Want to know more about AIDS and other common STDs?
Sexually transmitted diseases are abbreviated as STDs; they are also called STI (sexually transmitted infections)/ venereal diseases/RTI (reproductive tract infections). These are the diseases that are passed from one individual to another by sexual contact ( the act of sexual intercourse) or from body fluid interaction. Let us learn more about STDs and also dig into awareness of STDs.
Pop Culture: Insights into awareness of STDs
Do you know what’s common between Charlie Sheen, Jonathan Van Ness and Magic Johnson? All of them have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that causes an STD called AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome). The first case of HIV can be traced long back to 1959. However, a well-documented first case of HIV was recorded in 1981. During the early stages when this virus began infecting people through sexual intercourse as well as drug usage there was a big taboo around it and a pool full of misinformation. There was no internet for individuals to go up to and look for quality information regarding STDs. Hence during this time a lot of people that were diagnosed with HIV/AIDS did not get proper treatment and appropriate care because they hesitated to come forward. We have come a long way from that era and have developed brilliant technology to prevent as well as treat the complications of this STD to some extent and others alike.
Magic Johnson, NBA superstar hall of Famer, 3 times NBA MVP award winner came out in 1991 to tell everyone about his diagnosis of HIV/AIDS. During that period it was believed by the general public that HIV could only be transmitted between the homosexual communities. This myth was destroyed by Magic Johnson who openly stated to the public that he was diagnosed with HIV after having sexual intercourse with multiple sexual partners at the same time.
Jonathan Van Ness
Jonathan Van Ness fashion, style and grooming expert on the show Queer eye came out to tell everyone that he was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS too when he was a heavy substance drug abuser and woke up one day after fainting in his saloon. It was on this day that he was diagnosed with HIV. Certainly, he is proud to be a member of the HIV-positive community.
Charlie Sheen the famous Two and a Half Men show superstar came out in 2015 to state that he has been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS four years prior. This was the time when the internet experienced ‘The Charlie Sheen Effect’. The number of people who started searching for treatment and prevention against AIDS went through the roof and the number of people getting testing kits for AIDS and other STDs increased by many folds. Hence we see how pop culture plays an important role to raise awareness about STDs and helping people fight and giving them hope that they are not alone in this.
Awareness of STDs and their types
Let’s give you some awareness of STDs (Sexually transmitted diseases):-
Bacteria: Neisseria gonorrhoeae
- Any form of sexual contact like anal, oral or vaginal sex
- Coming in contact with the mouth, anus, penis or vagina of an individual who has been diagnosed with Gonorrhea.
- Moreover, the mother can pass on Gonorrhoea to her child by vaginal birth. C-section births will not pass gonorrhoea to the child.
- However, this bacteria cannot survive for much longer outside the body so places touched by the infected person like toilet seats or door handles will not cause this infection to a healthy individual.
- Burning pain while urinating.
- Swollen testicles
- Most women have mild symptoms for instance pain during urination
- Bleeding in between menstrual cycle
- Painful sex
- Pain in the abdomen
- Vaginal discharge
- To point out, an individual infected with Gonorrhea is more susceptible to HIV/AIDS infection
- Infertility can be a major problem for individuals affected by gonorrhoea
- Gonorrhoea is easily treatable and curable by antibiotics completely.
Bacteria: Treponema pallidum
- Unprotected sex with/ without multiple sex partners
- Any form of sexual contact (anal/ oral/ vaginal)
- Syphilis spreads very quickly and so individuals infected with this bacteria can particularly pass it onto their sexual partners without knowing they have it.
- HIV and Homosexuals are more at risk for this STD.
- Early Stage- painless small ulcers around the genital area. Lasts for 10-19 days after exposure.
- Second Stage- can last for 1-3 months. Rashes on the legs and hands have rosy copper-like rashes.
- The final stage- neurosyphilis is the time when Treponema pallidum particularly starts infecting other parts of the body like the brain.
Antibiotic treatment can help cure this disease completely and should be done in the earlier stages to prevent the STD from affecting the whole body.
Bacteria: Chlamydia trachomatis
Causes:- Sexual Contact
Symptoms:- Discharge, itching, burning sensation in the genital organs.
Treatment:- Antibiotic treatment can help cure it completely.
Virus: Herpes Simplex Virus
Causes:- Sexual Contact/highly contagious
- Cold sores without any pustules
- Severe itching and pain in genital areas
- If an individual has been infected with genital herpes they cannot be completely cured. Only the onset and symptoms of the disease can be managed.
Virus: HPV (Human Papillomavirus)
Symptoms:- Small bump around genitals.
Treatment:- This STD cannot be cured completely, only the onset and symptoms of the STD can be managed.
Virus: Hepatitis B Virus
Following are the causes of Hepatitis-B:
- Sexual Contact from an infected person.
- Surgical Instruments not being properly sanitized.
- Transfusion of blood with an infected person.
- Mother to the fetus if the mother is infected.
- Sharing injection needles for intravenous drugs/medical purposes.
- Sometimes infected individuals are asymptomatic.
- Abdominal failure/ liver pain in some cases.
- Hepatitis B is caused by HBV and cannot be cured completely only symptoms can be reduced.
- Hepatitis B however can be easily prevented by well-developed hepatitis b vaccines.
Protozoa: Trichomonas vaginalis
Most people don’t encounter any symptoms, although the following are some common symptoms encountered:-
- White/ yellow discharge
- Painful urination
- Itching in genitals or soreness
- Unpleasant sex
Completely curable by medicines like Metrozindole.
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus and this virus is responsible for causing AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome).
- The first case of AIDS was recorded in India in 1986.
- The organization specifically responsible for raising awareness regarding HIV/AIDS in India is called NACO (National AIDS Control Organization).
- Sexual intercourse with multiple sex partners/ unprotected sexual intercourse.
- Blood transfusion from an infected person.
- Mother to the fetus if the mother is particularly infected.
- Sharing injection needles for intravenous drugs / medical purposes.
- AIDS/HIV is an opportunistic non-congenital disease. AIDS does not necessarily produce symptoms itself, maybe some bouts of fever when the T-Helper cells are being damaged. AIDS becomes responsible for progressively
- Decreasing the immunity of the infected individual. Hence opportunistic diseases that may otherwise have not caused much damage suddenly become dangerous and deadly.
HIV Virus features:-
- HIV is a particularly retrovirus, a retrovirus is a virus that has RNA as its genetic material and uses enzyme reverse transcriptase.
- It is an enveloped virus.
- It has a membrane outside the capsid.
- On the membrane, two glycoprotein spikes are present the GP120 and GP 41 (GP stands for glycoprotein).
- Inside the membrane, another layer is present called capsid, the capsid has 2 identical strands of ssRNA (ploidy- 2N).
- This Virus has specifically three enzymes: protease, integrase, reverse transcriptase.
HIV Lifecycle once it attacks an individual:-
- To begin with, after HIV enters the human system and infects the individual, it first goes to macrophages.
- This happens because of the presence of CD-4 receptors that are present on macrophage cells as well as Helper T- Cells (both these cells play a crucial role in the immunity of an individual)
- The GP120 protein of the protein membrane of HIV has an affinity for CD-4 and goes to attack macrophages first.
- Moreover, the macrophages become HIV Factories because the virus produces DNA inside the cell after binding to the CD-4 receptors and that viral DNA is produced by the enzyme reverse transcriptase.
- The viral DNA integrates with the host DNA by the integrase enzyme. Then the host DNA produces viral RNA that by protease enzyme is converted to proteins and new HIV viruses are produced
- When HIV has infected only macrophages no symptoms are observed and hence HIV keeps producing new virus particles like factories
- Subsequently, HIV attacks T helper cells too and progressively they start dying and reducing in numbers this leads to external symptoms like bouts of fever and pain.
- Eventually, T helper cells become so less that the immunity of the individual is now compromised and any opportunistic disease can strike the individual that can produce a great deal of damage.
Treatment and Diagnosis:-
- To begin with, HIV/AIDS can be diagnosed by: ELISA [Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay] followed by western blotting/ Karpas test/ Fujirebio Agglutination Test.
- Substantial and clinical proven vaccines/ medicine are still not available for HIV and most of them are still in their clinical phases. However, some anti-retroviral drugs (Eg: AZT) can be used to particularly suppress the symptoms and prolong life because this disease cannot be cured completely. Prevention of this STD is the best way out.
- In conclusion, read more about AIDS- HIV/AIDS (who.int)
Prevention and Taboo around STDs
In particular, STDs in a country like India are mostly left undiagnosed because of the stigmatization involved. Although several organizations are working towards raising more awareness to prevent STDs, the statistics are not in our favour.
As has been noted, if STDs are left untreated they can cause other serious issues like abortions, stillbirths, ectopic pregnancy, infertility, cancer of the reproductive tract etc. Hence more awareness needs to be raised. Most individuals hesitate to go to the doctor if they are facing issues regarding genital/sexual organs. However, most people don’t understand that prevention is always better than cure. There is still no substantive treatment for AIDS. Something as simple as having protected sex and going for regular STD checkups can help a lot in prevention.
To summarize, one needs to understand that most STDs does not spread by simple contact so individuals suffering from this should not be isolated and alienated from society. If you see an individual infected with HIV you can always shake their hands and tell them that they are doing great. There are more treatment options available now and people can live prolonged comfortable lives if these diseases are detected early and treatment is done quickly.
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Education, awareness and prevention are the keys, but stigmatization and exclusion from family is what makes people suffer most- Ralph Fiennes
Be well aware of diseases- Human diseases caused by bacteria – My Biology Dictionary