Sexual Transmitted Diseases: Effects on American women

Sexual Transmitted Diseases (STDs) are behavior-linked diseases that result from unprotected sex. More than half of all people will have a STD at some point in their lifetime. The estimated total number of people living in the US with a viral STD is over 65 million (American Social Health Association, 1998). Every year, there are at least 15 million new cases of STDs, some of which are curable (Cates, 1999). Women suffer more frequent and more serious complications from STDs than men. The direct and indirect costs of the major STDs and their complications, including sexually transmitted HIV infection, are conservatively estimated at $17 billion annually (Eng and Butler, 1997). Each year, one in four teens (Alan Guttmacher Institute, 1994) and one in two sexually active persons will contact an STD by age 25 (Cates et al., 2004). About half of all new STDs in 2000 occurred among youth ages 15 to 24 (Weinstock et al., 2004). They may cause painful localized symptoms or a more generalized illness affecting the entire body.

The sexually transmitted diseases may be classified in the traditional fashion, according to the causative pathogenic organisms, as follows:

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Causative agent
Chlamydia trachomatis

Neisseria gonorrhoeae

Treponema pallidum
Human immunodeficiency viruses (types 1 and 2)

Herpes simplex viruses (types 1 and 2)

Hepatitis viruses B, C, D

Cervical cancer
Human papillomaviruses
Phthirus pubis (pubic louse)

Sarcoptes scabiei (scabies mite)
STDs affect women of every socioeconomic and educational level, age, race, ethnicity, and religion. It is identified that STDs are transmissible through same-sex female contact, including herpes ( Johnson et al., 1987), trichomoniasis (Sivakumar et al., 1989; Kellock et al., 1996), human papillomavirus (Ferris et al., 1996; O’Hanlan et al., 1996), and HIV (Rich et al., 1993; Troncoso et al., 1995). The majority of STDs either do not produce any symptoms or signs, or they produce symptoms so mild that they often are disregarded. Delay in treatment of STDs can cause serious problems like infertility. Approximately two million pregnant women are affected by STDs during each year in the United States. STDs can have many of the same consequences for pregnant women as women who are not pregnant. ┬áIn pregnant woman STDs can be life threatening and may cause abortions; low birth weight, premature birth; transmission of infection to the new born and permanent neurological damage to the new born. Transmission of STDs from the pregnant women to her fetus, newborn, or infant can occur before, during, or after birth. In pregnant woman the bacterial STDs such as bacterial vaginosis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis can be treated and cured with prescribed antibiotics, however, viral types of STDs such as genital herpes and HIV are treatable during pregnancy to reduce the symptoms but are not curable. Pregnant women infected with HIV who receive treatment during pregnancy can significantly reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to their infants.

There is need for all women to be aware of the potential consequences of sexually transmitted diseases, even before they are pregnant, so they can learn how to protect themselves and future children against STD infection. The present study aims to:

Provide awareness of different STDs diseases in women, their diagnosis, and treatment.