Could You Have an STD?

Written by Dr. Stephen Genuis, M.D. and Shelagh K. Genuis, BScOT

In the case of both AIDS and other STDs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases), I have heard the comment that “he’s not the sort of guy” or that she is “straight laced and clean cut” and thus could never be carrying an STD. Some people feel that you can tell if a person is infected by looking at them. This is not the case.

Many of common STDs have no symptoms in their early stages, so you cannot see them, even while being intimate with an infected person. Those infected often do not notice any changes or have any complaints until much later. They pass the STD on to their contacts without ever knowing that they have an infection themselves.

Viruses and bacteria do not discriminate based on how much money a person makes or how they dress. Many members of the public have the mistaken notion that people with STDs generally belong to an identifiable or specific group. This leads to the belief that by avoiding contact with these specific groups or types of persons, is a valid way to protect themselves from the risk of contacting STDs. This is simply not true. You have to take action to protect yourself.

Why is it so important to protect yourself from STDs?

Most patients who see a physician or visit a clinic for assessment and treatment of STDs are under the impression that these illnesses can, for the most part, be treated and cured with antibiotic therapy. While this may be case for STDs caused by bacteria, it is certainly not true for the viral infections.

With the modern day antibiotics that are available, gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydial infection can be effectively treated once they are suspected and diagnosed. Although the infecting organism may be eradicated, any damage occurring prior to treatment is not usually reversible. Serious complications, such as infertility, may require ongoing medical attention for years to come. It is very important for individuals who suspect they may be infected to seek medical attention as soon as possible.

What if you think you might be infected?

If you have had sex with a new non-virginal partner, it is a good idea to be tested for STDs. Having sex with a new partner, involves risks from infections from their past partners, and all their partners’ partners.

Anyone who is concerned about infection should get tested right away. Do not wait until you have any changes or problems. In the early stages, many people with STDs don’t have any symptoms. Some STDs cause severe and chronic irreversible problems if left untreated. For example, Chlamydia can destroy a woman’s fallopian tubes and render her infertile if left untreated.

What happens at the doctor’s office?

If you go to your doctor or a clinic with concerns about a possible STD, they will do a couple of tests looking for a variety of these infections. The tests usually include a blood and urine test, an examination and taking a painless wiping (called a ‘culture’) to look for evidence of infection. The results usually come back within a few days and treatment is started if there is a concern. Your doctor will be able to explain each test to you. Other than a small prick to take blood, these tests are fairly painless.

What are the risks associated with STDs?

I recently had occasion to see a fourteen year old girl, just entering high school, who had met a young fellow on the school football team. She quickly became involved and then, to her disappointment, they broke up when he met another new student. She subsequently developed extensive genital warts and many attempts had been made to treat the affected areas with a topical ointment. The treatment was unsuccessful and she was referred to my care for surgical intervention.

She was shocked to realize that, despite removal of the warts themselves, the virus persists and may cause repeated recurrences of these growths. At the present time, there is no treatment to eliminate the virus and once infected, a person may continue to carry the virus indefinitely. She asked about spreading it to others, and I explained that the virus is transmitted by skin to skin contact. This bright young lady quickly concluded that she would likely pass this on to any subsequent sexual contact, “even a future husband” despite the use of condoms. I remember her asking, “can’t I even have a second chance?”

She had never heard of warts, let alone imagined that she may be afflicted with them indefinitely as a result of one sexual contact. She had no way of knowing that this student would change her life forever. The only way she could have protected herself was by not having relations with him in the first place. I don’t have a second chance to give her.

Adapted from Risky Sex, by Dr. Stephen Genuis

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2 Responses to “Could You Have an STD?”

  • Claire Colvin Claire Colvin says:

    Mia, The only way to know for sure is to get tested. With some STDs you can be infected without showing symptoms. If you’ve ever had unprotected sex, or if you had sex and the condom broke then you could be at risk. See your doctor or go to a clinic if there’s one in your area. The tests are fairly quick and once you have your results you’ll know for sure.

    You sound pretty worried. Is there someone you can talk to or someone who would go to the doctor with you? It’s less scary if you don’t have to do it alone. I don’t know your story – I don’t know if sex was your choice or not. If it was, I’d encourage you to be really careful about who you choose to sleep with. We’re constantly being told that sex isn’t a big deal, but that’s not true. Sex is always a commitment, even if it happens in a casual relationship. Waiting until you’re married reduces not just your risk of getting sick but also your risk of some serious heartbreak. Sex is meant to bind people together. The intimacy of sex is not just about our bodies it’s an emotional and spiritual intimacy as well. When that bond is formed and then broken it’s incredibly painful.

    If this was not your choice, have you talked to anyone about that? If you were forced or pressured then you’re dealing with a whole different set of emotions and that’s way too much to handle on your own. We have mentors you can talk to privately anytime.

    Right now you’re living as if you did catch something – you’re worried and you’re probably thinking about it all the time. So go get tested and you can start to feel better. Either you’ll be clean and there’s nothing to worry about, or you’ll know what you’re dealing with and the doctor can give you a course of action. Either answer is better than not knowing. The tests aren’t that bad.

  • jackie says:

    Mia, the only way to know for sure about whether you have contracted anything is to get tested. There are many public resources, private clinics and your regular MD that can test you for STD’s. If you feel strongly that you might have something and it’s an option, talk to your partner and ask them to get tested, as well. It’s a very scary thing and it’s best to arm yourself with your own knowledge about your health. God Bless

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