Less than half of all adults 18 to 44 years of age in the United States have been tested for a sexually transmitted disease other than HIV. However, an estimated 15 million people world wide become infected with one or more sexually transmitted diseases (STD) each year. In the U.S. alone, more than 65 million people are currently living with an STD and roughly half of them have contracted an incurable lifelong STD such as herpes.
Most sexually transmitted diseases fall into one of two categories – Viral infections and bacterial infections. Bacterial infections, such as gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia are curable with antibiotics. STDs caused by viruses such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), human papilloma virus (HPV), herpes and hepatitis B are not curable.
As far as bacterial STD’s, Chlamydia is by far the most common among women; most likely because it is very contagious and difficult to detect. In fact, an estimated 75 percent of women and 50 percent of men with chlamydia have no symptoms. All sexually active women should ask to be tested with each Pap smear, because untreated, chlamydia can cause infertility or pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). An estimated 2.8 million Americans are infected with chlamydia each year. Luckily, chlamydia, as well as gonorrhea and syphilis, can be cured with antibiotics.
In 2002, 351,852 cases of gonorrhea were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In the United States, approximately 75 percent of all reported cases of gonorrhea are found in people aged 15 to 29 years. The highest rates of infection are usually found in 15- to 19-year old women and 20- to 24-year-old men.
Once responsible for devastating epidemics, the rate of primary and secondary syphilis in the United States actually declined from 1990 to 2000 by 89.2 percent. However, there was still a reported 5,979 cases of syphilis in 2000 and 6,103 in 2001 so syphilis is still out there infecting people.
Of all the non-curable viral STD’s our there, HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is probably the most feared; and for good reason. There were nearly 45,000 New AIDS cases reported in the U.S. in 2004 and a cumulative total of over 500,000 people have died from HIV/AIDs in the U.S. alone since the disease was first diagnosed. Currently over 400,000 people in the U.S. are living with HIV/AIDs right now. That means about 1 out of every 700 U.S. citizens has contracted HIV/AIDs.
Genital Herpes, while not a potential death sentence like HIV/AIDS, is however much more prolific. Some estimates suggest that as many as 1 in 5 people may carry some form of the herpes virus in their body. That is a staggering figure. Forms of the herpes virus include cold sores, genital herpes, chickenpox, mononucleosis and shingles. Medical treatment can, however, alleviate the symptoms of viral STDs such as herpes and in some cases eliminate symptoms without actually elimination the herpes virus itself. About one million people become infected with Herpes each year in the U.S., and an estimated 45 million are currently infected with the herpes virus. An estimated 75 percent of the reproductive-age population has been infected with sexually transmitted HPV. Genital warts are caused by HPV, and can lead to cervical and bladder cancers. There’s no cure, but there is treatment.
Hepatitis B is the only STD out there that you can get a vaccine for. See your doctor if you’re not sure if you’ve been vaccinated. Hepatitis B is a nasty STD that can cause liver failure and death.