What is an STD

The term sexually transmitted disease (STD) is used to refer to a condition passed from one person to another through sexual contact. You can contract an STD by having unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the STD. 1a

An STD may also be called a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or venereal disease (VD). 1a

It’s possible to contract STDs from people who seem perfectly healthy, and who may not even be aware of the infection. STDs may be symptom-free (asymptomatic) which is one of the reasons experts prefer the term “sexually transmitted infections” (STIs) to “sexually transmitted diseases.” 2a

The number of STIs in Gauteng has increased by half a million in one year among young people. Out of 2.6 million people between 20 and 29 years, 500,000 were treated for STIs in Gauteng alone!  3a,b

STIs can be caused by bacteria (gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia), parasites (trichomoniasis) or viruses (human papillomavirus, genital herpes, HIV) 2b

You are at high risk if: 4a

  • You have more than one sex partner
  • You have sex with someone who has had many partners
  • You don’t use a condom when having sex
  • You share needles when injecting intravenous drugs

Some common symptoms of STIs: 

In men can be: 1b

  • Pain or discomfort during sex or urination
  • Sores, bumps, or rashes on or around the penis, testicles, anus, buttocks, thighs, or mouth
  • Unusual discharge or bleeding from the penis
  • Painful or swollen testicles

In women can be 1c

  • Pain or discomfort during sex or urination
  • Sores, bumps, or rashes on or around the vagina, anus, buttocks, thighs, or mouth
  • Unusual discharge or bleeding from the vagina
  • Itchiness in or around the vagina

When it comes to STIs, prevention is better than cure, here are some tips;

  • Pre-exposure vaccination 5a

Pre-exposure vaccination is currently one of the most effective methods for preventing transmission of human papillomavirus (HPV), hepatitis A virus and hepatitis B virus.

HPV vaccine protects against four major types of HPV. 6a

These include two types that cause about 70% of cervical cancer and two types that cause about 90% of genital warts. HPV vaccine can prevent most genital warts and most cases of cervical cancer. 6a Besides avoiding the possible sources of infection, vaccination is the best way to prevent hepatitis A and B infection. 7a-c

  • Abstinence and reduction of number of sex partners 5b

The most reliable way to avoid transmission of STIs are (talking about infections so should be are) to abstain from oral, vaginal, and anal sex or to be in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who you know is uninfected

  • Male condoms 5c

When used consistently and correctly, male latex condoms are highly effective in preventing the sexual transmission of HIV infection. Studies demonstrate that consistent condom use reduces the risk for other STDs, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis as well as HIV

  • Female condoms 5d

Several condoms for females are globally available. Although female condoms are more costly compared with male condoms, they offer the advantage of being a female-controlled STI/HIV prevention method

  • Cervical diaphragms 5e

In observational studies, diaphragm use has been demonstrated to protect women against cervical gonorrhea, chlamydia, and trichomoniasis

Treatment for STIs 8a 9a,b

A bacterial STI can be cured with antibiotics if the treatment begins early enough. A viral STI can’t be cured, but you can manage symptoms with medications.

It is important to take all the medication that you are prescribed and to follow the directions as indicated by your healthcare professional. If your doctor has prescribed an antibiotic, complete the entire course, even if you feel better. The infection might not be completely under control and by stopping your antibiotic prematurely the infection might start again.  Talk to your doctor before stopping your treatment early.

Some advice, don’t try to treat a sexually transmitted infection yourself. These infections are contagious and serious, therefore you must see the assistance from a doctor for further information and advice. 8a

DISCLAIMER: This editorial has been commissioned and brought to you by iNova Pharmaceuticals. Content in this editorial is for general information only and is not intended to provide medical or other professional advice. For more information on your medical condition and treatment options, speak to your healthcare professional.

Name and business address of the holder of the certificate of registration: iNova Pharmaceuticals (Pty) Ltd,. Co. Reg. No. 1952/001640/07, 15e Riley Road, Bedfordview. Tel. No. 011 087 0000. www.inovapharma.co.za. For further information, speak to your healthcare professional. Further information is available on request from iNova Pharmaceuticals. IN3195/19


  1. Everything You Need to Know About Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs). [online] July 2018 [cited February 2019]; Available from URL: https://www.healthline.com/health/sexually-transmitted-diseases#outlook
  2. Mayo Clinic. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). [online] August 2017 [cited February 2019]; Available from URL: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sexually-transmitted-diseases-stds/symptoms-causes/syc-20351240?p=1
  3. Medical Brief. Africa’s Medical Media Digest. Dramatic increase in STIs in Gauteng. [online] September 2017 [cited February 2019]; Available from URL: https://www.medicalbrief.co.za/archives/dramatic-increase-stis-gauteng/
  4. Understanding Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs). [online] January 2019 [cited February 2019]; Available from URL: https://www.webmd.com/sex-relationships/understanding-stds-basics?print=true
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2015 Sexually Transmitted Disease Treatment Guidelines. [online] June 2015 [cited February 2019]; Available from URL: https://www.cdc.gov/std/tg2015/clinical.htm
  6. Children’s Vaccines – Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccine: What You Need to Know. [online] February 2011 [cited March 2019]; Available from URL: https://www.webmd.com/children/vaccines/hpv-vaccine-what-you-need-know?print=true
  7. Can I Prevent Hepatitis? [online] November 2017 [cited March 2019]; Available from URL: https://www.webmd.com/hepatitis/understanding-hepatitis-prevention?print=true
  8. Treatment for Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs). [online] November 2017 [cited February 2019]; Available from URL: https://www.webmd.com/sexual-conditions/guide/std-treatments?print=true
  9. How Do Antibiotics Work? [online] May 2018 [cited March 2019]; Available from URL: https://www.healthline.com/health/how-do-antibiotics-work#effectiveuse