Sexually Transmitted Disease

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Sexually transmitted disease (STDs), also referred to as sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or as venereal diseases, are a major health concern in the UK today. There are a number of STDs which you can catch in the UK if you are sexually active, and they range from the mildly irritating and embarrassing to more serious health risks. This article briefly discusses the facts behind STDs, and what you can do to avoid an infection.

What is an STD?

An STD is any kind of infection that you can acquire through sexual contact with another individual. STDs can be caused by any one of a number of different pathogens (disease causing micro-organisms), including bacteria, viruses, and even fungi.

What kind of STD's are there?

STDs can be roughly classified by their causative pathogens, so by whether they are caused by fungi, bacteria, parasites, or viruses. The most common fungal infection is probably the infamous yeast infection caused by the fungus Candidiasis.

Bacterial STDs include Syphilis, Gonorrhea, and Chlamydia, while viral STDs include herpes simplex, HIV, and HPV (Human Papillomavirus). HPV actually exists in many different subtypes, the least dangerous of which cause genital warts, and the most potent of which can cause cervical, anal, or penile cancers. Pubic lice are the most widely known cause of parasitic STDs.

Each of these infections presents in a different way, fortunately there is plenty of information available about each disease in particular and how it presents. Generally speaking irritation, redness, growths, or any other abnormalities around the genitals is indicative of a sexually transmitted infection.

How can I get an STD?

STDs are unsurprisingly transmitted through sexual intercourse in the absence of barrier contraceptives which prevent the direct exchange of fluids which can carry STDs, but contrary to popular belief they can also be transmitted by other sexual contact like oral sex. Genital warts for instance, can be contracted from the oral cavity of a partner.

The spread of STDs also depends on what methods of contraception you apply, as well as the frequency of sexual intercourse and the number of different partners with which intercourse takes place.

How can I avoid getting an STD?

There are a number of steps you can take towards preventing the spread of STDs, and these include:

  1. Safe sex - Using a condom or diaphragm is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted disease. Condoms in particular prevent any direct genital contact and contain bodily fluids, very effectively preventing the spread of disease.
  2. Testing - Getting yourself and your partner (usually if you have a long term partner) tested for STDs is a great way to avoid any unpleasant surprises. Even if neither of you seem to have any symptoms, a disease causing organism may be present.
  3. Sexual habits - Refraining from frequent intercourse with many different individuals is a good way to avoid catching an STD. If you regularly have sex with multiple partners then the chances of you catching an infection from one of them will increase.

While STDs are a concern and definitely not something to be taken lightly, many are treatable and are no reason to panic. That being said if you experience anything unusual during or after sex, or feel any irritation or irregularity around your genitals, the best thing to do is go straight to your GP to have it checked out. This can be embarrassing, but it is important to have STDs treated quickly, and to let any sexual partners you have had recently know that they may be infected as well.