Sexual intercourse which involves the penetration and thrusting of the penis into the vagina typically culminating in orgasm and ejaculation is a fundamental element of human bonding. Sex is an art which allows one to explore the arena of love, friendship and fellowship. Sex has also proven to be a science which allows us explore our sexuality, sex language and all these are expressed through our emotions and the bonds we form.
Over the years, other forms of penetrative sex including anal sex (penetration through the anus), oral sex (penetration through the mouth), fingering (penetration by the fingers) and penetration by use of dildo have been employed to keep our sex lives dynamic and refreshing. This however, has increased our risk of developing so many diseases or infections which are gotten through sexual contact with an infected person(s). These diseases are generally known as sexually transmitted infections/diseases (STI OR STD)
Causes of STIs
More than 30 different bacteria, viruses, and parasites are known to be transmitted through sexual contact. Eight of these pathogens are linked with the greatest incidence of sexual transmitted infections. Of these 8 infections, 4 are currently curable: syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and trichomoniasis. The other 4 are viral infections which are incurable: hepatitis B, herpes simplex virus, HIV and HPV.
o Viruses (human papillomavirus (HPV), herpes virus, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
o Bacteria (gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia)
Risk factors for developing STIs
o Having unprotected sex: Vaginal or oral penetration by an infected partner without a condom significantly increases your risk of contracting an STI. Improper or inconsistent use of condoms can also increase your risks
o Having sexual contact with multiple partners: The more people you have sexual contact with, the greater your risk. This is true for concurrent partners as well as monogamous consecutive relationships.
o Having history of STI: Having one STI makes it much easier to acquire another.
o Rape: Dealing with rape or assault can be difficult, but it’s important to see a doctor as soon as possible so that you can receive screening, treatment and emotional support.
o Misuse of alcohol or other drugs: Substance misuse can inhibit your judgment, making you more willing to participate in risky behaviors
o Being young: STIs are very common in young people between the ages 15 to 24 this is due to the desire to satisfy the curiosity that comes with puberty.
Common types of STI
o Human papilloma virus infection
o Genital herpes
o Human immunodeficiency virus
o Genital warts
o Pubic lice
Human Papiloma Virus infection (HPV)
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection. Each year more than 290 million women have the infection. There are more than 40 types of HPV. They can infect the genitals, mouth or throat. Most men and women who are sexually active will get at least one type of HPV at some point in their life.
HPV spreads from one person to another through vaginal, anal, or oral sex. You can be infected even if your partner doesn’t have symptoms.
Symptoms: HPV infections are usually not harmful. They often go away on their own within 2 years. The problem is some types of HPV can lead to serious problems such as cervical cancer and genital warts. Most people are asymptomatic.
Chlamydia is a bacterial infection which spreads through sexual contact with the penis, vagina, mouth or anus of an infected person. A pregnant woman can pass chlamydia to her baby during child birth. Even if you have been treated for chlamydia in the past you can get reinfected
o Discharge from the penis or vagina
o Burning sensation during urination
o Some might have no symptoms at all.
This infection comes from parasites that pass from one person to another during sex. It can spread from a man to a woman, a woman to a man, or from one woman to another woman. Women usually develop infection inside the vagina or the urethra. Men can develop tricomoniasis inside the penis. The infection usually does not spread to the mouth, anus or other parts of the body.
Most patients are asymptomatic but sometimes infected patients can get
o Itching or burning sensation during urination
o Discharge from the penis or vagina
This infection occurs when bacteria infect the lining of a woman’s reproductive tract. Gonorrhea can also develop in the urethra, mouth, throat, eyes, and anus of both men and women. It spreads through sexual contact with the penis, vagina, mouth or anus of an infected person. A pregnant woman can pass gonorrhea to her baby during child birth.
o Painful urination
o White, yellow or green discharge from the penis or vagina
o Men may develop pain in their testicles
o Women may develop vaginal bleeding between periods
This infection comes from the herpes simplex virus, type1 and 2. You can get herpes by having vaginal, anal or oral sex with an infected person.
o Painful blisters around the genitals, mouth or rectum.
o Blisters break open and become painful sores
The fluid inside these blisters contains the virus and can serve as a source of infection transfer to others.
Is a bacterial infection which can be transmitted contact with the sores during sexual contact. These sores may develop around the genitals, lips and in the mouth. It can be transmitted from mother to child.
It can take up to 90 days after exposure for syphilis symptoms to appear. The infection progresses in stages that may last for weeks or even years.
o Sores appear as the first lesion
o After sores appear, rashes develop this can show up in the palms of the hands and soles of the feet in some cases they can appear all over the body.
General symptoms to watch out for
o Sores and bumps of the genitals, mouth or rectal area
o Painful or burning urination
o Discharge from penis
o Unusual or foul-smelling discharge from the vagina
o Unusual vaginal bleeding
o Pain during sex
o Sore, swollen lymph nodes, particularly in the groin
o Lower abdominal pain
o rash over the trunk, hands or feet.
Possible complications of STIs
o heart disease
o pregnancy complications
o eye inflammation
o pelvic inflammatory diseases
o certain cancers such as cervical and rectal cancers
o bone deformities
o damage of major organs
o Get vaccinated: Vaccines are safe, effective and recommended ways to prevent hepatitis B and HPV.HPV vaccination is recommended for preteen ages 11 or 12 and everyone through age 26. If not vaccinated already. Vaccination is not recommended for anyone older than 26 years. However, adults age 27 -45 who are not vaccinated are advised to go for cervical cancer screening.
o Reduce number of sex partners
o Mutual monogamy: mutual monogamy means that you agree to be sexually active with only one person who has agreed to be sexually active with you only. Being in a long-term monogamous relationship with on uninfected person reduces your risk
o Use condoms: correct and consistent use of condoms is highly effective in reducing STIs.
o Put yourself to the test: knowing you STI status is one way to stop the transmission. If you are infected you can take steps to protect yourself and your partner.
o Avoid sharing underclothing
o Take a shower before and after sex
o Do not douche: douching removes some of the normal bacteria in the vagina that protects you from infection. Thereby increasing you risk.
STIs are at a rapid rise and are posing a lot of danger to our reproductive health system. A lot of people live with STIs but refuse to get tested or treated. This will gradually lead to a massive increase in the transmission rate and a lot of complications are foreseen. We hereby encourage the general public to get screened, treated and live healthy sexual lives.