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Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Also referred to as STIs; Gonorrhea, Syphilis, Chlamydia, Genital Herpes, and HIV/AIDS are some of the risk’s you take when you have unprotected sex. These might be just words to you on a page, and most of you have probably seen them a million times - but do you really know what they are and what they can do to your body? Here is a short guide to everyday STIs.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

"Genital human papillomavirus (also called HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). There are more than 40 HPV types that can infect the genital areas of males and females. These HPV types can also infect the mouth and throat. Most people who become infected with HPV do not even know they have it. Most people with HPV do not develop symptoms or health problems from it. In 90% of cases, the body’s immune system clears HPV naturally within two years. The types of HPV that can cause genital warts are not the same as the types that can cause cancer. There is no way to know which people who get HPV will go on to develop cancer or other health problems. HPV is passed on through genital contact, most often during vaginal and anal sex. HPV may also be passed on during oral sex and genital-to-genital contact. HPV can be passed on between straight and same-sex partners—even when the infected partner has no signs or symptoms. A person can have HPV even if years have passed since he or she had sexual contact with an infected person. Most infected persons do not realize they are infected or that they are passing the virus on to a sex partner. It is also possible to get more than one type of HPV."

Information retrieved from the CDC.


Neisseria gonorrhoeae is bacteria that likes to live in warm moist places; chances are you can think of a few. This little guy affects 70,000 new people a year in the United States alone - that means 120.9 people out of every 100,000 will have gonorrhea. Men with gonorrhea may have no initial symptoms, but they can appear up to 30 days after the initial infection. These include pain when urinating, a white, yellow, or green discharge from the penis, and swollen testicles. In women there is even a less of a chance of symptoms and it can often be confused with a bladder or vaginal infection. These include pain while urinating, and a white discharge. It can also be passed to a baby through the birth canal, and may cause blindness and/or joint infection in the baby. If you’re worried you may have gonorrhea then see your doctor; most common antibiotics can cure it.


The bacteria, chlamydia trachomatis is the most common STI. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1,210,523 cases of Chlamydia infection were reported in 2008 alone. That is scary! Chlamydia is known as the “silent” STI because it often has no symptoms, and when they do appear they are usually mild. These include pain while urinating, a white discharge, and lower back pain in both men and women. The real trouble with Chlamydia is what happens to women when it goes untreated. Complications arise, such as Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, which can ultimately cause infertility or other serious problems while trying to conceive. Those 1,210,523 cases are in luck because it can be treated with a small dose of antibiotics that you can get from your doctor.

Genital Herpes

Different from the previously discussed STIs, genital herpes is caused by a virus known as herpes simplex virus-2 (HSV-2) instead of bacteria. It, too, is sadly common - 1 out of every 6 people from the ages of 14-49 is infected with this virus. It manifests itself in bumps (known as outbreaks), and depending on your body’s reaction to the virus you may have more, or less, outbreaks. These outbreaks are usually accompanied with flu like symptoms. It can lead to fatal infections in babies, so it is important to know your herpes status and get guidance from your doctor if you’re trying to conceive. Because it is caused by a virus, and not bacteria, there is no cure for genital herpes, but with the help of medicine outbreaks can be reduced and the severity controlled.


HIV/AIDS is a member of the retrovirus family. Retroviruses basically infiltrate the host DNA and use it to replicate the virus. The virus has two different stages, the first being HIV. This stage, simplified, means that you have the virus and your body is trying to fight it. A person with HIV may not have symptoms. When the virus starts to destroy your immune system it is called AIDS. In this stage your body may have little to no white blood cells that can fight off more common sicknesses, such as the flu, or the common cold. There is no cure for HIV/AIDS expect prevention, so it is important to educate people about the virus before they get it. Would you like to get tested? A visit to our campus health center, an Oregon health center, or a Planned Parenthood will provide you with medical information important and specific to you. They can also test you for any or all of the STIs listed above, and many use a sliding pay scale to make it affordable for you. World AIDS Awareness Day is December 1st.

STIs come in all forms, but the way to prevent them is the same: WEAR A CONDOM! This, along with abstinence, are the only sure ways to prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses. Condoms are available free of charge at the Women’s Resource Center, QRC, SHAC, Planned Parenthood also has condoms available for a small price. These are great places to go if you have questions or need further information. The CDC also has a really great website with lots of information.

Written by Aziz Almohawes