who is sexually active risks exposure to a sexually transmitted infection to some degree. Factors that may increase that risk include:

   Having unprotected sex. Vaginal or anal penetration by an infected partner who isn’t wearing a latex condom significantly increases the risk of getting an STI. Improper or inconsistent use of condoms can also increase your risk.
   Oral sex may be less risky, but infections can still be transmitted without a latex condom or dental dam. Dental dams – thin, square pieces of rubber made with latex or silicone – prevent skin-to-skin contact.
   Having sexual contact with multiple partners. The more people you have sexual contact with, the greater your risk. This is true for concurrent partners as well as monogamous consecutive relationships.
   Previous history of STIs: Having one STI makes it much easier for another STI to take hold.
   Anyone forced to have sexual intercourse or sexual activity: Dealing with rape or assault can be difficult, but it’s important to be seen as soon as possible. Screening, treatment and emotional support can be offered.
   Abusing alcohol or using recreational drugs: Substance abuse can inhibit your judgment, making you more willing to participate in risky behaviors.
   Injecting drugs: Needle sharing spreads many serious infections, including HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
   Being young: Half of STIs occur in people between the ages of 15 and 24.

Prevention of STIs

   Make sure your partner(s) has been tested and treated for STIs
   Avoid sexual contact if you or your partners have symptoms of an STI, have been exposed to an STI, or are being treated for an STI.
   Discuss using protection, such as condoms, dental dam barriers, and lubricant.
   Alcohol, and some prescription and illegal drugs can interfere with your ability to have a conversation and make decisions to have safer sex.

NB:

   HIV Testing Isn’t Automatic!
   HIV and other STIs testing shouldn’t take place without your consent
   HIV testing involves pre-test counselling and then a blood test. Your doctor won’t automatically test for HIV when you get a routine blood test.

Conclusion

These harmful consequences can be dramatically reduced through effective prevention programs and by openly confronting these problems on a national level. More so those exposed to STIs, like young girls and women, must be well informed to know how to prevent STIs, what symptoms is associated with the various types and expectations for treatment. This is what CWIDI intend to achieve with this blog post.

Written by Concern Women International Development Initiative (CWIDI)

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