Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), or sexually transmitted infections (STIs), are generally acquired by sexual contact. The organisms that cause sexually transmitted diseases may pass from person to person in blood, semen, or vaginal and other bodily Fluids

Such infections can also be transmitted nonsexually, such as from mother to infant during pregnancy or childbirth, or through blood transfusions or shared needles.

It's possible to contract sexually transmitted diseases from people who seem perfectly healthy — people who, in fact, aren't even aware of being infected. Many STDs cause no symptoms in some people, which is one of the reasons experts prefer the term "sexually transmitted infections" to "sexually transmitted diseases."


Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) have a range of signs and symptoms. That's why they may go unnoticed until complications occur or a partner is diagnosed. Signs and symptoms that might indicate an STI include:

Sores or bumps on the genitals or in the oral or rectal area

Painful or burning urination

Discharge from the penis

Unusual or odd-smelling vaginal discharge

Unusual vaginal bleeding

Pain during sex

Sore, Swollen lymph nodes, particularly in the groin but sometimes more widespread

Lower abdominal pain

Rash over the trunk, hands or feet

Signs and symptoms may appear a few days to years after exposure, depending on the organism.

*See a doctor immediately if:*

You are sexually active and you believe you've been exposed to an STI

You have signs and symptoms of an STI


Sexually transmitted infections can be caused by:

Bacteria (Gonorrhea, Syphilis, Chlamydia)

Parasites (Trichomoniasis)

Viruses (human papillomavirus, Genital herpes, HIV)

Sexual activity plays a role in spreading many other infectious agents, although it's possible to be infected without sexual contact. Examples include the Hepatitis A, B and C viruses, shigella etc


Anyone who is sexually active risks exposure to a sexually transmitted infection to some degree. Factors that may increase that risk include:

Having unprotected sex. Vaginal or anal penetration by an infected partner who is not wearing a latex condom significantly increases the risk of getting an STI. Improper or inconsistent use of condoms can also increase your risk.

Oral sex is less risky but may still transmit infection without a latex condom or dental dam. Dental dams — thin, square pieces of rubber made with latex or silicone — prevent skin-to-skin contact.

Having sexual contact with multiple partners. The more people you have sexual contact with, the greater your overall exposure risks. This is true for concurrent partners as well as monogamous consecutive relationships.

Having a history of STIs. Being infected with one STI makes it much easier for another STI to take hold. If you're infected with herpes, Syphilis, Gonorrhea or Chlamydia and you have unprotected sex with an HIV-positive partner, you're more likely to contract HIV. Also, it's possible to be reinfected by the same infected partner if he or she isn't also treated.

Anyone forced to have sexual intercourse or sexual activity. Dealing with rape or assault can be difficult, but it is important to be seen as soon as possible. Screening, treatment and emotional support can be offered.

Abusing alcohol or using recreational drugs. Substance abuse can inhibit your judgment, making you more willing to participate in risky behaviors.

Injecting drugs. Needle sharing spreads many serious infections, including HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. If you acquire HIV by injecting drugs, you can transmit it sexually.

Being an adolescent female. In adolescent girls, the immature cervix is made up of constantly changing cells. These unstable cells make the adolescent female cervix more vulnerable to certain sexually transmitted organisms.

Men who request prescriptions for drugs to treat Erectile dysfunction. Men who ask their doctors for prescriptions for certain drugs — such as sildenafil (Viagra)  have higher rates of STIs. Be sure you are up to date on safe sex practices if you ask your doctor for one of these medications.

*Transmission from mother to infant*

Certain STIs — such as Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, HIV and Syphilis — can be passed from an infected mother to her child during pregnancy or delivery. STIs in infants can cause serious problems and may be fatal. All pregnant women should be screened for these infections and treated.


Prompt treatment can help prevent the complications of some STIs. Because many people in the early stages of an STI experience no symptoms, screening for STIs is important in preventing complications.

Possible complications include:

Sores or bumps anywhere on the body

Recurrent genital sores

Generalized skin rash

Scrotal pain, redness and swelling

Pelvic pain

Hair loss

Pregnancy complications

Eye inflammation

Pelvic inflammatory disease


Certain Cancers, such as HPV-associated cervical and Rectal cancers


There are several ways to avoid or reduce your risk of sexually transmitted infections.

Abstain. The most effective way to avoid STIs is to abstain from sex.

Stay with 1 uninfected partner. Another reliable way of avoiding STIs is to stay in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who isn't infected.

Wait and verify. Avoid vaginal and anal intercourse with new partners until you have both been tested for STIs. Oral sex is less risky, but use a latex condom  to prevent direct contact between the oral and genital mucous membranes. Keep in mind that no good screening test exists for Genital herpes for either sex, and human papillomavirus (HPV) screening isn't available for men.

Get vaccinated. Getting vaccinated early, before sexual exposure, is also effective in preventing certain types of STIs. (HPV)

Use condoms consistently and correctly. 

Use a new condom  for each sex act, whether oral, vaginal or anal. Never use an oil-based lubricant, such as petroleum jelly, with a latex condom .... Keep in mind that while condoms reduce your risk of exposure to most STIs, they provide a lesser degree of protection for STIs involving exposed genital sores, such as human papillomavirus (HPV) or herpes. Also, nonbarrier forms of contraception, such as oral contraceptives or intrauterine devices, don't protect against STIs.

Don't drink alcohol excessively or use drugs. If you're under the influence, you're more likely to take sexual risks.

Communicate. Before any serious sexual contact, communicate with your partner about practicing safer sex. Reach an explicit agreement about what activities will and won't be OK.

Consider male circumcision. There's evidence that male circumcision can help reduce a man's risk of" acquiring HIV from an infected woman (heterosexual transmission) by as much as 60 percent. Male circumcision may also help prevent transmission of genital HPV and Genital herpes.

Use of PReP to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted HIV infection in those who are at high risk.

(Nyasha Kawanzaruwa is a nurse at Matizha Clinic in Gutu District in Masvingo Province.)


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