STIS

SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED INFECTIONS

Sex can be thrilling, emotional, uplifting, serious, or just fun. It can also be an uncomfortable subject to talk about openly, for anyone. Sex is an important part of a person’s physical and mental health, and when health-related issues come up, it is good to know how to talk about them. For individuals of trans experience, there is an added layer of difficulty because of the stigma associated with sexual activities. Gender expression or identity does not determine who one’s sexual partners are, nor how one prefers to have sex. For example, if someone identifies as a transgender woman, that doesn’t automatically mean that they only have sex with men. It is important to be able to discuss the difference between the sex assigned to you at birth and your gender identity.

The most common tests used to detect sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are urine and blood samples. Other ways to find out about an infection include swabbing the penis, vagina, throat, and anus to collect samples. It is important to let your doctor or other health care professional know what parts of the body you use when having sex so that they can decide which tests will get the most accurate results.

 

It is important to let your doctor or other health care professional know what parts of the body you use when having sex so that they can decide which tests will get the most accurate results.

Louisiana is ranked in the top ten states for infection rates of gonorrhea, chlamydia, primary and secondary syphilis, and HIV (1,2). On top of that, the transgender community is more affected by HIV than others (3). Because of these circumstances, it is very important to make your sexual health a priority. Everyone should learn what they can about STIs and how they can be spread, prevented, and treated.

The most common sexually transmitted infections:

Chlamydia

A bacteria that can infect the genitals, rectum, throat, and joints. It may not cause any symptoms, but it could potentially cause infertility if left untreated. It is detectable within 1-5 days after infection and can be treated with an oral antibiotic. Reinfection is possible.

Gonorrhea

A type of bacteria that can affect the genitals, rectum, throat, eyes, and joints. Although in many cases it causes no symptoms, it could lead to infertility if left untreated. It is detectable within 2-7 days of infection and can be fully cured with a one-time injection of antibiotics combined with a same-day dose of oral antibiotic. Reinfection is possible.

Syphilis

A bacteria that can cause chancres or may not have any visible symptoms. If left untreated, it can cause blindness, organ and nerve damage, paralysis and even death. Syphilis can be detected 1-2 weeks after infection and treated with penicillin, although treatment will not reverse any lasting damage done.

Hepatitis B (HBV)

A virus that affects the liver. It can cause skin yellowing, fever, stomach pain, and fatigue, but it does not always cause visible symptoms. If left untreated, it can cause severe organ damage, liver failure, and cancer. It is detectable 2-3 months after infection. It has a vaccine and is treatable with antiviral medication when caught soon after infection.

Hepatitis C (HCV)

A virus that affects the liver. It can cause skin yellowing, fever, stomach pain, and fatigue, or it may not cause visible symptoms. It is more commonly spread by sharing syringes and other injection equipment. HCV is detectable after 2-3 months of infection and can be treated with an oral antiviral medicine.

HIV

A virus that attacks the immune system. It can cause flu-like symptoms, and if left untreated can depress the immune system, leaving the person more susceptible to other infections, and potentially death. HIV has no cure, but antiretroviral pills can be taken to lower the amount of the virus in the person’s blood. When that happens, they are undetectable, and people who are undetectable cannot spread the virus to others.

HPV

A virus with many strains. Some strains cause genital warts while others cause cervical, penile, throat, and anal cancer. It is detectable within 1-2 months of infection, and there are various methods of treatment for the genital warts, cancerous cells, and precancerous cells.

Herpes (HSV-2)

A virus that causes sores in the genital region. It can cause discomfort or pain but is otherwise not dangerous. Approximately 1 in 6 Americans carries herpes, although it is not likely to be spread unless a person has a flare-up. It is detectable 2-12 days after infection. There is no cure, but antiretroviral medications can be used to lessen the chances of spread during a flare-up.

Trichomoniasis

A parasite that can cause itching and discharge from the penis or vagina, or it may cause no visible symptoms. Tests can detect it 1-4 weeks after infection, and it can be fully cured with an antibiotic/antiprotozoal taken once, although reinfection is possible

Preventing the spread ...

Preventing the spread of infections can be very easy. For HIV, just taking a once daily pill can lessen your chances of becoming infected. Others, as mentioned above, have vaccines that everyone can get. Using condoms can help prevent you from getting all the STIs mentioned. It is also important to get tested regularly, as some can be detected within a week after infection, while others won’t be detected for 2-3 months.