Be Safe Out There
By Erma Williams
For the most part, life is full of second chances. We needn=t worry if we have not yet engaged in daring activities like skydiving or bungee-jumping because, more than likely, there=s always tomorrow. The same cannot be said about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). It doesn=t matter whether the disease is treatable or nontreatable; once you have been infected, your life will never be the same. In some instances, tomorrow never comes. In those instances that it does, it isn=t the same as yesterday.
Both domestically and abroad, sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise. The July 3rd issue of The New York Times reports that AAIDS is the fourth leading cause of death in the world….[a]lmost 12 million young people now have H.I.V., and an additional 6,000 young adults become infected everyday.@ Even more startling is that many people are unaware themselves of being infected. This is largely because they are not clear on the causes, effects, and symptoms of STDs. If this is true of you or someone you know, read ahead and pass along the info.
HIV/AIDS is arguably the most dangerous epidemic of all time. HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is the virus that causes AIDS, and AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is the incurable disease. This terrifying twosome puzzles doctors and researchers alike because they attack without warning. Slowly but surely, the virus weakens the body=s immune system and makes it less possible for infected persons to fight off other infections and diseases. People with HIV are diagnosed as having AIDS when CD4 cells (immune cells) fall below 200, or if the cells develop any of the conditions associated with HIV infection. These conditions include a number of Aopportunistic@ infections and cancers, as well as brain and nervous system disorders. Symptoms vary from person to person; in fact, some people have none. However, you can be affected for years without having symptoms. Generally speaking, common symptoms include:
? swollen glands in the neck, armpit or groin
? continued fever or night sweats
? weight loss of more than 10 pounds which is not due to dieting or
increased physical activity
? heavy, continual dry cough that is not from smoking or that has lasted too long to be a cold or flu
? increasing shortness of breath
? continuing bouts of diarrhea
? thrush, a thick whitish coating on the tongue or in the throat, which may be accompanied by a sore throat
? recurring vaginal yeast infections
? unexplained skin rashes like psoriasis
? herpes infections that last longer than
STDs, also known as STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections), increase your chances of developing HIV/AIDS because, among other things, they raise the amount of HIV in the semen and vaginal fluids of people infected with HIV. STDs can be passed from one person to another through vaginal, anal or oral intercourse. They can also be passed through sharing needles for injection of drugs, steroids, vitamins, body piercing or tattoos. There are many STDs. Besides HIV/AIDS, the most common ones are chlamydia, herpes, HPV, gonorrhea, syphilis, and hepatitis B.
-The fastest-growing STD in the U.S.
-Most people with chlamydia don=t have symptoms
-Possible symptoms include an unusual
genital discharge, pain and burns
-Treated and cured with antibiotics
-Can cause sterility in both men and women if not treated
-Can be passed through kissing,
intimate touching and unprotected sex
-Symptoms include an itching or