BodyFertilityPurple : Youth

Preventing And Treating STIs. Why is Sex Education Neccessary?

Learn the importance of education in preventing and treating STIs, empowering individuals with knowledge for safer sexual practices and better health outcomes

Sexually transmitted infections or STIs, usually spread after unprotected sexual contact. Bacteria, viruses, or parasites are the potential causes of STIs. Because of the lack of obvious symptoms, many people infected with STIs are unaware that they have the infection.

WHO reports that daily, over one million treatable STIs are contracted by persons aged 15 to 49 throughout the world; the vast majority of these infections cause no symptoms whatsoever. If not treated on time, these infections can spread through the body and cause serious complications.

People can protect their sexual health and stop the spread of these infections by knowing the risks and taking the right measures. For a complete description of all sexually transmitted infections and their risk factors, read our article here.

There are vast types of treatment options available for STIs. Let’s discuss them one by one.

Treatment of STIs

2347

Treatment of any sexually transmitted diseases cannot be done by self-medication or without a doctor’s consultation, as these infections are contagious and serious. So, it is best to consult a healthcare expert before taking any self-medication.

Everyone who has sex with the affected person needs to be tested for STDs so that they can all get treatment and stop the diseases from spreading. 

Effective treatment is currently available for several STIs.

  • To treat a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by bacteria, your healthcare professional may prescribe antibiotics. In most cases, the current single-dose antibiotic regimens can cure three bacterial STIs (chlamydia, gonorrhoea, and syphilis) and one parasitic STI (trichomoniasis).
  • Antivirals are the most effective treatment options for herpes and HIV. They do not totally eliminate the virus but provide some relief.
  • For hepatitis B, antivirals can help fight the virus and slow down damage to the liver.

While following the treatment plans, it is equally important for the sexual partner within the last 60 days to be screened and treated accordingly.

Chlamydia 

Chlamydia is one of the easiest STIs to treat. Depending upon the appearance of symptoms and a person’s medical condition, chlamydia treatment is done with antibiotics such as doxycycline 100 mg twice a day. Or alternative treatments such as

After the course of treatment, the infection usually starts to get better. But it is still best to avoid any sexual activity until the symptoms completely subside.

Gonorohhrea 

Just like chlamydia, antibiotics are used to treat gonorrhea. As per the guidelines, ceftriaxone is given as an intramuscular injection at the buttocks once. A healthcare provider may also recommend an oral medicine, such as doxycycline, to be taken twice daily for seven days.

It has been advised to recheck after 3 months of treatment as infertility and irreparable damage to reproductive organs can result from gonorrhea that goes untreated.

Trichomoniasis

Trichomoniasis does not go away on its own. As long as the infection is present, there is a chance of passing it on to sexual partners. So, all sexual partners must get treatment to stop the infection from spreading and stop people from getting it again.

Doctors usually treat it with antibiotics, which kill the parasite that causes the illness. Tinidazole or metronidazole (Flagyl) are two options your doctor may suggest. Doctors also recommend not to drink alcohol while following the treatment. The treatment will be continued for a week and if the symptoms persist for an extended period of time, consulting a doctor again for re-treatment is advised. A follow-up after 3 months specially for women is also advised.

Syphilis 

If you find and treat syphilis early on, it’s easy to get healthy. Penicillin is the best medicine at all stages of infection. A single intramuscular injection of antibiotics will be administered. When syphilis reaches stages 2–3, patients may be prescribed intravenous antibiotics, intramuscular penicillin injections three times weekly, or combination of these options in situations of severe symptoms or infections affecting several organ systems.  

Genital warts (Herpes) 

Genital warts may get better on their own for people with strong immunity. However, different treatment methods are used for many people. These treatments include the following:

  • Medications: The doctor will make an appointment at the hospital once a week to apply topical medicine to the parts inside and outside the body where genital warts grow. Topical medicines are 5% imiquimod, 0.5% podofilox, or 80–90% trichloroacetic acid. The patient is asked to use the restroom and urinate before the application, as the medicine has to be kept inside for 4-6 hours.
  • Surgery: Surgery is considered a solution, especially for big genital warts or spots that don’t go away with medicine.
  • Electrocautery: This method cauterizes the warts with high heat to remove abnormally growing tissues.
  • Cryotherapy uses liquid nitrogen to inhibit the growth of warts, help the skin heal, and eventually, the growth falls off.
  • Laser: It is used by doctors for widespread pubic warts and warts that are hard to treat. The CO2 laser is commonly used.
  • Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP): It is sometimes used to remove cervix warts. It uses an electrical wire loop that is electrically charged is used to get rid of warts.

Genital Herpes

Genital herpes virus stays in the body forever. It may also have flare-up periods. Treatment is also advised based on flare-up symptoms to reduce pain and soreness, not as a cure for herpes. These include acyclovir,  famciclovir, and valacyclovir. These are given for 7–10 days.

If anyone suffers from flare-ups very frequently, another treatment session, such as intermittent therapy, is given to the patient. This method administers medication for two to five days when symptoms begin. Or another one, such as suppressive therapy, in which medicine is taken daily to avoid outbreaks. Both of these methods work to reduce flare-ups.

Clinicians do not employ a specific annual breakout count when deciding whether to begin suppressive treatment.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B therapy aims to halt the spread of the infection and, by extension, liver damage.

Most people with HIV are treated with a mixture of antiretroviral drugs called as Antiretroviral therapy (ART)  that they take every day to control their virus. Adefovir, entecavir, pegylated interferon, and lamivudine are the hepatitis B oral medications that have recently received FDA approval. Your doctor may recommend combining these medications or using interferon with one of them for optimal therapeutic outcomes.

Other injectables are interferons. These are man-made versions of the antibodies that our bodies make to fight off diseases. They are injected for six to twelve months.

 HIV/AIDS

Untitled design 5
Image Source: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Prevention-strategies-for-STIs-HIV-combination-prevention-prevention-for-bacterial-STIs_fig1_375012740

Since there is no cure for AIDS, care focuses on keeping HIV values low. In this case, the first line of treatment would also be antiviral drugs (ARV), a mix of different types of drugs that can stop the virus from spreading. They also help in reducing the amount of HIV viruses to undetectable levels.

If anyone has the susceptibly that they might have been exposed to the HIV virus. Then, they must consult a doctor as soon as possible to start the treatment, such as post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). Researchers found that those who took ARV within 72 hours after being exposed to HIV were able to get a negative HIV test result.

People who are not sick with HIV but are likely to get it can also get pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) from their doctor and take ARV drugs to avoid getting it. It has been found to reduce the likelihood of getting HIV by up to 99%.

All these above-mentioned drugs are there to treat, if not help with the symptoms of STIs. However, remember that one must complete the whole treatment course, no matter how easy and relieved they feel after even one dosage. And following someone else’s prescription for the treatment may cause adverse effects, and treating your infection may be more difficult.

If you test positive, do not engage in sexual activity until you and your present sexual partner have completed therapy. 

Consult a medical professional if your symptoms persist despite taking medication. It is also important that your partner(s) get treated to prevent the spread of the disease.

Here is a summary of all the treatments available for STIs to date.

STI Treatment Method Notes
Chlamydia Antibiotics: Doxycycline 100 mg twice a day, Levofloxacin 500 mg once daily for 7 days, or Azithromycin 1 g single dosage Avoid sexual activity until symptoms completely subside
Gonorrhea Antibiotics: Ceftriaxone (intramuscular injection), Doxycycline (oral) Recheck after 3 months to avoid infertility and reproductive damage
Trichomoniasis Antibiotics: Tinidazole, Metronidazole (Flagyl) Treat all sexual partners, avoid alcohol during treatment, follow-up after 3 months
Syphilis Antibiotics: Penicillin (intramuscular injection, intravenous for severe cases) Early treatment is crucial, multiple doses for advanced stages
Genital Warts Medications: Imiquimod, Podofilox, Trichloroacetic acid; Surgery; Electrocautery; Cryotherapy; Laser; LEEP Topical treatments and various procedures depending on severity and location of warts
Genital Herpes Antivirals: Acyclovir, Famciclovir, Valacyclovir Intermittent therapy for flare-ups, suppressive therapy for frequent outbreaks
Hepatitis B Antivirals: Adefovir, Entecavir, Pegylated Interferon, Lamivudine Combines oral medications and interferons for optimal outcomes
HIV/AIDS Antiretrovirals: ART (daily), Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) Focus on maintaining low HIV levels, start PEP within 72 hours of exposure, PrEP for prevention

Prevention of STIs

Untitled design 3

We all know that prevention is better than cure. So, by getting the right knowledge about the right sexual practices, you can always safeguard your health. A few precautions that need to be kept in mind are mentioned below.

Abstinence

One of the best prevention methods is to avoid sexual contact with multiple people. This is specially true for anyone ready to have an STI.

Discussing it With Partner

Another strategy that experts recommend is to talk to your partner about STI protection openly and honestly before you have oral, vaginal, or anal sex. Make sure that you and your partner(s) have both been tested for and treated for STIs. If you or your partner(s) have signs, have been exposed to an STI, or are currently getting treatment for an STI, don’t have sexual contact with them. Encourage the use of lubricants, dental dams, and condoms as a means of prevention.

Seek the assistance and support of a healthcare professional or counsellor if you are having trouble bringing up the topic of safer sex with your partner(s).

Using Contraceptive Methods

Some STIs, like vaginal warts, herpes, and syphilis, can be passed on by touching affected skin that isn’t covered by a condom or something else.
While it might not totally stop the spread, using condoms and other forms of birth control keeps you from getting an STD from someone who already has one. In this case, male condoms are the best, and many doctors suggest always using a latex or polyurethane condom, whether you’re having sex vaginally, orally, or anal. But the care lies in properly checking the expiration date and disposing of the used condom.

Sexual Health checkups and screenings

Another preventive strategy is going through a sexual health screening. This screening is also very important before having sexual contact with a partner, which can help stop the spread of infection. It’s also important to find out if a partner has been seeing someone else before starting sexual relations again. This is just a precautionary method, but the best is to get screened for cervical cancer and have pelvic examinations regularly. Your doctor can assess your risk level and recommend testing intervals accordingly.

Don’t Share Needles/Syringes

Don’t let other people use your needles, syringes, blades, or anything else that could get blood or body fluid on it. If getting a tattoo, always ask the tattoo artist to change the needle to prevent the spread of HIV infection.

Follow Safe Sex

When it comes to sexual health and the prevention of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), nothing is more important than practicing safe sex. Let us show how to adhere to safe sex practices properly:

  • Avoid anal sex: Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are more common in behaviors that cause skin tears or breaks. Since the anal area is very delicate so having anal intercourse is quite dangerous.
  • Keep your sex toys clean: If using, always clean them properly and put on a fresh condom.
  • Avoid nonoxynol-9 (N-9): Avoid using condoms or lubricants containing nonoxynol-9 (N-9), as it can harm the vagina or anus lining and raise the risk of HIV infection.

Vaccination

A vaccination is a shot that helps build immunity to a certain illness. In the case of STIs, vaccinations are available for infections like hepatitis and HPV. Since 2023, the HPV vaccine has been part of regular vaccination programs in more than 140 countries worldwide.

Circumcision Can Help

Another method for preventing the transmission of genital herpes and HPV is male circumcision. Circumcision can reduce a male’s chance of contracting HIV from an infected woman by 60%, according to the available research

STI Screening

It is very necessary to check for a sexually transmitted disease (STD) in a person who does not yet exhibit any signs of the disease. However, doctors may recommend testing when they see a shift in a patient’s risk for sexually transmitted diseases. It is recommended for

  • Once in a lifetime: Guidelines suggest that anyone between the ages of 15 and 65 must get tested for HIV virus via blood or saliva test once in their life. Not only this lifetime testing must also be done for Hep B and C too.
  • In Pregnancy: All pregnant women are generally advised to be screened for HIV, syphilis, chlamydia, and hepatitis B. If any of these tests are positive, then gonorrhea and hepatitis C testing are also suggested.
  • Screening for men-to-men sexual relations: STIs are more common in guys who engage in intercourse with other men. So screening for them becomes more important. Public health groups suggest that these men should get tested for hepatitis B, HIV, syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea at least once a year, if not more often.
  • Pap Smear for women 21 or older: The Pap test detects abnormalities in the cervix cells, including swelling, irritation, precancerous changes, and cancer, as some strains of HPV are known to cause cervical cancer.

Experts recommend getting a pap test for sexually active women between the ages of 21-29 after every three years. Women above 30 should get a pap smear test every 5 years.

  • Chlamydia Testing for Under 25: The CDC recommends that all sexually active women under the age of 25 should get a chlamydia test once a year. However, recent studies show that less than half of sexually active women under 25 are screened for chlamydia. So, no matter what, you should ask your doctor for a chlamydia test if you don’t get one provided to you.

There are a lot of sexually transmitted infections, like HIV. Some can be cured with medicine. But not all of them can be treated, such as HIV, hepatitis B, and HPV, but they can be controlled for their symptoms.  Getting screened regularly, being honest with your partner, and sticking with your treatment plan are all important parts of dealing with STIs and keeping your personal life healthy and satisfying.

Show More

Dr Aimen

Being a Doctor by profession, Aimen is passionate about helping people get better health in their lives. Aimen enjoys her research on Prime With Time subjects and strives to create better awareness of the problems and changes related to women's health.
Back to top button