STD is an acronym for sexually transmitted disease. Another term — which may actually be more accurate in some ways ― is “sexually transmitted infection,” or STI. STDs result from sexual intercourse, oral sex and even kissing in some cases. Since an STD may affect both partners, it’s important to locate and treat all sexual partners when someone is diagnosed with an STD.
There are multiple STDs, each of which requires a specific test. The specimen collection and area for each test may vary. For example, HIV testing and syphilis can be diagnosed with a blood test, but HIV can also be diagnosed from secretions collected on an oral swab. A specimen of penile or vaginal discharge is necessary for gonorrhea or chlamydia testing. A test is not required for genital warts, as they are easily visible. Since each STD may cause different symptoms, the doctor obtains information about symptoms and sexual history in deciding which tests to perform.
STDs may be bacterial or viral, so treatment varies. Antibiotics are used in treating bacterial STDs like chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. Antiviral medications are used for genital warts. HIV/AIDS can’t be cured; it is treated with medications called antiretrovirals to reduce symptoms and prolong life. Some STDs, like genital herpes, can remain dormant in the skin even after treatment. Again, both partners should be tested if one has an STD.
Only abstaining from sex can provide complete protection against STDs. Monogamy lessens the risk; having multiple sexual partners increases the risk of an STD. Since the herpes virus lies in the skin and can be transmitted from active cold sores in the mouth during oral sex, however, even monogamy doesn’t provide perfect protection. Latex condoms can protect against most STDs, but only if used consistently. Vaccines are available in some cases. Washing before and after sexual intercourse and not sharing towels or underclothing also provide protection.
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