What are STIs?
Sexually Transmitted Diseases are a set of infections that are passed from one person to another during sex. It is mainly caused by bacteria or viruses.
These diseases can be transmitted through sexual contact, oral sex, and sharing items like towels, forks, and toothbrushes with people who have an infection.
Most sexually transmitted diseases can last for weeks without treatment or show no symptoms at all.
One way to prevent contracting STIs is abstinence, but it’s not 100% effective because many adults are sexually active even when they claim they aren’t.
How are STIs spread
Below are ways to how these diseases can be spread:
1. Sexual intercourse
This is the most common and easiest way to get an STI. The partner you’re sleeping with can pass the infection to you with his or her body fluids. These include semen, vaginal secretions, and blood.
The risk of getting an infection is higher for women than for men because there are more bacteria in female genital tract fluids.
2. Shared sex toys
Sex toys can pass the infection from one person to another. Examples of these are vibrators, dildos, and butt plugs. If you or your partner share these toys with another person and don’t clean them before using them, it can cause you to get an STI.
The best way to stop this is to avoid sharing sex toys with other people. If you need to share them for financial reasons, use a condom on the toy each time you use it.
3. Sharing needles used for drug injection
This can be passed from one person to another through shared needles or through touching needles that someone else has touched during a drug injection.
4. Personal items
Some people get infections when they share personal items like toothbrushes, razors, or towels with someone who is infected. You can’t see STIs.
So, you can get some without knowing it. This is why it’s important to always clean your toothbrush or razor by using soap and water after using them.
You should also always wash your hands thoroughly after using the toilet or changing a diaper.
5. Menstrual blood
Some women can pass an infection from their menstrual blood to their partners through unprotected sex during periods.
The risk of getting an infection increases when a woman has sex with someone who has a genital infection during her menstrual cycle.
The best way to stop this is to use a condom during sex and not have sex when you’re on your period.
What are the symptoms of STIs?
1. Vaginal discharge
The most common sign of an STl is a vaginal discharge, which can be clear to yellow in color. It may have an unpleasant smell as well. This discharge can be formed by bacteria, yeast, or viruses.
It’s best to see your doctor if you notice any changes to your vagina because they may indicate an STI.
2. Genital ulcers
Most people with STIs have genital ulcers, which are small sores that can appear on their genitals, anus, and rectum.
They usually don’t hurt when touched and don’t cause symptoms like pain or itching unless they get infected by bacteria or viruses the person already has on their body.
3. Genital sores
These are small sores that can appear on the penis, scrotum, or vagina. They may be red, raw, and painful when touched. It’s not easy to know if you have an STD because they often have no symptoms.
4. Genital warts
These are small white bumps that appear on the penis or vagina and can be found on other areas of the body as well. They can also be painful when touched or move around if irritated.
It’s best to see a doctor if you notice any changes to your genital area that make it uncomfortable or cause pain during sex.
5. Unexpected vaginal bleeding
People with some STIs have occasional vaginal bleeding. This can be a sign of an infection if it happens more than once every few months or on a regular basis.
It’s also a sign of an infection if you have spotting between periods because this is when the body sheds its blood during menstruation.
6. Unusual discharge
This can be a sign of STIs if you want to know if you have one. It can be clear, yellow, greenish, or gray in color and has an unpleasant odor as well.
If you notice any changes to your vagina, it’s best to see your doctor for medical advice.
What are some of the most common STIs?
This is an infection that can appear as a vaginal discharge, genital sores, or genital warts. It can also cause anal and oral sores around your genitals.
Gonorrhea can affect both men and women, but it’s easier for women to get it because there are more bacteria in the female reproductive tract and makes it easier to pass from one person to another.
Herpes is an infection caused by a virus that can be passed from one person to another. This virus can cause genital sores, blisters, and itching. It’s caused by two strains of herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) and 2 (HSV-2).
About one in six people who have genital herpes infections have this virus where the sores appear on their mouth or genitals. This disease is not contagious from one person to another.
This is a deadly disease that causes AIDS when it’s left untreated or when the body has no natural immunity to its attacks on the immune system.
This is a very dangerous disease that can cause major damage to the body’s nervous system, organs, and brain. In most cases, this disease does not cause symptoms except for a sore throat or mouth ulcers for some people.
If you have syphilis, it’s important to see your doctor as soon as possible because this infection is easy to pass from one person to another.
The causes of STIs
The most common cause of STIs is unprotected sex. If you’re having sex with someone who has an STI, it’s a good idea to use a condom to avoid getting one.
Condoms are mechanical barriers that cover the penis and vagina so that the person you’re having sex with doesn’t have access to your body parts during sex.
Having multiple sexual partners (more than one partner in a short amount of time). This increases your risk of getting an STD because you can catch one from each person you have sex with and end up with them all at the same time.
Not being fully informed about certain STD risks. If you’re not fully informed about STIs, it’s easy to make a mistake and get an infection. For example, your partner could tell you that they don’t have one when they actually do, or vice versa.
Who is at the highest risk of STIs?
1. Lesbian women
The risk of getting an STI is higher for lesbian women than for heterosexual women because they have more opportunities to have unprotected sex.
2. People who have multiple partners
If you have more than one partner, it’s a smart idea to use condoms during sex to avoid STIs.
3. Teenagers and young adults
People in this age group are at higher risk of getting STIs than older people because they may engage in sexual activity that is less risky and more enjoyable. This can increase their chances of engaging in sexual activity with someone who has an STD, which can cause them to get one as well.
4. People who have oral and anal sex
If you engage in oral sex, you’re at higher risk of getting an infection. If you have anal sex, you’re at a greater risk of getting an STD than those who don’t engage in this type of sexual activity.
5. People who use drugs and alcohol
Using drugs and alcohol may increase your chances of getting an STI. If you engage in these activities with someone who has an STD, you increase your chances of getting one as well and can pass it to them.
6. People with HIV/AIDS
Those who have HIV/AIDS are at higher risk of getting STIs because they may not take medication or engage in other healthy behaviors to prevent catching one.
People with HIV/AIDS are at higher risk of passing their infection to others because they may not be on the right treatment, or they could be using a dirty needle to inject their medications that can spread the disease from a lesion.
How to protect yourself from STIs?
1. Condom use
The best way to avoid STIs is to use condoms during sex. This can reduce the risk of getting an infection by about 70 percent.
If you’ve already gotten an STI, it’s best to talk with your doctor about vaccination. This helps prevent you from getting infected again and spreading it to others too.
3. Use alcohol carefully
If you drink alcohol, be careful not to exceed more than one drink every day. This can increase your chances of getting an STI because it’s not clear whether alcohol actually increases the risk of getting one.
4. Avoid the vaginas of people who have STIs
It’s best to avoid having sex with those who have undisclosed STIs and unprotected sex with partners who have been tested for them.
5. Don’t share drinking cups, utensils, or drug paraphernalia
Sharing these things increases your chances of being infected with an STD because you could get stuck with someone else’s germs on these things and share them with others as well.
Many STIs can be easily treated, but there are some that can’t. If you’re at risk of getting an STD and find yourself with a sore throat or mouth ulcers, it’s best to see a doctor immediately for treatment and possible testing for STIs.
If you want to avoid getting an STD, the best way is to avoid all sexual activity outside of a long-term relationship until you know that your partner isn’t infected with an STI.
Condoms should also be used if you already have one or more partners and want to prevent them from spreading around your community.
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