Sexually transmitted diseases and infections (STD’s/STI’s) are infections you catch through sexual contact. Sexual contact can include vaginal or anal intercourse, as well as kissing and oral/genital contact as some STI’s can be spread without intercourse. The surest way to protect your self from STI’s is to not have sex. Limiting your sexual partners can also reduce your chances of contracting an STI. Condoms and dental dams, which are available without cost at Student Health Services and the Student Health Promotion Office, also help reduce risk.
There are more than 25 identified STI’s. According to the American Social Health Association, one in four college students have or have had an STI. Over 15 million cases of STI’s are reported each year. Bacterial STI’s (gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis) are relatively easy to cure with antibiotics, if caught early. Viral STI’s, like genital herpes and AIDS, are often incurable. Regular screening for STI’s is prudent if you are sexually active, especially if you are engaging in high risk behaviors such as unprotected sex or if you have multiple partners. Knowing the signs and symptoms is important for early treatment of STI’s. If you think you have an STI, stop having sex and make an appointment to see a health care provider at Student Health Services for a confidential examination and testing.
Chlamydia is a bacterial infection treated with antibiotics, which affects 3-4 million people each year. Approximately 75% of women and 50% of men exhibit no symptoms at diagnosis. Some women and men report a mild mucous-like discharge from the genitals or stinging when urinating. Women may have abdominal pain and men may have testicular pain. Because there are often no symptoms, regular screening for Chlamydia is recommended, if you are sexually active or have a new partner. Complications include Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) in women and testicular infections in men. STD Facts - Chlamydia
Genital herpes is caused by a virus that produces painful, inflamed blisters on the penis, in the vagina, on the cervix, or around the anus. The first episode is usually the most severe, and although the initial outbreak subsides, herpes often recurs. People are most infectious when they have the sores. However, some people can be infectious even when no sores are present. Babies born to infected mothers also can be infected. A health practitioner can prescribe medicine to soothe the pain and reduce the frequency and severity of outbreaks. These medications also may reduce the amount of herpes virus being shed from the skin. STD Facts - Genital Herpes
Genital warts is a sexually transmitted infection that is caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a large family of viruses that infect the skin, often causing irregular cell growth that may result in fleshy bumps known as condylomata or warts. HPV is transmitted through contact with infected skin during sexual activity. Visible warts may appear two to three months or more after infection and quite often there are no visible signs of infection. A person can pass the infection to their sexual partners whether there are visible warts or not, which is one reason why HPV infection is so common. Genital warts are painless, but may bleed easily or itch. They occur on the vulva, in or around the vagina or anus and on the penis, scrotum, groin, or thigh. Some types of HPV can cause cervical cancer in women. STD Facts-HPV
Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection that can be treated with antibiotics. Symptoms include painful urination and discharge from the vagina or penis. About 50% of women and some men have no symptoms. If left untreated, it can cause arthritis, dermatitis, heart problems, and reproductive problems in both men and women. Regular screening for gonorrhea is recommended if you are sexually active. STD Facts - Gonorrhea
Hepatitis B is a viral infection, which can be acquired though oral, anal, or vaginal sexual contact and through exposure to infected blood. Symptoms may include abdominal pain and tenderness, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, rash, and jaundice. Many adults have mild or no symptoms. About 10% of infected people will develop chronic hepatitis B, which is associated with liver cancer and other serious liver conditions. There is no cure and most people recover. A vaccine effective in preventing hepatitis B is available. Hepatitis B: Fact Sheet | CDC Viral Hepatitis
HIV Infection and AIDS can be transmitted through exchange of blood, semen, or vaginal fluid. Many people who contract HIV will not have any or will have only mild symptoms until they develop AIDS, but it is still possible to transmit the virus. Some people may notice flu-like symptoms two to six weeks after being infected. Babies can be infected by mothers before or during birth and from breast milk of infected mothers. Medical treatments and self-care strategies can both slow down the progression of HIV and prevent or modify some complications, but there is no cure. Student Health Services offers free and confidential HIV testing. ASHA | AIDS and HIV
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) is commonly caused by Chlamydia and gonorrhea and can be treated with antibiotics. PID occurs when these infections spread to the uterus, fallopian tubes and abdominal cavity. Symptoms can include vaginal discharge, pelvic pain, lower back pain, bleeding between periods, heavier than normal bleeding, fever, nausea, and vomiting. It may take weeks or months of symptoms to develop and some women have very mild symptoms. Complications include sterility and pregnancy outside the uterus, which can lead to rupture of the fallopian tubes. This condition can be fatal. STD Facts - Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
Syphilis is a bacterial infection that occurs in three stages. Symptoms of primary syphilis usually occur three weeks after exposure and include a painless sore called a chancre that appears on the vagina, cervix, vulva, mouth or penis. Signs of secondary syphilis occur six to eight weeks after exposure and include swollen lymph nodes, skin rash, hair loss, or flu-like symptoms. Syphilis can be treated with antibiotics. If left untreated, syphilis will result in permanent disability or death. If you think you have syphilis or have been exposed, contact your health care provider immediately. STD Facts - Syphilis
CDC National STD Hotline: 1-800-227-8922 or 1-800-342-2437
- Center for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov)
- American Social Health Association (http://www.ashastd.org/)
- SIECUS (http://www.siecus.org/pubs/fact/fact0019.html)
- Go Ask Alice (www.goaskalice.columbia.edu)
- North Dakota Department of Health (http://www.health.state.nd.us/disease/std)