Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) [edit]

Description

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are the infections and resulting clinical syndromes caused by more than 25 infectious organisms transmitted through sexual activity. Serious sequelae include pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, stillbirths and neonatal infections, genital cancers, and (in the case of HIV and tertiary syphilis) death.

Occurrence

AIDS has become a global health problem, and the prevalence of HIV infection in many populations continues to escalate (see “AIDS"). Also of concern are the antibiotic-resistant STD agents, particularly penicillin-, tetracycline-, and quinolone-resistant strains of Neisseria gonorrhoeae.

Risk for Travelers

International travelers are at risk of contracting STDs, including HIV, if they have sexual contact with partners who have these diseases. Travelers should be aware that the risk of STDs is high in some parts of the world.

Prevention

Vaccine

Hepatitis B is the only STD for which a vaccine is available (see “Hepatitis, Viral, Type B).

Other

To avoid acquiring STDs, travelers should be advised not to have sexual contact with persons who might be infected. Persons most likely to be infected are those with numerous sex partners. In many places, persons who make themselves available for sex with travelers are likely to be persons, such as commercial sex workers, who have had many partners. In addition, injecting drug users are at high risk of being infected with HIV, regardless of the number of their sex partners.

Travelers who wish to absolutely protect themselves from acquiring an STD should be advised to refrain from sexual contact. If, however, they choose not to do this, travelers should be advised that they can reduce their risk of acquiring infection by consistently and correctly using a latex condom during sexual contact, whether vaginal, oral, or anal. If lubricants are used during sex, only water-based lubricants (e.g., K-Y Jelly or glycerine) should be used with latex condoms, because oil-based lubricants (e.g., petroleum jelly, shortening, mineral oil, or massage oils) can weaken latex condoms. Those who are sensitive to latex should use condoms made of polyurethane or other synthetic materials.

Any traveler who might have been exposed to an STD and who develops either a vaginal or urethral discharge, an unexplained rash or genital lesion, or genital or pelvic pain should be advised to cease sexual activity and promptly seek competent medical care. Because STDs are often asymptomatic, especially in women, travelers who believe that they might have been exposed to an STD should be advised to consult a physician regarding the advisability of screening for STDs.

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