Bacterial, parasitic, fungal, and viral are the four major categories of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Viral STDs are arguably the worst, in that bacterial and parasitic STDs can now be cured, usually fairly simply, while viral STDs are incurable and can even be fatal. They are, though, treatable to varying degrees, even if not curable.
Viral STDs include hepatitis B, herpes, HIV/AIDS, and HPV.
1. Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B is preventable with a vaccine. Of people who do contract hepatitis B, approximately 94% of adults and older children in effect cure themselves, as the body clears itself of the virus within four months.
That’s the good news. The bad news is, the other roughly 6% of adults and older children (and about 30% of children age 5 and under and 90% of newborns) are left with chronic hepatitis B, which is incurable. Proper medical care can make a difference in whether the disease kills the patient and how long it takes, but an estimated 15%-25% of people with chronic hepatitis B eventually die of liver problems.
About 70% of people with hepatitis B will exhibit symptoms. Possible symptoms include yellowing of the skin and eyes, fatigue, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, joint pain, low grade fever, and flu-like symptoms.
Other forms of hepatitis are less likely to be transmitted sexually. If they can be transmitted sexually at all, the most common route would be oral-anal contact.
More than half of Americans have been infected with either genital or oral herpes.
Many people infected with herpes never have symptoms. Many others have symptoms only once, then never again. For the vast majority that have recurring symptoms, the first time is the worst.
Early symptoms of herpes can include a burning sensation in the genitals, pain during urination, low back pain, and flu-like symptoms. This is followed by small red sores around the genitals or mouth, which blister, scab over, and eventually heal.
Subsequent outbreaks, if there are any, are sometimes preceded by an itching or tingling before the appearance of the sores.
Herpes cannot be cured, but anti-viral medications have been used with some success to decrease the frequency and duration of outbreaks.
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. Other than possibly some flu-like symptoms upon initial infection, there are generally no symptoms to HIV infection unless and until it has damaged the body’s immune system enough to leave it susceptible to infections and cancers that it would otherwise be able to fight off, which can be fatal. AIDS, which stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, is the name for this defenseless state.
Even with the onset of AIDS, it’s not so much that there are then symptoms of HIV or AIDS, as that there are symptoms of whatever condition the body’s immune system is no longer able to defeat.
There is no cure for AIDS, nor a vaccine. HIV infection can take up to ten years and more to develop into AIDS, and there are now treatments that can assist the body in prolonging this period even further.
Available treatments are no picnic, however. They are generally combinations of drugs that must be taken daily, they have plenty of side effects, they are too expensive or unavailable to many people in many countries, and their effectiveness varies greatly from person to person.
HPV stands for human papilloma virus, a group of more than one hundred viruses that can cause genital warts or cervical cancer.
More than half of sexually active adults are believed to be infected with at least one strain of the virus, with it being especially prevalent amount women. The majority of infected people display no symptoms.
For those that develop genital warts, they can sometimes be eliminated with chemicals applied directly to them, though it can take freezing, burning, surgery or lasers to remove them. Then at least 30% of the time, they come back anyway.
There is a vaccine for HPV, but no cure. It is advisable for women to get the vaccine before exposure to the virus, as aside from the unpleasant genital warts that either sex can get, it is believed that 99% of cervical cancer is caused by HPV.
“Viral Diseases.” About.com.
“Common Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs).” 4Parents.gov.
“Sexually Transmitted Diseases Guide.” STD-gov.org.