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STDs and STIs: All about Sexually Transmitted Diseases and Infections

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), now known as sexually transmitted infections (STIs), are infectious diseases that are caused by the transmission of pathogens during sexual intercourse. An STD requires early detection to limit the risk of complications.

What is an STD?

STD is the abbreviation for sexually transmitted disease. Formerly known as venereal disease, an STD is an infectious disease that can be caused by different pathogens. These are transmitted during sexual intercourse, whatever its type, between two partners. Some STDs can also be transmitted through blood and breast milk.

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What is an STI?

IST is the abbreviation for sexually transmitted infection. In recent years, the acronym IST tends to replace the abbreviation MST. According to the public health authorities, “to use the IST logo is to encourage screening (even) in the absence of symptoms”. Therefore, the only difference between an STI and an STD is the terminology used. The IST and STD acronyms refer to the same diseases.

What are the causes of an STD (STI)?

An STI can be caused by more than 30 sexually transmitted pathogens. These can be:

  • bacteria , such as Treponema pallidum, Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Chlamydia trachomatis ;
  • viruses , such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B virus (HBV), herpes simplex virus (HSV) and human papillomavirus (PHV);
  • Parasites, including Trichomonas vaginalis.

What are the main STDs (STIs)?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the eight pathogens mentioned above are involved in the majority of STD cases. These include:

  • syphilis , an infection with the bacterium Treponema pallidum , which manifests as a chancre and can develop and lead to other complications if not managed in time;
  • gonorrhea , also known as gonorrhea or “hot-piss,” which corresponds to an infection with the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae;
  • chlamydia , often called chlamydia, which is caused by infection with the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis and is one of the most common STIs in Western countries;
  • trichomoniasis , an infection with the parasite Trichomonas vaginalis , which is most commonly seen in women with vaginal discharge accompanied by itching and burning;
  • infection with the hepatitis B virus (HBV) , which results in liver damage;
  • genital herpes caused by Herpes simplex virus, predominantly type 2 (HSV-2), which is manifested by vesicular lesions in the genitals;
  • infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) , which is responsible for the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS);
  • infection with the human papillomavirus , which can cause the appearance of condyloma , external genital lesions, and which can promote the development of cancer of the cervix .

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Who is concerned by STDs (STIs)?

STDs can be transmitted during sexual intercourse, whatever its type, between two partners. They are often diagnosed in young adults. Some STIs can also be transmitted from mother to child.

What are the symptoms of STDs (STIs)?

Symptoms vary from one STD to another. They can also be different in men and women. Nevertheless, there are some signs suggestive of an STI, such as:

  • genital involvement, which can result in irritation, itching, redness, burns, sores or pimples;
  • unusual loss of vagina , penis or anus
  • burns during urination
  • a dyspaneurie, that is to say pain and / or burns felt during sexual intercourse;
  • pain in the lower abdomen;
  • Associated signs such as fever and headaches .

What are the risk factors for STDs?

The main risk factor for STD is high-risk sex, which is unprotected sex.

How to prevent an STD?

It is possible to prevent the development of an STD by limiting the risk of infection:

  • adequate protection during sexual intercourse, including the use of a male or female condom;
  • Vaccination against certain infectious agents, such as the hepatitis B virus (HBV) and the human papillomavirus (HPV).

If in doubt, it is also recommended to carry out an STD test. Early detection allows rapid medical management and limits the risk of contagion.

How to screen for an STI / STI?

An STI test is recommended in case of doubt or risky sexual intercourse. This screening is all the more important that it is possible to carry an STI without realizing it. For more information on these screening tests, you can find out from:

  • a health professional such as a general practitioner, a gynecologist or a midwife;
  • a free information, screening and diagnostic center (CeGIDD);
  • A Family Planning and Education Center (CPEF).

How to treat an STD (STI)?

The medical management of an STD depends on the infectious agent involved. While some STIs are curable, others are incurable and are still the subject of scientific research.

Curable STDs include syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia and trichomoniasis. Scientific studies continue to find medical treatment for incurable STDs such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, hepatitis B, and genital herpes.

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