So yesterday I happened to host the #AskAPeerEducator session that happens every Thursday as a live feed/tweet chat that focuses on diverse topics in the sexual reproductive health and rights field. It is an idea by Reach A Hand Uganda (RAHU) to have young people engage and be engaged on topics ranging from life skills, career, sexual health and reproductive health coupled with rights. I should further emphasize that it is a platform whose main goal is to differentiate the truth from the myths and misconceptions as well as have young people having access to well researched, age-appropriate and scientifically proven information from experts, peer educators and invited guests.
My discussion was centered mainly on everything about STDs and STIs and how they have affected young people today. So let’s start from the beginning and this here i write in relation to the questions that came in from those that were tuned in.
What are STDs and STIs? Is there a difference?
STDs stands for sexually transmitted diseases whereas STIs stands for sexually transmitted infections. They both are transmitted sexually as we have been taught however, there is a difference between an STD and an STI. An STD is usually a result of an STI.. Therefore you can’t have a disease without first acquiring the infection which could either be a virus or bacterial multiplication. Majority health organizations have thought it wise to do away with “STD” because they feel it is a big term as diseases are related to severe and progressed situations that may require either surgery or amputation. They argue that;
what a person is exposed to immediately after sexual indulgence with an infected person is an infection which may progress into a disease if left untreated.
How are STIs spread?
STI are spread through having unprotected sex. High risks are mostly among people in a sexual network, people that have sex with an infected person or if one comes into contact with body fluids and blood during sexual intimacy.
What are some of the existing STIs?
There are quite a number of STIs but I will manage a few mentions. These include Gonorrhea, syphilis, Herpes, Human Papilloma Virus, Chlamydia, hepatitis A and Hepatitis B, HIV among many others that inhabit our bodies but haven’t manifested. There is an endless argument about whether candida is an STI. However it is very important to note that Candida is a healthy yeast that is found in our private parts but if there is an imbalance in the acidity of the genital fluids, the yeast multiplies and causes an infection called Candidiasis. It is a most common in women and can be passed on to men through vaginal sex as vaginal bacterium which will have them develop a thrush and inflammation at the tip of their penises.
What are some of the signs of an infection?
Usually some STIs have no signs and a person can only notice them 6weeks or 3months after exposure.
However you could have an STI if; you experience pain when urinating, have wounds in your private parts, have an inflammation of the private parts, itching that won’t stop, unusual discharge with a grey/yellow color, bleeding in between periods for girls, warts on your skin and body pains.
How can I know I have an STI?
You may not be able to find out you have an STI unless you visit a health centre and take the test. It is very important to do this especially if you initially had unprotected sex, got into a new relationship and also for the sake of caution. It is not enough to find out if she/he is HIV negative, it is your obligation to test for any other STIs so that you can access appropriate medication to cure/manage the infection.
What are some of the effects of STIs?
An STI if left untreated exposes an individual to many risks among which may include cervical cancer, infertility, blindness in children, dementia, meningitis whilst others increase the risk to acquire HIV. STIs affect young people psychologically and emotional because a number of times, they are inclined to stay silent than go through the embarrassment of a gynae check. This further affects how they relate and express themselves.
Is there treatment for STIs?
Yes there is treatment for STIs well apart from Herpes as it can only be managed but not cured. However, all the rest have treatment whereas HPV has a vaccine. It is imperative to stay away from sexual relations while taking medication as well as abstinent a week after the dosage has been completed.
Where can I access treatment?
From my observation, majority health centres now provide youth friendly services to youths and young people starting from consultation, counseling and free testing.Youth friendly centres are everywhere depending on your area of location.
Visit your nearest health centre every other time you have unprotected sex, an abnormal itch or pain in the private parts.
You can watch the video of yesterday’s live stream here –> https://www.facebook.com/reachahand/videos/1410996272263908/