HIV and sexually transmitted disease (STD)

Sexually transmitted disease (STD) - facts you need to know!

You may hear about STD from your partner or your friends but it really is an awkward conversation to have with your doctor. As embarassing it may be, more and more young people contract STD on daily basis that it is a staggering public health burden worldwide. In fact, half of sexually active teens will get STD before their 25th birthday and most of them are blissfully unaware of the infection putting themselves and their partners at risks of various long term health issues.

Here are some of the most common frequently asked questions about STD that you need to know today.

What is STD and how is it transmitted?

STDs stands for sexually transmitted disease acquired from sexual behaviour like vaginal intercourse, oral sex, anal sex or sometimes intimate skin-to-skin contact. Among common types of STDs are Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea, Syphilis, Herpes, NGU (non- gonococcal urethritis), HPV, Hepatitis and HIV. Depending on the type of infection, certain viruses can also be transmitted via other methods such as sharing needles, pass from mother to baby during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

STD may cause various long term health issues such as infertility, pregnancy complications such as ectopic pregnancy, cancer risk and has profound burden to public healthcare worldwide.

How do I know if I have STD? I don’t have STD right if I don’t have any symptoms?

Not true. There is no way to know for sure unless you are being tested. There are people who doesn’t get any symptoms or milder symptoms. If you might expose to STD via sexual activity, you should get yourself check and get tested.

In women, they may experience abnormal vaginal discharge, abnormal lump, sores or rashes over the vaginal area, abnormal vaginal bleeding, frequent and painful urination, lower abdominal and pelvic pain, pain during intercourse, infertility, pregnancy-related complications such as miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy.

In men, they may experience abnormal penile discharge, abnormal lump, sores or rashes over the penile area, painful erection and ejaculation, frequent and painful urination and sometimes testicular pain.

STD like Hepatitis infection can cause acute liver infection and present with yellowing of the eye and skin (jaundice), abdominal pain and distension, fever, vomiting, loss of appetite and diarrhoea.

What are the testing done for STD?

There are several tests that can be perform to look for STD infection usually from blood and urine sample. For Chlamydia and gonorrhoea, a PCR testing can be performed to test for presence of these infection. Other infections such as HSV, HIV and syphilis can be done by detecting presence of antigen and antibodies in the blood. Other samples that can be sent out for testing including the fluid from vagina and penile, fluid from the vesicles and pap smear.

Can I be cure from STD?

Many STDs are curable. For example, Chlamydia, Syphilis, Gonorrhoea and Trichomonas all can be cured by course of antibiotic.

Other STD such as HIV, HPV and Herpes (HSV) are currently incurable. Hepatitis B and C infection can lead to prolong chronic liver infection and cause liver cancer. Herpes infection can cause recurrence flare of painful blisters and may require suppression treatments. Human papilloma virus can cause benign genital warts as well as invasive cervical and anogenital cancer. 

Even if an STD can’t be cured, however, it can still be managed. It’s still important to get an early diagnosis. Treatment options are often available to help alleviate symptoms and lower your chances of transmitting the STD to someone else.

Can I get an STD from oral sex?

Yes. This is a very common misconception about oral sex. In fact STD like gonorrhoea and herpes are commonly transmitted through oral sex. 

Are condoms effective againts all STDs?

Not 100% but if you use it correctly, it can provide a good protection from STDs that are spreading through bodily fluids like vaginal secretions and semen. However, it doesn't give protection well against STD that are spread through skin- to skin contact such as HPV causing genital wart, herpes and molluscum contangiosum.

If I have STD now that means I am protected and will not get STD again the future right?

Not true. You can still get STD such as Gonorrhoea, syphilis and Chlamydia more than once even if you have fully treated after an exposure with someone who have the infection. It is very important to make sure that all the sexual partner are tested and treated to prevent re-infection.

Can I get an STD from using public toilet?

Very unlikely. There is no evidence STDS are spread by contact with public toilets. STDs causing organism requires very specific conditions including moist surfaces within the body such as vagina to live. 

Can I get STD from kissing?

Yes, unfortunately certain STD such as oral herpes can cause painful cold sores from kissing activity.

How do I prevent STD? 

The surest way to prevent STD is by abstinence of sexual activity. It’s important to be faithful and avoid multiple sexual partners and high-risk behaviours. Get tested, along with your sexual partner before having sex or getting married. Get vaccinated against HPV and hepatitis B. Consider use of pre- exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) against HIV infection. Use barrier methods like condom correctly every time you engage in sexual activity.

STD infection is preventable with safe sex practices. It’s very important to always protect yourself by using condom protection not just for prevention of STD but also against unwanted pregnancy. Do not be embarrassed to discuss this matter with your doctor and rest assured that all the conversation with your doctor is kept confidential. Get tested and get treated as early as possible.