Sexually transmitted diseases are nearly ubiquitous. It is estimated that more than one in four sexually active adults has some form of STD. This, in turn, suggests that having an STD doesn’t—or shouldn’t—render someone a pariah. That doesn’t mean a person shouldn’t take steps to avoid becoming infected, but infection should be avoided for its own sake, not because an STD is a moral judgment. After all, if you think highly of more than 12 people, chances are extremely good that someone you think highly of has an STD.
Some STDs are curable, others are not, but most can be at least managed with medication and a little care. The most common include:
- Chlamydia, a bacterial infection that can cause pain during urination and, in women, sexual intercourse, as well as abdominal pain, discharge from the genitals, and testicular pain. Symptoms, when they occur begin about two weeks after infection.
- Gonorrhea, a bacterial infection with symptoms that can take anywhere from two days to several months, to show up. Those symptoms generally include a burning sensation when urinating, abnormal menstrual bleeding or testicular pain and swelling, painful bowel movements, and a thick or bloody discharge.
- Trichomoniasis, a parasitic infection that is typically asymptomatic in men. Symptoms are rare in women as well, but when they do occur they include pain during intercourse and urination, vaginal odor and irritation, and a greenish or yellowish discharge.
- HIV, a viral infection that causes AIDS. Flu-like symptoms may appear two to six weeks after infection, and indicators of AIDS months or even years later.
- Herpes, a viral infection that may not have any symptoms at all, or may lead to sores and blisters, either once or recurrently.
The lack or delayed onset of symptoms for most STDs is why testing is so important. At a minimum, someone should get tested after having unprotected sex with someone whose status they don’t know, after ending an exclusive sexual relationship, or at least every six months if sexually active outside an exclusive relationship as well as when experiencing any symptoms. Early detection can be the difference between a well managed or even treated problem and an ongoing one.