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Sexually Transmitted Infections

All sexual activity beyond fantasy and masturbation carries risks. One of the major risks on college campuses is sexually transmitted infections (STI) sometimes known as sexually transmitted diseases (STD). These can be bacterial or viral infections that are transmitted through certain forms of sexual contact, most commonly through oral, vaginal or anal sex, but also sometimes through kissing or skin-to-skin contact.

Whether an STI causes symptoms or not, a person with an STI is still a carrier for the infection, and can still pass it on to their sexual partners. Since most people infected with STIs do not show symptoms, it is important for all people who are sexually active to get screened for STIs on a regular basis. Student Health Services provides screening for many STIs and information about St. Louis area screening centers. To make an appointment, call 314-935-6666 or use the Student Portal to schedule your appointment online. You can request any medical provider (medicine or women’s health).

Chlamydia

Chlamydia is a bacterial infection of the genital areas. About 1.2 million new cases are reported each year, with the highest rates among adolescent women. It can be spread through vaginal, oral, or anal sex. It can also be passed from mother to child during childbirth.

Symptoms

Often there are no symptoms. For women who do experience symptoms, they may have abnormal vaginal discharge, bleeding (not their period), and/or burning and pain during urination. For men who do experience symptoms, they may have discharge or pain during urination, and/or burning or itching around the opening of the penis.

If left untreated, chlamydia can cause increased risk for infection of other STDs, including HIV. In women, chlamydia can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) which can lead to infertility and tubal (ectopic) pregnancy. Men may develop pain and swelling in the testicles, although this is rare. Babies born to infected women can develop eye or lung infections.

Treatment

Oral antibiotics cure the infection. Both partners must be treated at the same time to prevent passing the infection back and forth. Both partners should abstain from sex until the infection is gone.

Trichomoniasis (Trich)

Trichomoniasis is parasitic infection of the genital areas which is spread through vaginal sex. An estimated 3.7 million new cases are reported each year.

Symptoms

Often there are no symptoms. For women who do experience symptoms, they may notice a frothy, smelly, yellowish-green vaginal discharge, and/or genital area discomfort. Men who have symptoms may temporarily have a discharge from the penis, slight burning after urination or ejaculation, and/or an irritation in the penis.

If left untreated, trich can cause increased risk for infection of other STDs, including HIV. In women, trich can cause complications during pregnancy.

Treatment

Antibiotics can cure the infection. Both partners must be treated at the same time to prevent passing the infection back and forth. Both partners should abstain from sex until the infection is gone. It is common for this infection to recur (come back again).

Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection of the genital areas. About 650,000 new cases are reported each year. The highest rates are among women aged 15 to 19 and men aged 20 to 24. It can be spread through vaginal, oral, or anal sex. It can also be passed from mother to child during childbirth.

Symptoms

Most infected people have no symptoms. For those who do, it can cause a burning sensation while urinating, abnormal white, green, and/or yellowish vaginal or penile discharge. Women may also have abnormal vaginal bleeding and/or pelvic pain. Men may also have painful or swollen testicles.

If left untreated, gonorrhea can cause increased risk for infection of other STDs, including HIV. In women, gonorrhea can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) which can lead to infertility and tubal (ectopic) pregnancy. Men may develop epididymitis, a painful condition which can lead to infertility. Babies born to infected women can develop eye infections.

Treatment

Oral antibiotics can cure the infection. Both partners must be treated at the same time to prevent passing the infection back and forth. Both partners should abstain from sex until the infection is gone.

Genital Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

HPV is a viral infection with over 40 types that can infect the genital areas, including types that cause warts and cancer. An estimated 6.2 million new cases are reported each year, with at least 20 million

people already infected. It can be spread through vaginal, oral, or anal sex. It can also be passed on during skin-to-skin sexual contact, and in rare cases, from mother to child during childbirth.

Symptoms

Most infected people have no symptoms. But some HPV types can cause genital warts—small bumps in and around the genitals (vagina, vulva, penis, testicles, and anus, etc.). If they do occur, warts may appear within weeks or months of having sex with an infected partner. Cancer-causing HPV types do not cause symptoms until the cancer is advanced. Genital warts will not turn into cancer over time, even if they are not treated. Babies born to women with genital warts can develop warts in the throat. Cancer-causing HPV types can cause cervical cancer & other less common cancers (like anal cancer) if the infection lasts for years. Cervical cancer is rare in women who get regular Pap tests.

Treatment

Certain types of HPV can be prevented with a vaccine, which protects against the most common wart- and cancer-causing types. Student Health offers the HPV vaccine at the Habif Health & Wellness center, and is covered by the student health plan. If you have waived out of the school's insurance, you can still receive the vaccine at Habif Health and Wellness...but please check with your insurance prior to making an appointment to be sure it is covered under your plan.

There is no cure for HPV (a virus), but there are ways to treat HPV-related problems. For example, warts can be removed, frozen off, or treated through topical medicines. Even after treatment, the virus can remain and cause recurrences (warts come back).

Genital Herpes

Herpes is a viral infection of the genital areas. It can also infect the area around the mouth. Herpes is spread through vaginal, oral, or anal sex. It can also be passed through skin-to-skin sexual contact, kissing, and rarely, from mother to child during childbirth. An estimated 1 million new infections occur each year, with about 45 million people already infected.

Symptoms

Most people have no symptoms. Herpes 1 typically causes cold sores and fever blisters on the mouth; Herpes 2 typically causes genital sores or blisters. But both viruses can cause sores in either area. A herpes outbreak can start as red bumps and then turn into painful blisters or sores. During the first outbreak, it can also lead to flu-like symptoms (like a fever, headaches, and swollen glands).

If left untreated, herpes can cause increased risk for infection of other STDs, including HIV. Some people with herpes may get recurrent sores. Passing herpes from mother to newborn is rare, but an infant with herpes can become very ill.

Treatment

There is no cure for herpes—the virus stays in the body and may cause recurrent outbreaks. Medications can help treat symptoms, reduce the frequency of outbreaks, and reduce the likelihood of spreading it to sex partners.

Syphilis

Syphilis is an infection caused by bacteria that can spread throughout the body. It is passed through vaginal, oral, or anal sex. It can also be passed through kissing if there is a lesion (sore) on the mouth, and from mother to child during childbirth. About 46,000 new cases are reported each year.

Symptoms

Symptoms vary based on the course (timing) of infection—beginning with a single, painless sore (called a chancre) on the genitals, anus, or mouth. Other symptoms may appear up to 6 months after the first sore has disappeared, including a rash. However, there may be no noticeable symptoms until syphilis has progressed to more serious problems. Syphilis increases risk for infection of other STDs, including HIV. Untreated, the symptoms will disappear, but the infection stays in the body and can cause damage to the brain, heart, and nervous system, and even death. Syphilis in women can seriously harm a developing fetus during pregnancy.

Treatment

Antibiotic treatment can cure syphilis if it's caught early, but medication can’t undo damage already done.

Both partners must be treated and avoid sexual contact until the sores are completely healed.

Hepatitis B Virus (HBV)

A viral infection affecting the liver. HBV can be acute (mild illness lasting for a short time) or chronic (a serious, lifelong illness). It is spread through vaginal, oral, or anal sex; through sharing contaminated needles or razors; or exposure to the blood, bodily fluids (such as semen) or saliva of an infected person. It can also be spread through childbirth if the baby is not vaccinated against HBV. An estimated 40,000 new cases are reported each year, most of which are acquired through sex. Up to 1.2 million people are already infected with chronic HBV.

Symptoms

Many people don't have any symptoms, especially adults. People may experience tiredness, aches, nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, darkening of urine, tenderness in the stomach, or yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes (called jaundice). Symptoms of acute HBV may appear 1 to 6 months after exposure. Symptoms of chronic HBV can take up to 30 years to appear, although liver damage can occur silently.

HBV increases risk for infection of other STDs, including HIV. Untreated, it can cause chronic, persistent inflammation of the liver and later cirrhosis or cancer of the liver. Babies born to infected women are likely to develop chronic HBV infection if they don’t get needed immunizations at birth (including HBV vaccination).

Treatment

Most often, acute HBV is treated with rest, eating well, and lots of fluids. Chronic HBV is treated through close monitoring by a doctor and anti-retroviral medications.

HIV

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the virus that causes AIDS. It is spread through vaginal, oral, or anal sex; by sharing contaminated needles or drug works; and from mother-to-child during pregnancy or breast-feeding. The chance of getting it through kissing is very low. About 56,000 new infections occur each year, with an estimated 1.1 million people already living with HIV.

Symptoms

Many people who are infected with HIV do not have any symptoms and feel healthy. Symptoms don’t usually develop until a person’s immune system has been weakened. The symptoms people experience are usually related to infections and cancers they get due to a weakened immune system. On average, it takes about 10 years from initial HIV infection to develop AIDS. HIV increases the risk of contracting other life-threatening infections and certain cancers. By weakening the body’s ability to fight disease, HIV makes an infected person more vulnerable to infections that they wouldn’t otherwise get. HIV can also cause infections that anyone can get, such as other STDs and pneumonia, to be much worse. Left untreated, HIV infection is a fatal disease.

Treatment

There is no cure for HIV or AIDS. Anti-retroviral treatment can slow the progression of HIV disease & delay the onset of AIDS. Early diagnosis & treatment can improve an infected person’s chances of living a longer, healthier life.

More information regarding STI’s may be found on the CDC website.