STD

STD stands for sexually transmitted disease. It’s also called venereal disease. STDs can be contracted through unprotected sex and are very common. You can contract an STD genitally, orally and/or anally. An STD often does not cause any symptoms. Chlamydia is the most common venereal disease. Condoms (often) prevent STDs. Doing an STD test is the only way to be sure.

STD stands for sexually transmitted disease. It’s also called venereal disease. STDs can be contracted through unprotected sex and are very common. You can contract an STD genitally, orally and/or anally. An STD often does not cause any symptoms. Chlamydia is the most common venereal disease. Condoms (often) prevent STDs. Doing an STD test is the only way to be sure.

What is an STD?

An STD is a contagious condition that you can get through unprotected sex. Unprotected sex means sex without a condom. This includes genital, anal and/or oral sex. So you can also get an STD through a blowjob or cunnilingus. STDs are relatively easy to contract and are therefore very common. Chlamydia is the most common STD in Europa. In the Netherlands alone this STD occurs over 1000.000 times a year.

An STD is usually a bacterial or viral infection. The infection is located in the mucous membrane of the vagina, penis, anus or throat and is thus transmitted during sex (contact with mucous membranes). STDs are annoying but fortunately in many cases easy to cure.

Recognising STDs

You can recognise an STD, but the chance you will not notice it is about the same. If an STD causes complaints, it often concerns pain in the pubic area, such as pain when urinating and/or pain during sex. The symptoms are slightly different in men than in women.

Did you know? STDs often do not cause any complaints! Complaints? Chlamydia, for example, causes no complaints in women in more than half of the cases. These are often quite common and the STD can easily be confused with a bladder infection.

Symptoms in women

  •  A burning sensation when urinating
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Itching and/or bumps around the genitals
  • Pain in the lower abdomen
  • Menstrual cycle change
  • Warts

Symptoms in men

  • Pain when urinating
  • Discharge from the penis or anus
  • Itching around the genitals
  • Sore testes
  • Pain during sex
  • Warts (can grow large)

Do you have one or more of these symptoms and did you recently have unprotected sex? Then it’s time to take a test.

What are the risks?

There are health risks associated with contracting an STD. Chlamydia, for example, can cause infertility if left untreated. This happens to hundreds of women every year. Dormant STDs – venereal diseases that you don’t notice – are the most dangerous. If they are not detected, they are not treated. In that case, the STD can cause permanent damage and, moreover, be passed on. The most dangerous STDs are HIV and Syphilis. Left untreated, these conditions can be fatal.

Numbers

STDs are very common. If you have unsafe sex with someone who has Chlamydia, you have a 50% chance of getting this STD yourself. Chlamydia is diagnosed about 60,000 times every year. Unfortunately, these are not all infections. Part of a risk group does not test itself or does not test enough. As a result, some of the STDs simply go undiagnosed. More STD statistics.

Preventing STDs

Of course, prevention is better than cure (and testing). And preventing an STD is actually very simple. If you use a condom, you will prevent a venereal disease in almost all cases. It is the only preventative that works against all STDs. Washing your private parts does not help against STDs. Not before sex and not after!

Testing yourself for STDs?

Testing for STDs such as Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea and Mycoplasma is easy. You can order an STD test here! You can do the test with urine or a smear. You can take the test as late as 14 days after you had unsafe sex for the last time. We call this the incubation period. The test looks, for example, for the Chlamydia bacterium in the body material. If that bacterium is found, you test positive and you need to be treated. If you test negative, there is nothing to worry about. Remember that you are not building up immunity!

When testing, you should pay attention to the body location you are testing. If you only had vaginal sex, you test your vagina. But if you also had (or received) anal sex, you should also do an anal test! Oral and anal infections are often missed, simply because these body locations are not tested. Use our test guide to determine which test(s) you need.

STDs such as HIV and Syphilis are more difficult to test yourself. This is because taking blood yourself and transporting it by post is prone to errors. We therefore recommend that these tests be carried out through a general practitioner. A reliable test is always performed in a laboratory! In the Netherlands, some groups can visit the Municipal Health Service (GGD) free of charge. This does depend on the risk, and how busy the GGD is.

Treatment

Most STDs can be treated well. For example, bacterial STDs such as Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea and Syphilis are treated with antibiotics, after which the infection is gone. You should always be treated by a doctor. You can’t just buy antibiotics, they require a prescription. Every STD requires its own antibiotic. The general practitioner can prescribe it after which you can pick up the medication at the pharmacy. Fortunately, antibiotics are relatively cheap, a course costs around 15 euros.

Some STDs can’t be cured. Herpes, for example, will be with you for life. HIV cannot be cured either. With treatment, you can prevent it from developing into AIDS. No STD is fatal if you catch it in time!

Trends

The number of STDs has been increasing for years. Chlamydia in particular has been on the rise for quite some time now. Fortunately, the number of HIV diagnoses is decreasing, but here, too, just under 1000 people are still tested positive.

Condom use is declining and many people have casual sexual contacts. This is immediately reflected in the STD statistics. The fear of HIV also seems to be gone, this is NOT justified. Because Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea are easy to treat, many seem to take those risks for granted. This is an unnecessary risk, even if a Chlamydia infection has only been present for a short time, permanent damage may have occurred.

Approved by M.D. Annelies Lucas

General practitioner and medical director. Worked as a general practitioner for 25 years, obtained a PhD at the University of Maastricht and was the medical director of Diagnostiek voor U from 2011 to 2020.

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