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How Much Do You Know About STDs And How To Avoid Them?

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UHC logoEditor’s Note: This post is a part of #HealthForAll, a campaign by WHO and Youth Ki Awaaz to advocate access to healthcare for everyone, everywhere. If you have ideas on how India ensure access to quality and affordable healthcare for all by 2030, share your opinion.

Everyone is very well versed with HIV and AIDS. But, what about the least-talked-about STDs or STIs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases/Infections) or Venereal Diseases (VD)?

There are many write-ups on love and lust, but not enough on the consequences of unsafe sex. Sexual satisfaction is important, but to have unsafe intercourse can be the cause of many damaging diseases, which lead to pain, heart disease, and impotency too. People have written about the pleasures of masturbation, but what about unsafe masturbation?

To every person who has and acts on their sexual urges, fulfilling these is good, but to have safe sex is important. Today’s world relies so much on using social media for social concerns, but is there space here for people to discuss their fear of STDs or infections, caused by unsafe sexual acts? The result could be that they land up with a bigger problem, which could have been avoided if they had gotten treatment on time,. But even that is only possible if they have conceived of knowledge about the same.

Depiction of cervical cancer. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

STDs are treatable if they are diagnosed at the very beginning. The major concern is that while the person who is the carrier suffers, they also lead their sexual partners into trouble. The carrier, in other cases, might not suffer at all, but  they may unknowingly transfer the disease to their partner(s). There is nothing to panic about if one is diagnosed with STDs at initial stages, because proper treatment can completely cure these disease. But, the most important thing is to have proper knowledge about them.

Today’s world is a fast-moving one, but, as luck would have it, the rate of STD’s is also growing faster irrespective of literacy and more social awareness. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the estimated new cases every year for the four curable STD’s are 357 million among people aged 15–49 years. But do you know what these STDs are? What are their symptoms? And what can be the results if left untreated?

These are the most common types of STDs:


A sexually transmitted infection caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum. The most worrying part of this STD is that it starts as a painless sore. Syphilis is one of the major causes of fetal and neonatal deaths every year because of its occurrence during pregnancy.

Syphilis shows it’s symptoms in four different stages (primary, secondary, latent and tertiary). Primary stage occurs in between 3-90 days after exposure which is basically a painless sore. Secondary stage shows up after healing of the initial sores, which is after 4-10 weeks of initial infection is that the sufferer has body rashes. There aren’t any further symptoms and if left untreated the carrier might reach the tertiary stage which occurs 3-15 years after initial infection and might affect internal organs. This is one such STD which can be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy besides having unprotected sex and even the carrier might go unnoticed.

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)

This is the most common form of STD’s. Symptoms include warts on the genitals or surrounding skin. (In many cases the carrier of this STD might not show any symptoms but can transfer the disease to their partners during unsafe sexual intercourse). Infection due to HPV is one of the major causes of increased cervical cancers in ‘Third World’ countries.

Genital Herpes

This is a viral infection caused by Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV). This virus is sub categorized into HSV-I and HSV II and both can be responsible for genital herpes. HSV-I is basically responsible for oral herpes. But, involvement of oral sex with a person suffering from HSV-I can lead to genital herpes in their partners. HSV II is considered more responsible for genital herpes because the areas of infection of HSV II are the genitals. HSV II infection is more common in women than in men possibility because genital infection is more easily transmitted from men to women than from women to men during penile-vaginal sex.

Symptoms? Pain, itching and small sores appear at the beginning which can form ulcers or scabs if not treated on time. In many cases the carrier might be unknown from the fact that they are infected with genital herpes since after initial infection the viruses remain dormant and might reoccur in a aggressive form after several years. So, during this dormant stage unsafe sex with the carrier might be the cause of STD’s in their partners.


This is a STD caused by bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae and if left untreated might lead to infertility irrespective of genders. The main symptoms are abnormal discharge from vagina, penis or anus (if one had unsafe anal sex with the carrier) along with painful urination or intercourse. They even might suffer from bouts of fever, pain in the lower abdomen, pelvis, testicle, or vagina with frequent urge of urination and. It also makes menstruation very irregular.


This is an STD which occurs due to infection from bacteria Chlamydia. In many cases there are no symptoms in the carrier but however the partner gets infected due to unsafe sex with the same. But some of the symptoms that are experience in extreme infectious conditions are: pain in the genital areas during sexual intercourse or urination, abnormal discharge from vagina or penis. Gonorrhoea and Chlamydia have been found to be the major causes of infertility in people of all genders.

The increase in these STDs also further increases the risk of acquiring or transmitting HIV infections (by two to three times) if not treated at proper time. Every STD discussed above can be treated if screened at proper time and full course treatments being taken followed by proper follow up with accordance to the physician’s advice.

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Prevention Is Better Than Cure

Use protections during sexual intercourse.

Before jumping into foreplay and sex with an unknown partner, find out if they had been previously STD infected and if so had they got proper treatment or not. And if you can’t find out, and you still want to have sex with the partner, it’s advisable to have sex using proper protection, forbidding oral and anal intercourse.

If in case you doubt yourself to have symptoms like itching, rashes, or irritations in your genital areas or sores which don’t tend to heal within a week it’s always advisable to go to the specialized physician instead of waiting for long.

Last but not the least, a piece of advice: “Sex is good, but to have safe sex is the best”.

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

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Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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