SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASES (Part 1 of 2)   Leave a comment

1981: AIDS diagnosed. A new fatal, infectious disease was diagnosed in 1981. Called Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), it began appearing in major cities among homosexual men and intravenous drug users. Other high-risk groups were haemophiliacs and other recipients of blood or blood products, babies born of AIDS-infected women, bisexual men, and prostitutes and their customers. AIDS was soon recognized as a worldwide health emergency: a fatal disease with no known cure that quickly became an epidemic. It was especially widespread in Africa, the apparent land of its origin.

By 1983 the virus that causes the disease had been isolated. Some medicines, notably AZT (azidothymidine), slowed the disease’s progress for a few months or more; but the spread of AIDS continued relentlessly, with more than 3,000 new cases being reported each month by 1991.

The federal government had committed more than 1.6 billion dollars to research, while the homosexual community and other special interest groups sought more federal funding and greater assistance from the health insurance industry. Educational programs on safe sexual practices, such as the use of condoms, seemed the best means of slowing the epidemic. Meanwhile, more than 70,000 persons in the United States had died from AIDS by the end of the decade.

1981: AIDS identified. A strange, new, and deadly disease made its appearance in 1980. Physicians in such large cities as Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco noticed that homosexual men were dying from rare lung infections or from a cancer known as Kaposi’s sarcoma. By 1981 the disease was identified and given a name: AIDS, or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.

The virus that causes AIDS, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), was identified by Dr. Luc Montagnier of the Pasteur Institute in Paris in research done during the years 1981-84. The results of Dr. Montagnier’s studies were released in 1984. Since its discovery, AIDS has become one of the world’s major health problems. Within certain populations it has become an epidemic: male homosexuals, haemophiliacs, and intravenous drug users in the United States, for example, and heterosexual men and women in Sub-Saharan Africa. Many people were infected through blood transfusions before HIV screening was introduced. An individual infected with the virus may not show the symptoms of AIDS for several years, but the condition is eventually fatal.

The search for a successful vaccine was pursued in laboratories around the world, with no success by the early 1990s. Meanwhile, the disease continued to spread to different parts of the world. Already rife in the United States, Europe, and sub-Saharan Africa by the mid-1980s, it quickly spread to Central and East Asia. The disease also began to spread to larger portions of the heterosexual community throughout the world.

Dec. 1, 1993: AIDS awareness day. The sixth annual World AIDS Day was celebrated in many countries. The commemoration was started in 1988 by the World Health Organization. The day was partly a memorial for those who had died from AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). Although the growth of the epidemic had peaked in the United States in the early 1990s, the disease was still spreading rapidly in Africa and parts of Asia. No cure had yet been found, nor was there a successful vaccine to protect against contracting the disease.

Dec. 1, 1993: AIDS awareness day. The sixth annual World AIDS Day was celebrated in many countries. The commemoration was started in 1988 by the World Health Organization. The day was partly a memorial for those who had died from AIDS. Although the growth of the epidemic had peaked in the United States in the early 1990s, the disease was still spreading rapidly in Africa and parts of Asia. No cure had yet been found, nor was there a successful vaccine to protect against contracting the disease.

April 7, 1994: Failure of AZT. A team of British and French medical researchers reported that AZT, a drug often used to fight AIDS, does not slow the onset of the disease in persons who have the HIV virus. Published in the journal Lancet as the Concorde Report, the document stated that AZT does prolong the lives of patients who have developed AIDS, but it does not impede the progression of HIV into full-blown AIDS. The report was based on tests conducted on HIV-infected patients in Ireland, France, and the United Kingdom.

Diseases that can be passed between people during sexual contact have plagued humankind throughout history. Until recently such a disease was called venereal disease, or VD. The preferred term now is sexually transmitted disease, or STD. The two main venereal diseases in the United States have traditionally been gonorrhoea and syphilis. Scientists now know that many other diseases can be passed during sex. More than 30 STDs have been identified.

AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), incurable disease caused by a virus that damages the human body’s immune system; believed to be transmitted through sexual contacts, blood transfusions, or contaminated needles used for intravenous drug injections; often fatal; high percentage of victims are homosexuals or drug abusers.

The names of such STDs as acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and gonorrhoea are known to most people; however, other STDs such as trichomoniasis and genital candidiasis may not be as familiar. Some STDs affect only a few people or do not cause life-threatening problems. Other STDs, such as gonorrhoea and chlamydial infections, affect many people or cause severe health damage.

STDs are a major health problem throughout the world. In the United States STDs strike an estimated 20 million people each year, or an average of one person every 1.5 seconds. About one half of STD patients are under the age of 25. Nearly 2.5 million teenagers are infected with an STD each year.

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), general, acute inflammation of the pelvic cavity in women.

Sterility, in biology, the inability to produce offspring; one cause is the production of non functioning sex cells.

The health problems caused by STDs seem endless. The diseases can cause arthritis, sterility, nervous system damage, heart disease, and death. Women and infants suffer the most damage from STDs. For example, each year more than 1 million women suffer from pelvic inflammatory disease resulting from gonorrhoeal or chlamydial infections. About 200,000 of these women become sterile each year. More than 300,000 babies are injured or die each year from STDs.

Transmission

Mucous membrane (or mucosa), membrane that secretes mucus and lines the mouth, nose, throat, windpipe, lungs, eyelids, and the alimentary canal.

STDs are caused by a variety of organisms that include bacteria, protozoa, viruses, and very small insects such as Phthirus pubis, or pubic lice. These organisms usually live in the warm and moist parts of the body called mucous membranes. The penis, vagina, rectum, mouth, and eyes have mucous membranes. These organisms usually invade a person through the mucous membranes during sexual contact. Some STDs are passed by deep kissing or skin-to-skin contact, though these transmission methods are not common.

Anyone can get an STD regardless of age, sex, race, social class, or whether the person is heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual. Exposure to STD organisms results from participating in certain sexual or drug-use behaviours

People with many sexual partners have the greatest risk of contracting an STD. The risk increases with each new partner. The risk is even greater if any of the partners have several sex partners.

It is virtually impossible to get an STD from such things as door knobs, toilet seats, drinking glasses, or whirlpool baths. Light and air destroy STD organisms very quickly. Some STDs such as gonorrhoea, syphilis, and genital herpes are practically always spread by sexual contact. Such diseases as AIDS, hepatitis, and pediculosis pubis, however, can sometimes be acquired through non-sexual means. AIDS and some forms of hepatitis can be acquired from infected blood in intravenous drug needles and syringes. Pubic lice can be picked up from contaminated clothing or bedding that is infected with the lice or their eggs.

Most STDs can also be passed during pregnancy or birth from an infected woman to her baby. Women can develop some infections in the vagina without having sex. It is possible but not common for those infections to be passed to others during sex. Other vaginal infections are sexually transmitted, but the woman’s sex partners may not have symptoms.

Prevention

Most people have heard some information about STDs. In recent years public awareness has increased. The media have developed greater coverage of STDs, and more schools teach about STDs. There are news items on television and in newspapers and magazines about AIDS almost daily. This increased discussion has alerted people to how widespread STDs are, to STD health dangers, and to methods of preventing STDs. Hence, many people have become more cautious.

Medical personnel and public health officials believe that education is the key to controlling the spread of STDs. STDs are dangerous. Further medical advances may bring improved modes of treatment, but avoiding infection in the first place is vital. The actions of individual persons are the most important factors in halting the spread of these diseases. Many health educators emphasize the idea that the wisest teaching approach is to motivate people to practice responsible STD-preventive behaviour, such as sexual abstinence and sexual fidelity.

Communication between partners. Among people who are mature enough to have a sexual relationship, one of the most important things to do is communicate. A person should feel free to discuss concerns about getting an STD. The conversation can be started by one partner stating that he or she cares about the health and well-being of both persons. Persons deciding to have sex with a new partner should discuss ways of protecting each other.

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