Contrary to popular belief, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are increasing in frequency everywhere in Quebecespecially among young people aged 15 to 24. There is also an increasing number of cases in middle-aged adults and among the elderly. Here is an overview of five common STIs which you should be aware of.
In Canada, the majority of people affected are aged 15 to 24, and this disease affects twice as many women as men. Chlamydia is caused by a bacteria that can affect different parts of the body, including the genitals and the rectum. It is transmitted during an unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sexual relation with an infected person. In women, chlamydia can cause a burning sensation during urination, abnormal vaginal discharge, bleeding between periods, during or after sexual intercourse, increased pain during intercourse or periods, or lower abdominal or back pain. In men, chlamydia leads to itching on the penis, burning sensation or pain during urination, discharge from the penis, pain or swelling of the testicles. Nearly half of the men affected do not experience any symptoms.
Over the past 10 years, the number of declared gonorrhea cases has increased by 200%. This STI is caused by a bacteria and is transmitted during an unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sexual relation with an infected person. An infected mother can also pass on the disease to her child during childbirth. In women, gonorrhea can cause the following symptoms: burning sensation during urination, pain or abnormal vaginal bleeding and yellowish vaginal discharge. In men, the following symptoms are possible: discharge from the penis, burning sensation during urination, pain or swelling of the testicles. That being said, a good number of men and women are asymptomatic.
Genital herpes affects approximately one in every five Canadians, which makes it one of the most widespread STIs in North America. This infection is caused by the herpes simplex (HSV) virus, which exists in two forms: type 1 (HSV1) and type 2 (HSV2). The latter is mostly responsible for cases of genital herpes. This STI is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact with an infected area, mainly during vaginal, anal or oral sexual relations with an infected person. Genital herpes is characterized by the outbreak of painful lesions generally located in the genital area, around the anus, and sometimes on the thighs or buttocks. These lesions appear in the form of blisters. Their appearance may be preceded by symptoms such as localized tingling or itching. Many people do not know that they have genital herpes because symptoms may sometimes be nonexistent, mild or may be confused with pimples or other skin irritations.
The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is the most widespread STI in North America. Approximately 75% of sexually active women and men will have at least one HPV infection during their lifetime. Highly contagious, HPV is spread through contact with the skin and during vaginal, oral or anal sex with an infected person. Note that a person may be contagious and transmit the infection even if they present no symptoms. In most cases, the individual’s immune system succeeds in naturally eliminating the infection. In others, however, the infection takes hold and can cause a variety of health problems, including condylomata (small warts). When HPV causes condylomata, they appear as minuscule growths shaped like cauliflower or venereal warts that are of skin color. They do not normally cause any pain, but they may cause itching.
HIV and AIDS
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that infects certain cells of the immune system, the body’s defense system. It is transmitted from one person to another through contact with infected biological fluids such as vaginal secretions, sperm, pre-ejaculatory liquid and blood. The most common means of HIV transmission are unprotected sexual relations (vaginal, anal and oral) with an infected person, sharing needles and material for drug injection, and the use of non-sterilized needles (tattooing, acupuncture, etc.). A mother can also transmit the disease to her child during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding. When a person is infected with HIV, we say that this person is HIV seropositive. Once the immune system is weakened, the virus prevents the body from fighting off infections, which causes a range of symptoms. That is when we talk of AIDS, or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. It takes an average of ten years for an HIV infection to lead to AIDS.
For more information about these STIs, consult the articles on each one of them.
Some tips to reduce your risks of contracting an STI:
In any case, don’t hesitate to speak to your pharmacist affiliated to Brunet. He can inform you on safe practices to adopt in order to enjoy a healthy and worry-free sexuality. If you have an STI, he can also inform you on the different treatments that are available.
Read more on the subject
Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and its vaccinesRead article +
Genital herpes: a hidden diseaseRead article +
HIV and AIDSRead article +
Chlamydia and gonorrheaRead article +