Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are infections whose mode of transmission is mainly through sexual intercourse with an infected person.
Dr Andrew Ssekitoleko, a family physician at International Hospital Kampala, says diagnosis for most sexually transmitted infections is done by a process called syndromic approach, which requires a doctor to study the history of the symptoms the patient has, in order to establish what particular infection they have.
However, this must be accompanied by confirmatory blood or urine tests, especially for those diseases that do not show symptoms.
General signs and symptoms for the sexually transmitted infections include abnormal discharge in the genital area with a foul smell, sores, wounds as well as swelling in the genitals and painful urination.
There are over 10 sexually transmitted infections which are caused by either bacteria or viruses. Here are the common STDs.
Also called treponema pallidum bacteria, it takes between two to three weeks for infected men to know they have contracted the disease, while it is not easily noticeable among women.
Symptoms for syphilis include lower back and abdominal pain, and bleeding during sex in women.
Men can also develop painless sores in the genital area, which may disappear without treatment. A person with syphilis can also develop sore throat, swollen glands and a constant feeling of fatigue. Syphilis cam cause brain damage in adults if not treated
Early syphilis can be cured with simple antibiotics such as an injection of penicillin. Severe syphilis may take longer to heal, although it is also treatable.
This is a silent disease because it may not show any symptom, according to Margret Oyuku, a nursing officer, at Kitebi Health Centre III.
It can infect the urinary tract in both women and men, which leads to a burning sensation during urinating or an abnormal (yellow-white) discharge from the private parts.
Symptoms may show within one to three weeks after infection, and if untreated, can lead to lower back and abdominal pain, nausea, fever and pain during sex.
“Babies born to mothers suffering from chlamydia can also contract the disease. It can also cause pneumonia in children,” says Oyuku. Antibiotics can be used to treat this infection.
It is caused by bacteria, and in men, it can be detected 24 hours after a person has contracted. While in women, presence of the disease can be detected after two days.
Symptoms may be mild and are easily confused with a urinary tract infection in women.
If untreated, it forms scars in the urethra and in the late stages for both men and women, a person may need a catheter to the bladder to pass urine.
Like other bacterial infections, gonorrhea can be cured with antibiotics.
“This disease was most prevalent in Uganda in the 1990s. The bacterium affects the genitals by destroying the cells and if untreated, the genitals would fall off, especially in men. This disease is, however, no longer common like it was 20 years ago,” says Dr Ssekitoleko.
He adds it is curable with antibiotics such as azithromycin.
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome virus (Aids)
Its mode of transmission is not only through sexual intercourse. A newborn baby can contract it from an infected mother at birth.
A person can also be infected through blood transfusion, or by using unsterilised instruments from an infected person.
“A person with HIVAids may take several years without showing signs. Common symptoms include on-and-off fever, swollen lymph nodes and skin rash. It can be diagnosed through blood test,” Dr Ssekitoleko.
HIVAids has no cure yet, but many people living with the virus take antiretroviral therapy to keep healthy and strong.
Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
This virus mostly affects the lower genital tract, the cervix, vagina, and external genitalia. Oyuku says, “The virus is exhibited by genital warts that can be seen, and their size and number increases during pregnancy.”
Treatment for a pregnant woman with genital warts may be delayed until after delivery, but in cases where they are largely spread out, they can complicate normal delivery and a cesarean section may be recommended
Hepatitis B and C
Hepatitis B and C viruses affect the liver. A person with Hepatitis B develops fever, fatigue, head and muscle ache, loss of appetite and diarrhoea.
“The viruses can be passed from infected mothers to their babies during pregnancy,” says Oyuku. Infected newborns may develop chronic liver infections later in life,” says Oyuka.
Myths and misconceptions about STDs
While many sexually transmitted diseases can be treated and cured if diagnosed early enough, Dr Andrew Ssekitoleko, a family physician at International Hospital Kampala, says many people still believe in myths that make it difficult to cure such diseases.
He outlines some of the myths as follows:
•People should know that sexually transmitted infections are not acquired from toilet seats and bathrooms.
•Most people can contract multiple STDs if they have more than one sexual partner who is infected.
•It is also wrongly thought young children do not have STDs. This is wrong. Some young people can acquire STDs such as HIVAids from their parents at birth.
Some people also believe having sex with a virgin can cure or treat them from a sexual infection, which is not true.
He says untreated sexually transmitted infections could cause infertility, miscarriages and underweight births.
SOURCE: Daily Monitor