A Comprehensive STD FAQ

Sexually transmitted conditions are often misunderstood due to the stigma that commonly surrounds this entire concept – leading to various misinformation, misconceptions, and ultimately, fear or reluctance in asking questions thinking that they already know enough (or so they believe) and asking more would expose them to ridicule and judgmental looks. They are not all wrong in the latter concept that they are trying to put forward, as the stigma surrounding this issue hampers the dissemination of information regarding this topic to the public. Although various measures are already being employed to ensure that STDs would become less of an ephemeral concept that only a select few could understand, the ultimate deciding factor that would finally conclude this dilemma is the resolution of the public’s internal conflict regarding educating themselves concerning this topic.

One must initially understand that it is not enough to disseminate the information to the public to wholeheartedly declare that you have done your job to educate the rest of the population. Like how other forms of media and information distribution methods behave, information dissemination is subject to the subjective factor of interest and efficiency. Sure, it might be easy to post information regarding a particular STD online through a blog, but educating the people who have read the text block is an entirely different beast.

To ensure that the public is sufficiently informed regarding STDs' various quirks and intricacies, especially considering that they may cause severe complications that sometimes even be fatal or permanently damaging, distributing information through efficient and conducive means is downright just as crucial as the quality of the data itself. Sure, accuracy still goes a long way in this aspect due to how misinformation could potentially do more harm than good, but ensuring that understanding and comprehension are precipitated is not as unimportant as one might think when it comes to this aspect.

We have developed a comprehensive compilation of various questions and inquiries that the public might have regarding sexually transmitted conditions with this dilemma in mind. From its usual transmission processes to the manifestations that are often misunderstood or misdiagnosed, this comprehensive FAQ section for various sexually transmitted conditions will provide you with the necessary information that you might need with utmost efficiency and convenience.

Disease Pathophysiology

11 answers

Contracting an STD through such a non-conventional way may be difficult, but it is certainly possible, especially when in cases where the patient either “receiving” or “giving” has tested positive for a particular sexually transmitted condition. While this might not necessarily present itself in the usual way that STDs in the genitalia do, yes, it is possible to contract an STD from oral sex due to the apparent presence of mucus membranes and specific openings for systemic infections in the oral cavity.

Not necessarily. Unlike in oral sex where the oral cavity is in contact with the genitalia – one being a potential carrier of specific pathogens that cause an STD due to the prevalence of most STDs in that region – kissing does not necessarily involve the exchange of infective bodily fluids or any contact with any areas that could essentially transmit the causative microorganism for a particular STD. Oral Herpes, however, may be a rare exception to this, but the rates are slim nonetheless.

No. Due to how the pathogens that cause a particular STD cannot survive in inanimate surfaces, it is implausible for one to contract an STD from a surface that once came into contact with an infected individual. In most cases, direct contact with infected bodily fluids is the method that has the highest potential to induce transmission of the pathogenic microorganism. Nevertheless, it is still a practical matter of hygiene to ensure that any surfaces you come into contact with are clean and appropriately sanitized to avoid the transmission of other microorganisms that may not necessarily induce an STD.

Yes. STDs – or at least in the case of the most common ones – do not necessarily induce immunity upon being initially infected with the condition. This essentially means that even if you get infected multiple times by the same pathogenic species and no matter how many times you have been exposed to the condition, you could still contract the STD if and when you are reinfected with the particular causative microorganism.

It would certainly depend on how you could contract the STD that you are currently infected with. Do note that STDs are not necessarily only transmitted through sexual contact or sexual intercourse. The most common transmission pathway for STDs is through contact with infected bodily fluids – precipitating a systemic infection as the causative microorganisms penetrate through the mucosal membranes and skin openings in the body. While it might be true that you have not participated in any sexual activity yet, it is possible to contract the pathogen through other processes of body fluid contact, such as through high-risk bloodletting or sharing needles used by an infected individual.

As previously mentioned, the most common way for STDs to be transmitted from one individual to another is through contact with bodily fluids, i.e., genital excretions, sexual fluids, and blood. While sexual intercourse might be the most logical process as to which one could come into contact with bodily fluids in the least invasive way, sharing needles through intravenous drug use, partaking in unsanitary bloodletting programs, or even partaking in unconventional ways of intercourse such as oral sex, may result in the transmission of the condition.

Considering that a different pathogenic microorganism causes each sexually transmitted condition, it is safe to assume that the incubation period or the time elapsed before a specific condition results in a particular manifestation will vary on a case-to-case basis. While some conditions become apparent immediately after being infected (1 to 2 weeks), some stay asymptomatic for extended periods (years to even decades) due to how their mechanism prevents its symptomatic presentations unless the pathogen is already able to increase sufficiently to cause evident symptoms in the body of the patient.

Contrary to how many people believe that STDs only affect the genitalia and the area around it, STDs infect multiple organs of the body, depending on how severe and extensive the condition already is. For instance, it mainly infects mucosal parts of the body – leading to infections that may be as extensive as those that affect the mouth, eyes, and deeper structures of the reproductive and urinary tract. In such cases where the condition has already invaded multiple organs, complications commonly arise – leading to more severe damages that are often irreversible.

Essentially, yes. Considering how most STDs are, in fact, asymptomatic for the majority of their life cycle, a particular STD can remain asymptomatic for extended periods – making it harder to diagnose the condition, let alone think about getting tested for that specific condition. Please do note, however, that most STDs are not necessarily self-limiting, meaning that while they are not symptomatic in any way, it does not imply that the pathogen is not proliferating and causing any damages to the structure of the genitalia. Annual routine testing is still recommended to rule out even asymptomatic STD cases.

It would essentially depend on the STD that you have contracted. Although it can be argued that certain STDs cause very evident symptomatic manifestations such as ulcerations, discharge, and bleeding, some are relatively subtle for you even to consider having yourself tested for any STD at all. Not knowing whether you have an STD is ultimately dependent on your tendency to have yourself tested, especially considering that self-diagnoses are often counterintuitive and inaccurate to a certain degree.

Yes, mainly if the participating individuals employed the necessary protective measures to prevent the transmission of the pathogen from one individual to another. This is commonly seen in cases where the infected individual is unaware of their current infection – participating in intercourse while unknowingly being a potential source of infection. Although protective measures such as using a condom or practicing safe sex could only limit the risk for transmission to a certain point, employing such measures could precipitate such events where transmission was prevented even in situations where it was assumed to happen inevitably.

Causative Microorganisms

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Herpes is a multi-faceted condition that is made even more complicated with its causative microorganism having two different variants, namely, herpes simplex virus types I and II – otherwise known as HSV-I and HSV-II, respectively.

Bacterial vaginosis is more of an odd distinction from the rest of the STDs due to how its causative organism is not necessarily restricted to one particular pathogen. Bacterial vaginosis is often precipitated due to the abnormal increase in the bacterial population of the vagina – leading to an imbalance between the “good” flora and the harmful bacteria.

Chlamydia, a condition with multiple health complications due to its extensive manifestations, is caused by the pathogen known as Chlamydia trachomatis, or C. trachomatis.

HPV is a condition that is often confused with Herpes – a situation that is caused by HSV Types I and II. HPV is caused by the virus where the disease got its name – human papillomavirus. It is a condition that mainly causes the manifestation of warts, and it is also infamous for its tendency to develop cancers in the genital region.

Gonorrhea is known for its tendency to mainly target the mucosal membranes of the body – leading to its manifestations primarily being observed in areas where discharge is evident, i.e., mucosal areas. Gonorrhea is caused by the microorganism known as Neisseria gonorrhoeae or N. gonorrhoeae.

HIV is another infamous condition that has seen a significant increase in prevalence in the past few years. HIV is a condition that slowly disables the body’s immune system, leaving it with no defenses and highly susceptible to various opportunistic conditions. The human immunodeficiency virus causes it, and in its late stages, the condition is then known as AIDS or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.

Syphilis is a bacterial infection that is caused by the pathogen Treponema pallidum, or T. pallidum.

Trichomoniasis is a relatively distinct STD because it is caused by neither a bacterial nor a viral infection. Trichomoniasis is an infection caused by a protozoan parasite known as Trichomonas vaginalis.

A vaginal yeast infection is yet another odd or distinctive STD from the pool of common STD infections found in the population. A vaginal yeast infection is also known as vaginal candidiasis and is caused by the Candida fungal species.

STD Testing

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A nucleic acid amplification test is a laboratory procedure that professionals often perform to make detecting a particular nucleic acid or gene being targeted easier and more convenient while still ensuring that the sample being collected is relatively minimal. Nucleic acid amplification tests, or NAATs, are usually the mainstay diagnostic test for most STDs due to their ability to detect the presence of pathogenic nucleic acids and genes in the patient sample with utmost accuracy and speed. NAATs depends on their ability to replicate the target RNA and DNA to create numerous copies – resulting in an increased convenience in the detection of the desired molecules instead of trying to either blindly look for one strand in a minuscule sample or collecting a large sample that could make the patient uncomfortable throughout the process. Although NAATs are often preferred for a more conclusive diagnosis of STDs, certain exceptions such as the availability of resources and instances of intermittent viral shedding could make NAATs less desirable than other tests. Fret not, however, as your physician is knowledgeable regarding these instances and would often request the best diagnostic procedure for your instances.

Depending on the test being performed and the testing physician's targeted diseases, various types of samples can be requested from you. In some instances, a minuscule blood sample of a few milliliters will be collected, some might ask for a urine sample, and others may opt for a genital swab. Again, the sample being collected will depend on the test being conducted and the outcome that is being targeted for this particular procedure.

Considering that a wide variety of testing kits and laboratory procedures can be performed to determine conclusively whether you have a particular STD or not, the time that it will take for your results to return will also be subject to the same inconsistency. Although there are specific laboratories that could produce your results even by the end of the day (albeit, it is extremely rare for institutions to do so unless necessary), most would often take a few days to a week before the results are either delivered or posted online through your secure personal profile (in the case of online transactions). In addition to that, the capability of the laboratory performing the test may also contribute to the overall timeframe of result delivery – causing delays in cases where there are several requests or understaffed to provide expedited results.

It would vary depending on the condition that is being tested. STDs behave differently due to the varying pathogenicity of each STD’s causative organism. In some instances, you can get accurately tested as early as two weeks following exposure, while some are intermittently inaccurate due to its recurrence (much like in the case of herpes infections). To avoid this, be sure to discuss the intricacies of the test with your physician to understand whether a particular test could provide you with a conclusive diagnosis or if it still needs another confirmatory test to establish its premise.

Similar to what was previously mentioned, herpes infections are known for their recurring tendencies – causing outbreaks now and then and thus causing an intermittent spike in the patient’s viral load for specific instances. In addition to that, other STDs also take time to proliferate and produce a sufficient viral load that could warrant a positive and, more importantly, accurate diagnosis and detection from the tests being administered. As such, detecting an STD a few days following exposure is often complex and unpredictable – leading physicians to follow a certain timeframe instead for testing STDs instead of blindly testing immediately following exposure. Physical exams, however, may supplement inaccurate laboratory diagnoses, especially in cases where the test is prone to false results.

It can be, but it does not necessarily have to be. What many people need to understand is that laboratory tests would most often than not be relatively pricey due to the technology that is being utilized behind these diagnostic techniques. However, opting for specific laboratories that offer more convenient testing procedures and discounted prices for diagnostic tests would help ensure that the price will not be much of an issue in providing you with the conclusive diagnosis of your condition. It might take some independent scanning to find the right testing center for you in the most acceptable price range, but it is not as impossible as many people make it out to be.

It does vary on a case-to-case basis. Insurance policies are often particular with the instances that they would be covering with their program. Some may cover severe accidents, some may even consider “orphan disease,” and yes, some may also cover the expenses for performing STD diagnostic tests. However, considering that your insurance provider will have to verify the person's identity availing of the program, STD testing laboratories that employ a minimal collection of patient information may not accept insurance policies to prioritize privacy over affordability.

An excellent database that you can use to locate an STD testing laboratory near you is CDC’s GetTested. It is an online database/search engine that allows you to input your location, and it will automatically display the laboratories near you that are capable of detecting certain conditions.

Yes. Certain companies offer at-home testing kits wherein you are the one that will collect the specimens necessary for the test at the comfort of your own home. Sure, it might sometimes be subject to errors due to the potential contamination of the sample from collection to transportation, but it does offer a great deal of privacy and convenience for patients who would prefer to have their identities hidden in fear that their community will judge them.

Similar to how other testing procedures behave, false-positive results are still evident even in STD testing. False-positive and even false-negative results are standard instances that showcase the imperfection of the test’s design – a factor that is present everywhere. However, despite certain inconsistencies in laboratory tests as such, physicians commonly use confirmatory tests that would often take another path entirely to arrive at the same conclusion – solidifying the initial test’s diagnosis while still ensuring that the second test is not following the inconsistencies of the first.

Although NAATs are well-known for their accuracy and sensitivity in detecting most STDs, it is also subject to certain inconsistencies, especially in the case of herpes infections. In Herpes, outbreaks often result in a relative increase in the patient’s viral load – leading to a timeline that usually has specific peaks at certain intervals instead of a consistent rise in viral load throughout. As such, sensitive tests such as NAATs are still unable to accurately diagnose herpes conditions, especially in cases where the patient has recently become asymptomatic and is currently between outbreaks. Other tests such as culture testing and type-specific virologic tests are often employed instead as a confirmatory diagnosis for the patient’s condition.

Treatment Regimen

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Absolutely not. Considering the world's current situation, mindlessly using antibiotics is perhaps the worst thing that one can do in resolving their potential conditions without any diagnostic test performed to confirm or contradict one’s initial findings. Antibiotics are precious resources that are now subject to increasing resistances due to years of improper and unnecessary use of its mechanisms – allowing bacteria to adapt to its process and thus, rendering it ineffective for future utilizations. Using any antibiotic as an assumed “prophylactic” treatment for a potential STD could only precipitate one of two things: the antibiotic is suitable for the disease but is taken improperly, or the antibiotic is ineffective to the underlying condition. Both instances could trigger resistance mechanisms in the various microorganisms present in the body, producing more harm than good in the long run.

Antimicrobial resistance, as previously discussed, is the tendency of microorganisms to develop protective mechanisms against antimicrobial medications – rendering them ineffective during future utilizations and restricting the available drugs that can be used for certain conditions. Although it is slowly becoming apparent that antimicrobial resistance is being given more and more attention in the medical field, doing our part in the community is likewise a crucial factor in ensuring that no antibiotic medications are used unnecessarily or improperly. Considering the current rate of resistance and the subsequent rate of medication development, safety measures must be utilized to avoid shortages or, worse, the absence of any viable medication for the increasingly severe conditions we consistently encounter.

The administration of medications would generally depend on the medicine being taken. Each remedy has its administration instructions, and these should be religiously followed to ensure that the drug will be able to deliver the desired effect with utmost efficiency and minimal side effects. Considering that the formulation of drugs varies on a case-to-case basis, it is simply appropriate to ask your physician for the drug’s administration requirements to ensure proper treatment.

No. Despite being caused by the same causative microorganism, the manifestation of the disease in one body may vary from its presentation in another – taking likewise into consideration the severity and extent of its proliferation. Standard treatment guidelines provide the recommended treatment regimen for each specific situation, and it is by no means, or instead for most of the time, same for two different instances. Always advise your family and friends to consult a physician instead of self-medicating to avoid causing further harm to your body due to the improper use of certain medications.

In some cases, yes. For such instances, physicians would commonly recommend that the partners of recently diagnosed patients be tested to determine whether the same condition has likewise infected them that their partner has. Following that, they would then be given the same treatment regimen or one appropriate for the severity of the condition they have.

Treatments would often vary depending on the extent of the condition and the severity of the manifestations. Each STD would vary on how it is supposed to be treated and how long it can persist following the administration of the treatment regimen. These factors, along with other considerations such as dosage strength, type of medication, tolerability of regimen, and strain of causative microorganism, will ultimately contribute to the length of treatment that will be administered to you. Do note that certain conditions may even require a lifetime suppressive therapy due to the absence of a cure for a particular STD.

Unfortunately, the only way to resolve any physical damages is through physical reconstruction and surgeries. Medications are only effective in preventing the proliferation of the condition and killing the causative microorganism. Any physical damage left behind by the infection is often irreversible unless managed by an invasive procedure that will most likely cost thousands to perform without guaranteeing functional restoration.

In some cases, yes, but most often than not, no. STDs are usually asymptomatic and would commonly present with little to no symptoms until they develop certain complications as the condition progresses. Although asymptomatic, STDs remain active and still proliferate inside the body – slowly increasing the viral load and its extent until it reaches critical parts of the body where it now develops specific manifestations. It is imperative that as soon as a certain tell-tale sign or diagnosis is provided regarding a certain STD, proper treatment and management measures are performed to avoid its further progression.

Potential Risk Factors

4 answers

In a way, yes. The anal region is generally not designed to be used for any means other than defecation. Despite its mucosal surfaces, it is highly prone to damage – resulting in microtears and abrasions when anal sex is performed. These abrasions and openings are now susceptible to the potential pathogens present in either their partner’s genitalia or in the excrement itself – making it easier for the pathogen to reach the systemic circulation, thus causing an infection more easily.

Not necessarily. Having multiple partners increases the risk of contracting a condition unknowingly, especially if you fail to keep track of your partners despite not knowing whether their sexual health is in tip-top shape or not.

Although it can be argued that using protection will not necessarily do anything if the person wearing them is not infected, it can still be answered by the fact that penetrative intercourse is a transmission environment for both individuals participating – making you just as susceptible as your partner. Despite knowing that you are indeed safe and clean, performing unprotected sex with an unfamiliar partner or one who does not know their sexual health status is a risk in itself.

Pap screening is performed to examine the cellular structure of the cervical tissues, identifying whether there are specific changes that may be either malignant or benign growths within the area. Sexually active women with HPV infections are prone to cervical cancer due to the tendency of HPV to cause mutations and develop malignant changes in the area. Testing routinely for such will help physicians to identify any suspicious growths before it even develops into a malignant condition that could be more debilitating for the patient in the long run.

STD's and Pregnancy

4 answers

Upon the infant's passage during labor through the vaginal area, the baby may come into contact with the infected surfaces – resulting in the transmission of the causative microorganisms from the genitalia to the baby’s body. Certain infections may also pass through the placental barrier to cause infections even while the fetus is still inside the mother’s womb.

Yes. Much like how non-pregnant women are susceptible to STDs when performing unprotected sex, pregnant women could similarly contract these conditions with no exception due to how the mechanism essentially remains the same in both instances.

STDs observed concurrently with pregnancy may result in various complications with the patient’s pregnancy and the patient’s health following delivery. From those that are evident right after birth to some that only manifest after years of development, these complications are preferably avoided using prophylactic medications when the pregnant woman tested positive for an STD.

In most cases, physicians would commonly administer treatment to the mother before labor to somehow ensure that she will not transmit the condition to the baby or provide prophylactic treatment on the baby itself following delivery to avoid the survival of the pathogenic microorganisms in the body of the infant.

Protective and Preventive Measures

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Condoms or any protective measure available in the market are designed not to prevent the transmission of STDs but to minimize the risk of contracting the condition upon contact with an infected surface. Condoms, in particular, are notorious for their inconsistency in protecting patients from contracting the disease due to how limited their coverage is. Considering that transmission may likewise occur from areas not covered by the sheet itself, transmission is still possible. However, the point remains that condoms are necessary to, at the very least, lower the risk of contracting or even transmitting the condition, especially in cases where both are unaware of their underlying infections. While it might not be the prevent-all that many would have expected it to be, wearing none is magnitudes worse than wearing one.

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