A Look at Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

STDs vs STIs

Why are they called “sexually transmitted infections” instead of “sexually transmitted diseases”?

  • Because all STIs are treatable (examples: HIV, Herpes Simplex) and many are curable (examples: Chlamydia, Gonorrhea).
  • To reduce stigma. STIs are very common; in fact, one out of four college students has an STI and many don’t even know that they are infected.

Sexually Transmitted Infections

Gonorrhea

  • Incidence: Highest among those ages 15-24 years. Rates are declining, but are highest in Southern and Midwestern states than in the West and Northeast. In 2009 there were 301,174 cases.
  • Symptoms: Men may experience symptoms such as urethral discharge, painful urination, and increase. urgency of urination, however they can infect others before onset of symptoms. The majority of women do not experience any symptoms until complications come up, such as pelvic inflammatory disease. If symptoms do develop, they will present themselves within 3-5 days and women will possibly experience an increase in urination frequency or bleeding after sex. Rectal gonorrhea, which can be transmitted through anal intercourse, may cause bloody stools and a pus-like discharge.
  • Treatment: It is cured with antibiotics. All sexual partners should be tested.
  • Prevention: By using a barrier method such as: male condoms, female condoms, dental dams, or by abstaining from vaginal and anal intercourse.

Syphilis

  • Incidence: 13,997 cases of primary and secondary syphilis and 427 cases of congenital cases in 2009. Cases have been increasing for the first time in 14 years. Highest rates are in young minority men. Highest in Southern states.
  • Symptoms: Infection is divided into three stages:
    • 1st Stage (happens within 2-6 weeks after infection) – one or more red-brown sores that appear on the vulva, penis, vagina, cervix, anus, mouth or lips. After these disappear they enter in the 2nd stage.
    • 2nd Stage – begins 3-6 weeks after sores have healed; person develops reddish patches on skin that look like a rash or hives.
    • 3rd Stage: Everything disappears; If left untreated the person can transmit the disease for about 1 year, after which they are no longer infectious.
  • Treatment: If a person has been infected for less than 1 year: only a single injection of antibiotic is needed to cure syphilis. Additional doses may be needed depending on how long the person has had syphilis. If syphilis progresses to later stages, it is no longer treatable can be fatal.
  • Prevention: By using a barrier method such as: male condoms, female condoms, dental dams, or by abstaining from vaginal and anal intercourse.

Chlamydia

  • Incidence: 1,244,180 cases in 2009. Highest among men and women younger than 25 years old. 3 times higher in women. Highest in Southern states. Can be transmitted through: Vaginal intercourse, oral sex, and/ or anal sex; it can also be passed to newborn babies during childbirth.
  • Symptoms: Called a “silent disease” because many women and men are asymptomatic, meaning there may be no symptoms. If chlamydia remains untreated in women, they risk infertility and ectopic pregnancies.
  • Treatment: It is cured with antibiotics. Recent partners should be tested. Anyone diagnosed with chlamydia should be re-tested within 3 months of treatment.
  • Prevention: By using a barrier method such as: male condoms, female condoms, dental dams, or by abstaining from vaginal and anal intercourse.

Herpes Simplex 1 & 2

  • Incidence: Estimated that 1 in 5 Americans is infected with Herpes Simplex 2 (typically genital herpes). Most do not know they have it. Herpes Simplex 1 (typically oral herpes) is highly contagious and can be transmitted through kissing and even sharing food or drinks.
  • Symptoms:
    • Simplex 1: cold sores or blisters, usually around the mouth.
    • Simplex 2: small blisters may appear externally on vagina or penis.
    • Extra care should be taken when performing oral sex. Herpes Simplex 1 can be passed to genitals and Herpes Simplex 2 can be passed to the mouth.
  • Treatment: Not curable. Treated through viral suppressants. However, the body’s immune system suppresses the virus over time, so the number of outbreaks decreases
  • Prevention: By using a barrier method such as: male condoms, female condoms, dental dams or by abstaining from vaginal and anal intercourse.

Human Papilloma Virus (high risk & low risk)

  • Incidence: HPV is the most common viral STI in US. Estimated 20 million men and women currently have HPV. 6 million more people become infected with each year. It can infect the genitals, anus, mouth, and throat through vaginal and anal intercourse, oral sex and vulva-to-vulva contact.
  • Symptoms:
    • Low Risk: can cause genital and anal warts, warts in throat, nose and throat.
    • High Risk: can cause abnormal pap tests and increase the risk of developing cervical cancer.
  • Treatment: In 90% of cases, the body’s immune system clears HPV naturally within 2 years. There are topical solutions for warts available by prescription; do not use over the counter wart removal medication on genitals.Cervical cancer can be treated if caught early; it is detected in women through biopsies of cervical tissue after an abnormal Pap test.
  • Prevention: HPV vaccine available to both men and women. By using a barrier method such as: male condoms, female condoms, dental dams, or by abstaining from vaginal and anal intercourse.

Viral Hepatitis (A, B, and C)

  • Incidence: Approximately 2,500 symptomatic cases were reported in the US in 2008. After adjusting for asymptomatic cases, the total number was probably closer to 22,000 (CDC). Highest among men in Western and Southern states. However, new infections are decreasing, probably because of available vaccines.
  • Symptoms: Symptoms, if any, usually occur within 4 weeks and include: fatigue, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, and diarrhea. Most people infected see no symptoms at all. The CDC estimates that between 60-70% of those infected with hepatitis C will experience a chronic liver infection.
  • Treatment: Antiviral therapies. Bed rest and a lot of fluids.
  • Prevention: Vaccines are available to prevent both hepatitis A and hepatitis B. By using a barrier method such as:male condoms, female condoms, dental dams, or by abstaining from vaginal and anal intercourse.

 

HIV/AIDS

  • Incidence: 1.1 million adults and teens live with HIV in the U.S. 50,000-60,000 more Americans become infected each year. One in five people living with HIV does not know that they have it. New infections are highest among persons aged 20-24 years old. HIV is transmitted through semen, vaginal fluid, breast milk, and blood.
  • Symptoms: HIV is a viral infection that gradually breaks down the immune system. AIDS is the syndrome that is the result of a compromised immune system. AIDS can develop, without treatment, in 8-10 years. Symptoms include those similar to the flu: fever, sore throat, chronic swollen lymph nodes. As the immune system continues to deteriorate, it makes the body more susceptible to diseases such as colds. Those affected by AIDS do not die from AIDS, but from diseases and infections their body is unable to combat.
  • Treatment: Not curable, but treatable. Prescription medications.
  • Prevention: Avoid sharing needles. By using a barrier method such as: male condoms, female condoms, dental dams, or by abstaining from vaginal and anal intercourse.

What is required for testing? Do I have to give blood?

Some facilities or infections require a blood test, while others do not.

  • Blood Test:  Hepatitis, Syphilis, HIV
  • Urine Test: Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Trichomoniasis
  • Oral Swab: HIV
  • HPV requires pap test

Where can I get tested near Elon?

Alamance County Health Department

319 N Graham-Hopedale Rd 
Burlington, NC 27217

336-227-0101

What do they offer?

  • FREE HIV TESTING
  • Chlamydia Testing
  • Conventional HIV Blood Testing
  • Gonorrhea Testing
  • Hepatitis B Vaccine
  • Herpes Testing
  • HPV Vaccine
  • Syphilis Testing

Clinic Info

Elon University Health Center

301 South O’Kelly
Elon, NC 27244

336-278-7230

Clinic Info

Alamance Cares

3025 S Church St
Burlington, NC 27215

336-538-8111

What do they offer?

  • FREE HIV TESTING
  • Rapid HIV Oral Testing
  • Syphilis Testing

Clinic Info

Guilford County Department of Public Health

1100 E Wendover Ave
Greensboro, NC 27405

336-641-3245

What do they offer?

  • FREE HIV TESTING
  • Chlamydia Testing
  • Conventional HIV – Blood Testing
  • Gonorrhea Testing
  • Hepatitis B Vaccine
  • HPV Vaccine
  • Syphilis Testing

Directions & Clinic Info

Interested in more information?