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The Risks Of STIs In Young People

Did you know that there are more than 1 million curable STIs that are diagnosed daily in people as young as 15 years old every day globally? Drug resistance has become a significant concern with sexually transmitted infections that have a direct impact on your sexual and reproductive health. Read on to learn more about the risks of STIs in young people.

What is an STI?

A sexually transmitted infection (STI) is an infection or long-term health condition that you can get from sexual activity involving your mouth and genitals. Several types of these infections are widespread in young adults who are sexually active and don’t do regular health screenings or follow preventive measures to reduce the risk of transmission. In most cases, you will show symptoms such as burning, unusual discharge or persistent itching in the infected region.

On the other hand, there are cases when you don’t have any symptoms. However, this doesn’t mean that you won’t infect someone else since STIs are highly contagious whether you have symptoms or not. If you’re sexually active, regular health screenings are recommended to detect any illness that requires immediate treatment.

The Prevalence of STIs in Young People

According to research, there has been a rapid growth of STIs, with the spike requiring more awareness and management guidelines proposed by researchers. According to the World Health Organization, more than 1 million infections are recorded in people as young as 15. Additionally, most of these cases don’t show symptoms.

Common Types of STIs

Chlamydia: This is a common infection caused by bacteria without showing symptoms in the early stages. If left untreated, it can lead to severe health complications such as damage to the uterus or an infected prostate gland. These are conditions that are associated with permanent damage to the reproductive system, causing infertility or sterility.

Genital Herpes:  Most people carry the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1), which causes cold sores. Another type, HSV-2, which is transmitted through sexual contact, can cause sores or painful blisters in the genitals. Even though there’s no cure, antiviral medications can help reduce the severity of frequent sore outbreaks.

Gonorrhoea: While this infection is mainly caused by the spread of bacteria during sexual activity, it can also be transmitted to newborns during childbirth. It affects genital organs and can spread to other parts of the body, including the throat, eyes, joints, and rectum. Research suggests that women younger than 25 are at a higher risk of being infected.

HIV: HIV is a commonly known sexually transmitted infection that is mainly spread by unprotected sexual activity. However, you can also get it from contact with untreated and infected blood, such as from sharing needles. Pregnant mothers who are untreated can pass the virus to their unborn during childbirth or while breastfeeding.

HPV: According to research, there are over 100 types of human papillomavirus (HPV) that can cause various kinds of cancers, including cervical and throat (oropharyngeal) cancer. The most visible symptom of this infection is the appearance of genital warts, which can look different depending on the type of HPV that’s involved. Pap smear tests every three years are recommended in women as young as 21 to ensure no abnormal results.

Syphilis: This infection spreads in stages if it’s untreated. The first symptom can develop as a painless sore, called a chancre, on the genital area or mouth when you have been in direct contact with the syphilis virus. Up to 40% of infected people are likely to have tertiary or late-stage syphilis complications that include damage to the brain, eyes, heart and nerves.

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID): Did you know that sexually transmitted bacteria that cause chlamydia and gonorrhoea can spread to fallopian tubes, the uterus and ovaries? According to research, this aggressive spread can lead to abscesses and scar tissue in the reproductive tract. The extent of this damage is permanent, leading to infertility, ectopic pregnancy and chronic pelvic pain.

Prevention of STIs

Abstaining from sexual activity is the leading way to reduce the risk of health concerns. However, if you are sexually active, using condoms and highly effective vaccines are still recommended to help prevent the risk of sexually transmitted infections. Other recommendations you can consider include:

  • Getting tested regularly.
  • Carefully choose your partner and test together before and during sexual contact.
  • Avoiding risky sexual encounters that include alcohol consumption and using substances.
  • Learning the warning signs at an early stage.
  • Educating yourself more to better understand how to protect yourself from infection.
  • Being open to receiving treatment and ways to manage incurable STIs.

Management and Treatment of STIs

The management and treatment of STIs depend on their cause. For instance, if bacteria cause them, they can be treated with prescribed antibiotics that are either given orally, applied directly to the infected area, or injected. However, suppose you have a viral STI such as HPV, genital herpes, or HIV. In that case, the treatment focuses on reducing the risk of spreading the virus, usually with antiretroviral drugs.

Once your healthcare provider has a confirmed diagnosis, you should consider following practical steps to ensure you stay healthy and prevent complications. You should continue practising safe sexual activity even if your symptoms have cleared. Lastly, you should maintain healthy habits such as a balanced diet and physical activity to boost your immune system if you have an incurable infection.

Affinity Health offers an efficient Day-to-Day health plan to help you stay healthy and cover the costs of obtaining your prescribed medication. Other benefits include healthcare screenings, doctor consultations and pathology if you require blood tests.

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