More than 15 million cases of STDs reported annually

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By Erika Romero

A major epidemic of sexually transmitted disease (STD) has developed during the last 30 years. In the 1960s syphilis and gonorrhea, both easily treated with penicillin, were the only significant STDs. Today there are more than 20 diseases with 12 million newly infected persons each year. It is estimated that one in five Americans is now infected with a viral STD. This does not include the bacterial diseases such as chlamydia, syphilis, and gonorrhea, which are at very high levels. More than 60 percent of these infections occur in persons under age 25. The cause of this dramatic change in a period of just 30 years is the increased sexual activity of the population. As more and more people have multiple sexual partners, the inevitable result is acceleration in the spread of STDs. In addition, 80 percent of the persons infected have no noticeable symptoms and, therefore, may not know they are contagious. According to the Center for Disease Control, there are more than 15 million cases of sexually transmitted disease cases reported annually. Adolescents and young adults (15-24) are the age groups at greatest risk for acquiring a STD, 3 million becoming infected each year. Unfortunately, STDs are not equal opportunity diseases. Adolescents have a higher degree of susceptibility than do older people. The ectropion of the cervix of a female teenager is more likely to become infected than that of a woman in her 20s. Indeed, researchers have estimated that a sexually active 15-year-old has a 1-in-8 chance of developing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). By age 24, the probability has decreased to 1-in-80. While medical science has made great advances, it is clearly not the solution to the STD epidemic. The development of a cure does not guarantee an end to the problem. Chlamydia and gonorrhea can be “cured” with antibiotics, but can leave scars, which often require future treatment and may cause infertility. A vaccine for herpes has been rumored for years, but has not yet been produced. A cure, or vaccine, for the highly complex HIV virus is probably many years away. Postponing sexual activity until marriage with an uninfected mate is the only way for adolescents to be 100 percent sure of avoiding STD infection and pregnancy. Common STDs •Chlamydia – Chlamydia is a very dangerous STD as it usually has no symptoms; 75 percent of infected women and 25 percent of infected men have no symptoms at all. •Gonorrhea – Gonorrhea is one of the most frequently reported STDs. About 40 percent of its victims contract PID. If not treated, and it can cause sterility. •Hepatitis B – A vaccine exists, but there’s no cure. It can cause liver cancer. •Herpes – Painful and episodic; it can be treated but there’s no cure. •HIV/AIDS – AIDS is the sixth leading cause of death among young men and women. The virus is fatal involving a long, painful death. •Human Papalloma Virus (HPV) and Genital Warts – About 30 percent of all women have this virus, which can cause cervical or penile cancer and genital pain. •Syphllis – Untreated, can lead to serious damage of the brain or heart. Less Common STDs •Bacterial Vaginosis – Causes pain during urination; left untreated, it can result in kidney failure. •Candidiasis – Candidiasis, or yeast infection, is not a true STD but can be contracted sexually, causing burning, itching and discomfort. It is treatable with over-the-counter medication, although it is commonly recurrent. •Chancroid – A large, painful blister or ulcer which appears in genital area; may rupture. •Granuloma Inguinale – Causes painless ulcers, which enlarge and easily bleed. •Lymphogranloma Venereum – Rare in this country; causes lesions, aching and abcesses in the groin. •Mucopurulent Cervicitis (MPC) – Causes discharge from the cervix, can result in PID or miscarriage in pregnant women. •Molluscum Contagiosum – This virus causes smooth, shiny lesions, which must be individually removed by a doctor. •Nongonococcal Urethritis (NGU) – Afflicts men and causes urinary problems, can be caused by chlamydia. Trichomoniasis – Can cause foamy vaginal discharge or no symptoms at all. The disease can cause premature birth in pregnant women.