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The most common sexually transmitted diseases

Letter tiles with the word sex on a red background

Every day more than a million people worldwide contract a sexually transmitted infection. Many do not even know about it and pass on the STD.

Anyone can get it, but many believe they cannot contract an STD. Far from it, because not all of them are due to frequently changing sexual partners. Even the most loyal can become infected.

There are more than 30 different sexually transmitted diseases worldwide. Symptoms range from uncomfortable to life-threatening. Antibiotics are the drug of choice for treatment in the early stages.

Syphilis can be deadly

FSU Jena Moulagen Collection Wax model of syphilis
Rash is just one of many symptoms of syphilis

Syphilis has been known for more than five centuries. The disease is triggered by a bacterium; The disease is transmitted primarily through sexual contact. But even a contaminated blood supply can be dangerous, just like needles used by drug addicts.

If both people have small sores or injuries in their mouths, the bacterium can be passed on just by kissing. If a pregnant woman is infected, she can transmit the bacterium to the unborn child. In the worst case, if syphilis is not treated, it can result in death.

Syphilis has different stages. It begins with nodules and boils on the skin. In the final stage, meningitis and paralysis of the cranial nerves can occur, among other things.

Gonorrhea is highly infectious

The gonorrhea bacterium (Neisseria gonorrhoeae) under the electron microscope
Gonorrhea is a bacterial infectious disease

Gonorrhea – also known as gonorrhea – is a bacterial infection. Triggers are gonococci (Neisseria gonorrhoeae). They attack the mucous membranes of the urinary and genital organs. The infection is highly contagious.

Infection occurs during unprotected sex and oral sex, finger contact, and petting. However, gonorrhea can also be transmitted to the child during the birth of an infected mother.

The symptoms in men and women are similar: women have a discharge from the vagina and/or urethra, itching, and pain during sex. In men, penile and/or butt discharge and painful urination are possible indicators of gonorrhea.

This sexually transmitted disease is also treated with antibiotics. However, some gonococcal strains have now become resistant to the usual antibiotic gonorrhea therapy. That is why gonorrhea is nowadays treated with a combination of two antibiotics since one preparation alone no longer offers sufficient safety.

Chlamydia can make you infertile

Pathogens under the microscope | chlamydia
Chlamydia infections are sometimes without symptoms

Chlamydia is the most commonly transmitted STI (sexually transmitted infection) worldwide. The bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis is responsible. Women, in particular, are infected, many without realizing it.

Direct contact with infected mucous membranes or body fluids can trigger chlamydia, for example with unprotected vaginal and oral sex. However, the infection can also be transmitted through objects such as sex toys. Pregnant women can transmit chlamydia to their children at birth.

The usual therapy consists of administering an antibiotic over a period of seven days. Then the infection is over in most cases. Left untreated, chlamydia can cause infertility in both women and men.

Hepatitis B is notifiable

Hepatitis B virus
Hepatitis B can be passed through blood

There are different variants of hepatitis. Hepatitis B is a sexually transmitted disease. The trigger is the HB virus of the same name. It is transmitted through semen or vaginal fluid during vaginal, anal, and oral sex, but also through saliva, urine, and even tears.

Newborns and young children are at risk of an infected mother passing the infection on through breast milk.

If you use the razor or toothbrush of infected people, you can also get infected. If the device is not absolutely hygienic and free of pathogens, piercing and tattooing can pose a risk.

In the past, the virus was more commonly passed on through blood transfusions or during surgery. There are now strict controls.

Human papillomaviruses are widespread

Human papillomavirus HPV
There are vaccines against HPV

Almost every sexually active person becomes infected with human papillomavirus in the course of their life, even without sexual intercourse. Infection is possible even with minimal physical contact with an infected person or even in the sauna.

There are over 200 variants in total. Some of these belong to the so-called low-risk types. They cause genital warts, which are pinhead-sized nodules that form on the genitals.

But there are also high-risk types. If these viruses remain in the body for a long time, cell changes and precancerous stages can occur. These can develop into cancer over the years. In women, this is mainly the dangerous cervical cancer, in men, cancer of the mouth and throat.

A vaccine against some HPV types has been available since the end of September 2006, and another vaccine was approved in 2015. Vaccination is mainly for children and adolescents from 9 to 14 years.

HIV/AIDS is no longer a death sentence

HIV-infected cell under the electron microscope
AIDS is now considered a chronic disease

The HI virus damages the body’s immune system and can eventually lead to the dreaded AIDS disease. AIDS and HIV are not the same. AIDS is the abbreviation for “Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome”, i.e. it stands for the acquired weakness of the immune system. HIV refers to the actual infection with the virus.

HIV can be transmitted through contact with infectious bodily fluids such as semen, and vaginal fluid, during sexual intercourse, but also through blood.

AIDS has evolved over the past 40 years from a deadly disease into a chronic disease that, with appropriate therapy and medication, is quite manageable.

Antiretroviral drugs have been the drug of choice since 1996. These medications have to be taken daily for a lifetime. They prevent the virus from spreading further in the body and causing AIDS.

A lot has also happened in terms of prevention: the so-called HIV-PrEP. HIV-negative people can take them to protect themselves from contracting HIV. When used properly, PrEP is as protective as condoms.

PrEP is mainly given to people with an increased risk of infection. This group includes, for example, men who have sex with men or partners of people with HIV. “Pre-exposure prophylaxis” can protect against infection with HIV, but not against other STIs.

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