It is important to understand at least five key points
about all STDs in this country today:
- STDs affect men and women of all backgrounds and
economic levels. They are most prevalent among teenagers and young adults.
Nearly two-thirds of all STDs occur in people younger than 25 years of age.
- The incidence of STDs is rising, in part because in
the last few decades, young people have become sexually active earlier yet are
marrying later. In addition, divorce is more common. The net result is that
sexually active people today are more likely to have multiple sex partners
during their lives and are potentially at risk for developing STDs.
- Most of the time, STDs cause no symptoms,
particularly in women. When and if symptoms develop, they may be confused with
those of other diseases not transmitted through sexual contact. Even when an
STD causes no symptoms, however, a person who is infected may be able to pass
the disease on to a sex partner. That is why many doctors recommend periodic
testing or screening for people who have more than one sex partner.
- Health problems caused by STDs tend to be more
severe and more frequent for women than for men, in part because the frequency
of asymptomatic infection means that many women do not seek care until serious
problems have developed.
- Some STDs can spread into the uterus (womb) and
fallopian tubes to cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which in turn is
a major cause of both infertility and ectopic (tubal) pregnancy. The latter
can be fatal.
- STDs in women also may be associated with cervical
cancer. One STD, human papillomavirus infection (HPV), causes genital warts
and cervical and other genital cancers.
- STDs can be passed from a mother to her baby
before, during, or immediately after birth; some of these infections of the
newborn can be cured easily, but others may cause a baby to be permanently
disabled or even die.
- When diagnosed and treated early, many STDs can be
treated effectively. Some infections have become resistant to the drugs used
to treat them and now require newer types of antibiotics. Experts believe that
having STDs other than AIDS increases one's risk for becoming infected with
the AIDS virus.