Which STIs can you get rid of and which are you stuck with?

In the September 2014 issue of QSaltLake, we talked about widespread sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in Utah. In this column we will talk about these curable, and some incurable, STIs. First, we must classify the STIs into three categories: bacterial, viral and parasitic. Only bacterial and parasitic infections are curable. Viruses you are stuck with … sorry folks.

So which STIs are most rampant in Utah and in the country as a whole? The top six are chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, genital herpes, human papillomavirus (HPV) and HIV/AIDS. Of these, three are curable and three are only treatable, meaning the symptoms are treated but the virus will always be present.

Chlamydia is a bacterial infection that is transmitted through anal, oral and vaginal sex. This can infect the vagina, penis, rectum and eyes. Symptoms include unusual discharge, painful intercourse, burning sensation when urinating. However, there is hope it is curable through antibiotics.

Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection that is transmitted through anal, oral and vaginal sex. One can have inflammation of the testicles or prostate, as well infection of the eyes, throat, blood, skin and joints (arthritic symptoms). This, too, is curable through antibiotics.

Syphilis is a bacterial infection that is transmitted through the three common ways mentioned before, however, now we will include skin-to-skin contact (intimate touching). This is characterized in four steps as first an open sore occurs on or around the genitals. Second, a rash develops on the hands and/or feet. Third, the bacteria damages internal organs, muscles, tissue, etc. Finally, in the last stage, syphilis does the most damage by destroying the lungs, heart, brain tissue, eyes, etc. Death may occur. However, if you are treated with antibiotics in stage one, you will be cured.

Genital Herpes is a virus that is transmitted through all the ways we have described previously. Because this is a virus, it is not curable with antibiotics. One can only treat the symptoms. Those symptoms include blisters, lower back pain, painful urination, and flu-like symptoms. Genital herpes can be spread from one partner to another by simple intimate skin contact with or without blisters present.

HPV (Genital Warts) is a virus that has over 40 different types that infects at least 50 percent of the sexually active population in the United States. This infection can be transmitted through all the previous ways stated, however, only when, or if, warts are present. This is an incurable infection. The treatment for genital warts is like a common wart. Doctors use the same techniques as if the wart were on your finger or hand.

HIV/AIDS is a virus and therefore incurable. This virus can be transmitted through anal, oral and vaginal sex. It also is transmitted via blood contact (i.e., sharing drug needles, piercing needles, medicinal needles) and breast milk.

There are many more STIs infecting people every day; however, we have only covered the most common both here in Utah and in the United States. Please continue to educate yourselves and learn how to protect yourself. Even if using protection, some infections live on the skin and therefore, a condom does not protect all of the skin.

Please protect yourself with condoms and other barriers, as well as getting tested regularly for HIV and other STIs.

Stay clean. Stay smart. Stay alive.

Peter Stoker

C. Peter STOKER, MPH, CHES, is a community health education coordinator, HIV outreach educator, epidemiologist for Salt Lake County Health Department. Information in these articles is gathered from multiple sources and are a reflection of the author’s opinion only.

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