HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. HIV is a blood-borne virus that can be transmitted through unprotected anal or vaginal sex and sharing HIV contaminated syringes. HIV weakens the immune system by destroying important cells that fight disease and infection. There are varying symptoms of HIV depending upon the stage of disease. Most people with acute infection experience a short flu-like illness. After initial symptoms disappear, there is often a long, silent period of HIV infection before the disease progresses to AIDS. There is no cure to HIV, but early diagnosis allows for treatment with medication that can help to suppress levels of virus.
Hepatitis C Virus
Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV). HCV is more commonly transmitted through needles or blood exposure and only rarely spread through sexual intercourse. The infection is usually asymptomatic. When symptoms do occur, they can include fatigue, nausea, muscle aches or jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes). For some people, Hepatitis C is a short-term illness but for 70%-85% of people who become infected, Hepatitis C becomes a long-term, chronic infection. Chronic Hepatitis C is a serious disease that can result in long-term health problems, even death.
Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2
Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2 (HSV-2) is a virus that is responsible for genital herpes. Symptoms of HSV-2 typically appear as blistering sores, on or around the genitals, rectum or mouth that break and leave painful ulcers. Infection with HSV-2 is lifelong and the sores may recur periodically during times of emotional stress or illness. Although there is no cure for genital herpes, severe episodes can be lessened and prevented with treatment.
Syphilis is a highly contagious bacterial infection by the bacterium Treponema pallidum. Syphilis is transmitted through sexual contact. The symptoms are related to the stage of the infection. Typically, the first sign of infection is a small, painless sore (called chancre) on the penis, vagina, or around the anus. Treponema pallidum eventually enters the bloodstream and causes rashes anywhere on the body and flu-like symptoms. If not treated, syphilis may progress to the symptom-less latent phase and may damage heart, brain and nervous system. Therefore, early treatment is important, as damage caused by late-stage syphilis infection is often irreversible.
Chlamydia is a bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. Chlamydia can be transmitted through sexual contact and generally shows no symptoms. Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States, with about 4 million new cases diagnosed every year. It can cause serious, permanent damage to a woman’s reproductive system. This can make it difficult or impossible for a woman to get pregnant later on. Chlamydia can also cause a potentially fatal ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy that occurs outside the womb).
Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae. It is transmitted through sexual contact and is most commonly asymptomatic in women. Gonorrhea can cause infections in the genitals, rectum, and throat. If not treated, gonorrhea is associated with complications that may result in infertility. There is a high prevalence of co-infection with chlamydia and an increased susceptibility to HIV.
Trichomoniasis is caused by infection with the protozoan parasite Trichomonas vaginalis. Trichomoniasis is transmitted through sexual contact. Women who are infected are more likely to develop symptoms than men. Symptoms usually include a foul-smelling discharge, genital itching and pain during urination or sexual intercourse. Complications are rare, although trichomoniasis in pregnancy can be linked to pre-labor rupture of membranes, preterm delivery and low birth weight. Untreated trichomoniasis can increase the risk of HIV infection.