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General questions about STDs

1.  What do the terms venereal diseases (VD) and sexually transmitted diseases (STD) mean?

The term venereal is derived from Venus, the Roman goddess of love. Venereal has something to do with love. Venereal diseases are therefore, diseases contracted through love-making or sexual contact. Sexually transmitted diseases (STD) is the new preferred term for venereal diseases.

2.  Are STD caused by the same germ?

No, STD are caused by different organisms. As explained in Chapter 1 (Table 1), STD can be caused by bacteria, viruses (the smallest organisms known to man that can only be seen with an electron microscope), protozoa (one-celled organisms), fungi and even insects.

3.  Where do STD germs come from?

There are many theories about their origin. In truth, nobody has the answer. STD have been around since mankinds earliest recorded history and it is likely that STD germs have been around in more primitive forms even before man arrived.

4.  How widespread are STD?

STD can be found in every country in the world, even though some countries may deny their existence. It is very difficult to obtain accurate data on the number of STD cases worldwide because many countries do not accurately monitor the number of cases. Estimates from the WHO suggest that 200 million cases of gonorrhoea and 40 million cases of syphilis occur each year and this is likely to be an underestimate.

5.  Are there more STD today?

Yes, there are and there are a number of reasons for this. Traditional values and morales have changed. People are more liberal about sex. They are maturing earlier and starting sex at an earlier age. Greater emphasis is placed on pursuing careers and the result of this is, people are marrying at a later age. The period from the start of sexual activity till the time a person settles down to a stable relationship is longer. Casual sex and multiple partner relationships are more common durint htis period, providing greater opportunity for STD to occur. Industralisation has also encouraged the migration of young adults from rural to urban areas. Isolated and lonely, many of these seek sexual services from prostitutes. The increasing use of non-barrier forms of contraceptives such as the birth control pill and the intrauterine device (IUD) in place of barrier contraceptives such as condoms which protect against STD such as gonorrhoea, syphilis and chlamydia infection may be another reason. Some STD germs have also become rather resistant to treatment. Recent strains of Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the bacteria causing gonorrhoea are resistant to penicillin and other common antibiotics and require the use of more expensive drugs. Others, like the herpes virus can be eliminated entirely and attacks of herpes occurs from time to time. Infection may be transmitted to others during these attacks. The AIDS virus also cannot be elim,inated and those infected can transmit infection to others throughout their lives. Some people with STD do not have symptoms and do not know they are infected. Known as asymptomatic carriers, these individuals can unknowingly transmit infection to their sexual partners. Doctors are now aware of many other diseases which can be transmitted sexually. There are therefore, many types of STD now than was previously appreciated. The other reason is ignorance and a failure to recognise the symptoms and a delay or failure to seek treatment.