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Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)

STDs: Sexually transmitted infections (STI), also referred to as sexually transmitted diseases (STD) and venereal diseases (VD), are infections that are commonly spread by sex, especially vaginal intercourse, anal sex and oral sex. Most STIs initially do not cause symptoms. This results in a greater risk of passing the disease on to others. Symptoms and signs of disease may include vaginal discharge, penile discharge, ulcers on or around the genitals, and pelvic pain. STIs acquired before or during birth may result in poor outcomes for the baby. Some STIs may cause problems with the ability to get pregnant.

Key facts (STDs)

  • More than 1 million people acquire a sexually transmitted infection (STI) every day.
  • Each year, an estimated 500 million people become ill with one of 4 STIs: chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis and trichomoniasis.
  • More than 530 million people have the virus that causes genital herpes (HSV2).
  • More than 290 million women have a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection.
  • The majority of STIs are present without symptoms.
  • Some STIs can increase the risk of HIV acquisition three-fold or more.
  • STIs can have serious consequences beyond the immediate impact of the infection itself, through mother-to-child transmission of infections and chronic diseases.
  • Drug resistance, especially for gonorrhoea, is a major threat to reducing the impact of STIs worldwide.

List of common STDs

Many STIs are (more easily) transmitted through the mucous membranes of the penis, vulva, rectum, urinary tract and (less often—depending on type of infection) the mouth, throat, respiratory tract and eyes. More than 30 bacterial, viral and parasitic pathogens are transmissible sexually (1). While sexually transmitted infections are mostly transmitted through sexual intercourse, transmission can occur also from mother to child during pregnancy and childbirth, and through blood products or tissue transfer, as well as occasionally through other nonsexual means. Including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection that leads to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), they have been recognized as a major public health problem for many years. Some of the commonest sexually transmitted pathogens and the diseases they cause are shown in Table 1.

Table 1. Main sexually transmitted pathogens and the diseases they cause

Pathogen Clinical manifestations and other associated diseases
Bacterial infections
Neisseria gonorrhoeae GONORRHOEA

Men: urethral discharge (urethritis), epididymitis, orchitis, infertility

Women: cervicitis, endometritis, salpingitis, pelvic inflammatory

disease, infertility, preterm rupture of membranes, perihepatitis

Both sexes: proctitis, pharyngitis, disseminated gonococcal infection

Neonates: conjunctivitis, corneal scarring and blindness

Chlamydia trachomatis CHLAMYDIAL INFECTION

Men: urethral discharge (urethritis), epididymitis, orchitis, infertility

Women: cervicitis, endometritis, salpingitis, pelvic inflammatory

disease, infertility, preterm rupture of membranes, perihepatitis;

commonly asymptomatic

Both sexes: proctitis, pharyngitis, Reiter’s syndrome

Neonates: conjunctivitis, pneumonia

Chlamydia trachomatis(strains L1-L3) LYMPHOGRANULOMA VENEREUM

Both sexes: ulcer, inguinal swelling (bubo), proctitis

Treponema pallidum SYPHILIS

Both sexes: primary ulcer (chancre) with local adenopathy, skinrashes, condylomata lata; bone, cardiovascular and neurological damage

Women: pregnancy wastage (abortion, stillbirth), premature delivery

Neonates: stillbirth, congenital syphilis

Haemophilus ducreyi CHANCROID

Both sexes: painful genital ulcers; may be accompanied by bubo

Klebsiella(Calymmatobacterium) granulomatis GRANULOMA INGUINALE (DONOVANOSIS)

Both sexes: nodular swellings and ulcerative lesions of the inguinaland anogenital areas

Mycoplasma genitalium Men: urethral discharge (nongonococcal urethritis)

Women: bacterial vaginosis, probably pelvic inflammatory disease

Ureaplasma urealyticum Men: urethral discharge (nongonococcal urethritis)

Women: bacterial vaginosis, probably pelvic inflammatory disease

Viral infections

Both sexes: HIV-related disease, AIDS

Herpes simplex virus type 2Herpes simplex virus type 1 (less commonly) GENITAL HERPES

Both sexes: anogenital vesicular lesions and ulcerations

Neonates: neonatal herpes (often fatal)

Human papillomavirus GENITAL WARTS

Men: penile and anal warts; carcinoma of the penis

Women: vulval, anal and cervical warts, cervical carcinoma, vulval

carcinoma, anal carcinoma

Neonates: laryngeal papilloma

Hepatitis B virus VIRAL HEPATITIS

Both sexes: acute hepatitis, liver cirrhosis, liver cancer


Both sexes: subclinical or nonspecific fever, diffuse lymph nodeswelling, liver disease, etc.

Molluscum contagiosum virus MOLLUSCUM CONTAGIOSUM

Both sexes: genital or generalized umbilicated, firm skin nodules

Kaposi sarcoma associated herpesvirus (human herpes virus type 8) KAPOSI SARCOMA

Both sexes: aggressive type of cancer in immunosuppressed persons

Protozoal infections
Trichomonas vaginalis TRICHOMONIASIS

Men: urethral discharge (nongonococcal urethritis); oftenasymptomatic

Women: vaginosis with profuse, frothy vaginal discharge; preterm

birth, low birth weight babies

Neonates: low birth weight

Fungal infections
Candida albicans CANDIDIASIS

Men: superficial infection of the glans penis

Women: vulvo-vaginitis with thick curd-like vaginal discharge, vulval

itching or burning

Parasitic infestations
Sarcoptes scabiei SCABIES


Basic prevention for all STDs

Effective strategies for reducing STD risk include:

Abstinence: The most reliable way to avoid infection is to not have sex (i.e., anal, vaginal or oral).

Vaccination: Vaccines are safe, effective, and recommended ways to prevent hepatitis B and HPV. HPV vaccines for males and females can protect against some of the most common types of HPV. It is best to get all three doses (shots) before becoming sexually active. However, HPV vaccines are recommended for all teen girls and women through age 26 and all teen boys and men through age 21, who did not get all three doses of the vaccine when they were younger. You should also get vaccinated for hepatitis B if you were not vaccinated when you were younger.

Mutual monogamy: Mutual monogamy means that you agree to be sexually active with only one person, who has agreed to be sexually active only with you. Being in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner is one of the most reliable ways to avoid STDs. But you must both be certain you are not infected with STDs. It is important to have an open and honest conversation with your partner.

Reduced number of sex partners: Reducing your number of sex partners can decrease your risk for STDs. It is still important that you and your partner get tested, and that you share your test results with one another.

Condoms: Correct and consistent use of the male latex condom is highly effective in reducing STD transmission. Use a condom every time you have anal, vaginal, or oral sex.

Although all the above initiatives can prevent STDs, especially reduce the risk of STDs, but the practice of religious laws along with all the above measures can curve the STDs in a great extent.



  1. Holmes KK, Sparling PF, Mardh PA et al. Sexually transmitted diseases, 3rd Edition. McGraw/Hill, USA, 1999, xxi.


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