Many studies have shown that sexually transmitted diseases constitute a major health problem in Southern Africa. Over one million people seek treatment for STD's each year.
In males the symptoms of a STD include: Burning urine, painful testis, penile discharge, sores on the penis and swollen lymph nodes in the groin.
In females symptoms include: vaginal discharge, lower abdominal pain, painful intercourse, vaginal itching, sores on the external genitals and lymph nodes in the groin.
If symptoms like the above are experienced, it is important to seek immediate medical attention. The incidence of sexually transmitted diseases and co-infection with HIV is high and it is therefore important to take the necessary precautions. These include condoms, spermicides and abstinence till in a stable relationship.
Sexually transmitted diseases may be caused by a variety of organisms and may present in many different ways. The more common forms of sexually transmitted diseases are shown below:
- Warts, human papilloma virus (hpv)
The wart virus causes an overgrowth of skin, forming lumps. There are many types that affect different parts of the body. They are transmitted by direct contact.
They are found on the vulva, penis and around the anus, they may be raised and cauliflower shaped, or flat and smooth. Warts can be single growths or in groups which vary in size.
Warts are best treated with the application of a caustic paint named Podophyllin. Freezing, laser treatment and cutting them off are other treatment methods.
Recurrence rates are high as the virus remains in the body. Safe sex is the best method of prevention.
Herpes is caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV). There are two types of HSV virus the most common appears around the mouth and is known as a cold sore. The other occurs around the genital areas or anus. Both types of this virus can cause infection anywhere in the body.Transmission is by direct contact. At the site of infection there is often an itching or tingling sensation which is followed by an outbreak of blisters which then form scabs. It is contagious in all stages.
HSV is treated using Acyclovir as an ointment. Safe sex is the best method of prevention and it is known that a healthy diet, exercise and rest as well as reducing stress will help prevent further outbreaks.
- HIV and HIV/AIDS
The HIV virus causes damage to the body's immune system, which can progress to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. (AIDS) There are two main types of the virus, HIV1 and HIV2.
Transmission is by blood, semen or vaginal fluids during intercourse as well as shared needles.
There is no vaccine or cure for HIV/AIDS, though treatment is available to manage the various infections and cancers associated with it. Safe sex and single use syringes are the best forms of prevention.
Hepatitis, is a virus that can effect the liver, it is spread by sexual contact, exposure to blood and from mother to child as well as shared needles. There are three types A B and C. Hepatitis B is the toughest strain. Some people infected with Hepatitis B may carry the virus all their lives. One quarter of these "carriers" will die from liver disease and cancer. Hepatitis B can be prevented by vaccination and by practicing "safe sex" as well as single use syringes.
- Pubic lice (crabs)
Pubic Lice are parasites that live on the skin and suck blood up to six times a day from their human host.. They inject saliva under the skin, which causes an itching irritation and this is often the first sign of infection.
Transmitted through close bodily contact and look like a small freckle at the base of the pubic hair.
Treatment: A 1% Permethrin cream or Gamma benzene hexachloride may be used to treat pubic lice.
Scabies are a parasite similar to pubic lice, the female burrows into the skin to lay eggs. The young nymphs migrate back to the surface of the skin to mate and the process is repeated. The process of burrowing irritates the skin, this causes scratching to relieve the symptom. The scratching helps the mite to migrate further over the body as the eggs and adults can be transferred under the fingernails.
Transmission is by close physical contact.
Treatment: A 5% Permethrin cream applied to the whole body is usually effective. This is available from chemists.
Chlamydia trachomatis is a germ that can infect the urethra and rectum and is transmitted by unprotected sex. The symptoms are usually a discharge, stinging when urinating and a tickling sensation along the penile shaft. Chlamydia can be diagnosed by your GP and is treated using antibiotics.
Gonorrhea is a bacterium that causes infection that shows as a discharge from the penile shaft accompanied by pain when urinating.
Syphilis like gonorrhea is caused by a bacterium and is transmitted during unprotected sex. The first stage shows as a small sore or chancre, which is usually not painful and can be found anywhere on the body. Six weeks later the second stage appears as a rash accompanied by swinging temperature and weight loss The third stage attacks the brain, heart and nervous system which leads to insanity, paralysis and death. Transmission is through unprotected sex and is treated using antibiotics.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR USE OF CONDOMS:
- Latex condoms should be used because they may offer greater protection against HIV and other viral STDs than natural membrane condoms.
- Condoms should be stored in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight.
- Condoms in damaged packages or those that show obvious signs of age (e.g. those that are brittle, sticky or discolored) should not be used. They cannot be relied on to prevent infection or pregnancy.
- Condoms should be handled with care to prevent puncture.
- The condom should be put on before any genital contact to prevent exposure to fluids that may contain infectious agents. Hold the tip of the condom and unroll it onto the erect penis, leaving space at the tip to collect semen, yet ensuring that no air is trapped in the tip of the condom.
- Only water-based lubricants should be used. Petroleum- or oil-based lubricants should not be used because they weaken the latex and may cause breakage.
- Use of condoms containing spermicides may provide some additional protection against STDs. However vaginal use of spermicides along with condoms is likely to provide still greater protection.
- If a condom breaks, it should be replaced immediately. If ejaculation occurs after condom breakage, the immediate use of spermicide has been suggested. However, the protective value of postejaculation application of spermicides in reducing the risk of STD transmission is unknown.
- After ejaculation, care should be taken so that the condom does not slip off the penis before withdrawal; the base of the condom should be held throughout withdrawal. The penis should be withdrawn while still erect.
- Condoms should never be re-used.