Please Note: Although these pages on sexual health were written by a doctor they are here for information purposes and not to be used to self diagnose or self treat. Always seek the advice of a doctor if you suspect you have been infected by a STD/STI.
Aside from colds and the flu, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are some of the most widespread diseases in the world. STDs affect both men and women, and two-thirds of all STDs occur in people younger than 25 years old. Exposure to an STD can occur any time you have sexual contact with anyone that involves the genitals, the mouth (oral), or the rectum (anal).
Exposure is more likely if you have more than one sex partner or do not use condoms. Some STDs can be passed by nonsexual contact, such as during the delivery of a baby or during breast-feeding. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are also called sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
STDs are a worldwide public health concern because there is more opportunity for STDs to be spread as more people travel and engage in sexual activities. Some STDs have been linked to an increased risk for certain cancers and infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Pregnant women can spread STDs to their babies. Many people may not have symptoms of an STD but are still able to spread an infection. It is important to practice safe sex with all partners, especially if you or they have high-risk sexual behaviors.
Common sexually transmitted diseases
There are at least 20 different STDs. They can be caused by viruses, bacteria and protozoa. Some of the most common STDs are:
- Genital herpes.
- Genital warts (human papillomavirus (HPV)
- Hepatitis B.
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS.
There are other infections that can be sexually transmitted, but are not only passed by sexual contact. These include
- Hepatitis A,
- Pubic lice & Scabies,
- Bacterial Vaginosis,
- and possibly Hepatitis C.
Bacterial STDs can be treated and cured, but STDs caused by viruses cannot be cured. You can get a bacterial STD over and over again, even if it is one that you were treated for and cured of in the past.
For more information on the symptoms, treatment, and possible complications of specific STDs read the various sections.
It is important to seek treatment if you think you may have an STD or have been exposed to a STD. Most health departments, family planning clinics, and STD clinics provide confidential services for the diagnosis and treatment of STDs. Early treatment can cure a bacterial STD and prevent complications.
If you are a parent of a teenager, there are many resources available, such as your health professional or family planning clinics, to help you talk with your teen about safe sex, preventing STDs, and being evaluated and treated for STDs.
Risks specific to women with sexually transmitted diseases
In women, STDs can cause a serious infection of the uterus and fallopian tubes called pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID may cause scar tissue that blocks the fallopian tubes, leading to infertility, ectopic pregnancy, pelvic abscess, or chronic pelvic pain.
STDs in pregnant women may cause problems such as:
- Low birth weight.
- Premature delivery.
- Infections in their newborn baby, such as pneumonia, eye infections, or nervous system problems
Risks specific to men with sexually transmitted diseases
- Infection and inflammation of the epididymis, urethra, and prostate.
If you have symptoms of an STD or have been exposed to an STD whether by oral, anal, or vaginal sexual activity, see your health professional as soon as possible.
If you do get an infection, let the people you have played with know, so that they can get treated. Until now the swinging scene has had a lower incidence of infection that the general public. This is because although swingers have more partners, and have more unprotected sex that then general population, people have been responsible and let their partners know when they have been infected.
Do not blame a play partner if they tell you they are infected, it could just of easily have been you that infected them! If a person alerts you they are being good swingers, someone within the scene has infected them, but they are the one doing something to stop the spread.