HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. HIV is a blood-borne virus that can be transmitted through unprotected anal or vaginal sex and sharing HIV contaminated syringes. HIV weakens the immune system by destroying important cells that fight disease and infection. There are varying symptoms of HIV depending upon the stage of disease. Most people with acute infection experience a short flu-like illness. After initial symptoms disappear, there is often a long, silent period of HIV infection before the disease progresses to AIDS. There is no cure to HIV, but early diagnosis allows for treatment with medication that can help to suppress levels of virus.
Hepatitis C Virus
Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV). HCV is more commonly transmitted through needles or blood exposure and only rarely spread through sexual intercourse. The infection is usually asymptomatic. When symptoms do occur, they can include fatigue, nausea, muscle aches or jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes). For some people, Hepatitis C is a short-term illness but for 70%-85% of people who become infected, Hepatitis C becomes a long-term, chronic infection. Chronic Hepatitis C is a serious disease that can result in long-term health problems, even death.
Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2
Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2 (HSV-2) is a virus that is responsible for genital herpes. Symptoms of HSV-2 typically appear as blistering sores, on or around the genitals, rectum or mouth that break and leave painful ulcers. Infection with HSV-2 is lifelong and the sores may recur periodically during times of emotional stress or illness. Although there is no cure for genital herpes, severe episodes can be lessened and prevented with treatment.
Syphilis is a highly contagious bacterial infection by the bacterium Treponema pallidum. Syphilis is transmitted through sexual contact. The symptoms are related to the stage of the infection. Typically, the first sign of infection is a small, painless sore (called chancre) on the penis, vagina, or around the anus. Treponema pallidum eventually enters the bloodstream and causes rashes anywhere on the body and flu-like symptoms. If not treated, syphilis may progress to the symptom-less latent phase and may damage heart, brain and nervous system. Therefore, early treatment is important, as damage caused by late-stage syphilis infection is often irreversible.
Chlamydia is a bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. Chlamydia can be transmitted through sexual contact and generally shows no symptoms. Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States, with about 4 million new cases diagnosed every year. It can cause serious, permanent damage to a woman’s reproductive system. This can make it difficult or impossible for a woman to get pregnant later on. Chlamydia can also cause a potentially fatal ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy that occurs outside the womb).
Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae. It is transmitted through sexual contact and is most commonly asymptomatic in women. Gonorrhea can cause infections in the genitals, rectum, and throat. If not treated, gonorrhea is associated with complications that may result in infertility. There is a high prevalence of co-infection with chlamydia and an increased susceptibility to HIV.
Trichomoniasis is caused by infection with the protozoan parasite Trichomonas vaginalis. Trichomoniasis is transmitted through sexual contact. Women who are infected are more likely to develop symptoms than men. Symptoms usually include a foul-smelling discharge, genital itching and pain during urination or sexual intercourse. Complications are rare, although trichomoniasis in pregnancy can be linked to pre-labor rupture of membranes, preterm delivery and low birth weight. Untreated trichomoniasis can increase the risk of HIV infection.
HPV is caused by human papillomavirus, a DNA virus from the papillomavirus family. HPV is the most commonly diagnosed STD worldwide. It is transmitted through intimate skin-to-skin contact and can be passed even when an infected person has no signs or symptoms. In most cases HPV goes away on its own and does not cause major health problems. Most HPV infections are self-limited. They may cause genital warts that can be treated with various medications and are without long-term health consequences. However, there are “high risk” virus types of HPV that increase the risk of cancer. About 10% of women with HPV type 16 or 18 will develop long-lasting HPV infections that put them at risk for cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancer.
Two species of Mycoplasma have been proven to have a connection to STDs: Mycoplasma hominis and Mycoplasma genitalium. Mycoplasma hominis is the most frequently isolated Mycoplasma species from the human genital tract. Genital infections in women are more frequent than in men. Although the majority of individuals do not develop any disease, Mycoplasma hominis has been linked to pelvic inflammatory disease and is responsible for infections related to pregnancy. Mycoplasma genitalium is a bacterium found in the urinary tract and can cause abnormal discharge, pain during sex, abdominal discomfort and a burning pain in the genitals. Among men and women, many Mycoplasma genitalium infections are without symptoms at all. If symptoms do appear, they are nonspecific and easily mistaken for chlamydia and gonorrhea. Existing data on infection in women are limited and inconsistent but suggest that Mycoplasma genitalium can lead to infertility, if left untreated.
Two species of Ureaplasma have been proven to have a connection to STDs: Ureaplasma urealyticum and Ureaplasma palvum. Ureaplasma urealyticum is a bacterium that infects the urogenital tract. If symptoms occur, they are easily mistaken for chlamydia and gonorrhea. Colonization of lower genital tract by Ureaplasma urealyticum has been evaluated as a cause of infertility and is also associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes. Ureaplasma parvum does not seem to cause symptoms in females, but their role in the female urogenital tract remains unknown and is still being researched.