This edition of the FAQs was written in the early part of 1994 by the last FAQ Committee. They reflect the best wisdom and knowledge of all the participants on the committee at that time.

If you think you have an STD go to your doctor and get a diagnosis as early as possible. Most common sexually transmitted diseases can be cured. This FAQ is not meant to displace sound medical advice from a licensed physician.


Full name:
Human Immunodeficiency Virus / Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. It is important to distinguish between the two. HIV is the virus that ultimately causes AIDS. AIDS is a syndrome, a collection of symptoms associated with HIV infection.

People infected with HIV may have no symptoms for up to fifteen years. During this time, they are capable of infecting anyone they have sex with or donate blood to. Initial symptoms of HIV infection include inexplicable weight loss, persistent fever, swollen lymph nodes, and reddish spots on the skin (Karposi's Sarcoma).

HIV causes the destruction of the immune system. It's most pronounced symptoms, therefore, are opportunistic infections of pneumocystis carinii, fungal infections, tuberculosis, and various herpes forms.

In a person infected with HIV, the virus can be present in the body's semen, blood, and breast milk. It can also be present, in much smaller quantities, in vaginal secretion, saliva, and tears.

The AIDS virus can be transmitted via any of these fluids, but only the first two -- semen and blood -- are likely to be involved. Anal sex is the most commonly perceived method of transfer, but vaginal sex has been repeatedly shown to transmit HIV. Men are less likely than women to be infected through vaginal sex, but there are recorded cases of men having been infected this way. Cunnilingus and fellatio have also been established as capable of transmitting the virus. Sexual activities, not sexual orientation, transmit the virus.

HIV cannot be passed on through casual contact, hugging, hand-shaking, touching the sweat of an infected person, or mosquito bites.

The HIV test shows the presence of antibodies to HIV. It does not show the presence of the virus: the body first has to develop antibodies, which normally takes about six weeks. Hence, a positive result means that someone has antibodies and could possibly develop AIDS in the future. A negative result means that someone does not have antibodies at the moment. If there is a reason to think that exposure was more recent than six weeks, then a test taken immediately can only serve as a baseline to compare against a test taken later. Within six months of HIV infection, 99% of the population will test positive. No one should be tested for HIV without first obtaining counselling and ensuring beforehand support from his or her family or friends.

The following numbers may be of use:

AIDS Hotline (800) 342-2437
AIDS Information Clearing House (800) 458-5231 9-7 EST
CDC AIDS Ethnicity, Age recording (404) 330-3020
CDC AIDS Transmission mode recording (404) 330-3021
CDC AIDS Top 10, Projections recording (404) 330-3022
There is no cure for HIV / AIDS. Right now most scientists agree that if you are infected with HIV, you will eventually die of AIDS. Treatment may fend off infections, however the typical course is for one overwhelming infection to follow another until the victim succumbs. Various drugs may slow the virus, but right now there is no cure.


Male Symptoms:
Yellowish discharge from the penis. Painful, frequent urination. Symptoms develop from two to thirty days after infection. Roughly 20% of infected men have no symptoms. Later stages of the infection may move into the prostate, seminal vesicles, and epididymis, causing severe pain and fever. Rare cases can lead to septic arthritis. Untreated, gonorrhea can lead to sterility.

Female Symptoms:
Under half of women with gonorrhea show no symptoms, or symptoms so mild they are commonly ignored. Early symptoms include increased vaginal discharge, irritation of the external genitals, pain or burning on urination and abnormal menstrual bleeding. Women who are untreated may develop severe complications. The infection will usually spread to the uterus, Fallopian tubes, and ovaries, causing Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). PID, though not only caused by gonorrhea, is the most common cause of female infertility. Early symptoms of PID are lower abdominal pain, fever, nausea, vomiting, and pain during intercourse.

The bacteria that causes gonorrhea can be passed through sexual contact, such as intercourse, fellatio, anal sex, cunnilingus and even kissing, although the last is rare.

Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection, and is therefore treated with standard antibiotics, usually a member of the penicillin family. Tetracycline drugs frequently do not cure gonorrhea, especially in cases of anal infection. One variety of gonorrhea, penicilliase-producing N. gonorrhea, is immune to penicillin, and drugs of the cyclosporin family may be necessary.


Primary Stage:
A chancre sore develops at the site of infection from two to four weeks after infection has occurred. The chancre is painless 75% of the time. The chancre starts as a dull red spot, turns into a pimple, which ulcerates, forming a round or oval sore with a red rim. The sore heals in 4-6 weeks - however, the infection is still present. The chancre is usually found on the genitals or anus, but can appear on any part of the skin.

Secondary Stage:
One week to six months after the chancre heals. Pale red or pinkish rash appears (often on palms or soles) fever, sore throat, headaches, joint pains, poor appetite, weight loss, hair loss. Moist sores may appear around the genitals or anus and are highly infectious. Symptoms usually last three to six months, but can come and go.

Latent Stage:
No apparent symptoms, and the carrier is no longer contagious. However, the organism is insinuating itself into the host's tissues. 50 to 70 percent of carriers pass the rest of their lives without the disease leaving this stage. The reminder pass into Last Stage syphilis.

Last Stage:
Serious heart problems, eye problems, brain and spinal cord damage, with a high probability of paralysis, insanity, blindness or death.

Nominally sexual contact, but can be transmitted by blood transfusion or from an infected pregnant woman to her fetus.

Penicillin by injection, or a two-week regimen of tetracycline, is the standard treatment for syphilis. Two follow-up blood tests two weeks apart after ending treatment are necessary to ensure the treatment is complete. The first three stages of syphilis are completely curable, and even in the last stage syphilis can be stopped. With the present medical technology to diagnose and treat syphilis, no one should ever suffer the effects of last-stage syphilis.


Full name:
Human Papilloma Virus

Half of the people infected with HPV do not show any symptoms. When symptoms are present, they are small, visible warts (papillomas) appearing at the tip of the penis or at the opening of vagina. In women, HPV also causes cervical lesions. Warts can occur anywhere on the shaft of penis or the scrotum in men, and anywhere around the labial area or inside the vagina in women. In women, an abnormal Pap smear may indicate cervical lesions, but a coloscopy is necessary to confirm this.

The virus is transmitted through sexual contact. Warts are considered very contagious even in people who show no visible symptoms.

Warts are pinpoint infections, and can be treated as such. Podophyllin solution, trichlorocetic acid, and fluorouracil cream are three chemical solutions used to burn warts from the skin. Liquid nitrogen or lasers are sometimes used, as well as electrodessication. A six-month check-up is necessary to confirm that all the warts were destroyed, and even then a small percentage of people may experience a recurrence of warts within 18 months.


Full Name:
Herpes Simplex Virus I and Herpes Simplex Virus II. HSV-I is most often associated with cold sores or fever blisters about the mouth and lips, while HSV-II is associated with sores around the gential area. There is some crossover, however, and each virus will survive quite comfortably in both regions.

Herpes is marked by clusters of small, painful blisters on the genitals. After a few days, the blisters burst, leaving small ulcers. In men, the blisters usually appear on the penis, but can appear in the urethra or rectum. In women, they usually appear on the labia, but can appear on the cervix and anal area. First outbreaks are accompanied by fever, headache, and muscle soreness for two or more consecutive days in 39% of men and 68% of women. Other relatively common symptoms include painful urination discharge from the urethra or vagina, and tender, swollen lymph nodes in the groin. These symptoms tend to disappear within two weeks. Aseptic meningitis occurs in 8 percent of cases, eye infections in 1% of cases, and infection of the cervix in 88% of infected women. Skin lesions last on average 16.5 days in men, 19.7 in women. Secondary symptoms are most prominent in the first four days and then gradually diminish.

None in 10% of cases. Frequency for the remaining population is from once a month to once every few years. The majority of sufferers do not have repeat attacks after a few years. Most repeat attacks are less severe than the initial attack.

Generally by sexual contact. Direct contact with infected genitals can cause transmission via intercourse, rubbing genitals together, oral genital contact, anal sex, or oral/anal contact. In addition, normally protected areas of skin can become infected if there is a cut, rash, sore. Herpes viruses can be spread in some instances by kissing, if one participant has the infection sited in or near the mouth.

There is no medical cure for herpes. Treatment with acyclovir reduces pain and viral reproduction during outbreaks of sores, although it will not delay or prevent recurrences.


Full name:
Phthirus pubis, the pubic louse or crab louse.

Pubic lice are tiny insects that infest pubic hair. They somewhat resemble tiny crabs, hence their common name. The most common symptom is intense itching, usually felt mostly at night. Some victims have no symptoms, others may develop an allergic rash.

Nominally through sexual contact, however they may be picked up through use of sheets, towels or clothing used by an infected person.

Various shampoos and lotions exist to kill lice; another solution is simply to shave off the pubic hair and shower vigorously afterwards. All bedding should also be disinfected.


Caused by:
Chlamydia trachomatous, T. mycoplasma, Ureaplasma urealyticum, Mycolasma hominis. An estimated one-quarter of cases are not caused by infectious agents, but are allergic reactions to latex or spermicide.

Similar to gonorrhea but usually milder. Urethral discharge is generally thin and clear. Planned Parenthood estimates that half of the women with one of these diseases doesn't know it. NSU/NGU in women can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and sterility.

In cases involving a pathogen, sexual intercourse, as well as hands with semen or vaginal secretions on them infecting the eye.

Penicillin is generally not effective against NGU/NSU- causing organisms. Tetracycilne is generally prescribed; sulfa drugs are effective against chlamydia but not the others.


Caused by:
Hepatitis B Virus (HBV)
About half of those who get hepatitis B will suffer from an inflammation of the liver, called acute hepatitis. Many people with hepatitis B mistake the symptoms for other illnesses, such as the flu, while others are more seriously affected and may miss school or work for months. Other common symptoms include skin rashes and arthritis, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, malaise, abdominal pain, and jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin).

Hepatitis B is transmitted through contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, and that includes sexual contact. It is a considered a highly infectious disease and should be taken seriously.

There is no cure for hepatitis B. There is a vaccine, however, that is very effective. It is also expensive. Consult your physician. A small percentage of people who acquire hepatitis B will carry the virus in their bloodstreams for the rest of their lives as carriers.


Caused by:
Trichomonas vaginalis, a flagellated protozoan.
Similar to gonorrhea but usually milder. Symptoms in women include itching, burning, vaginal or vulval redness, unusual vaginal discharge, frequent and/or painful urination, discomfort during intercourse, and, in severe cases, abdominal pain. Symptoms in men include unusual penile discharge, painful urination, and uncanny tingling sensation inside the penis.
Trichomoniasis is transmitted by penis-in-vagina intercourse or vulva-to-vulva contact with an infected partner. Women can contract the disease from infected men or women, but men usually get it only from infected women. The protozoan can survive for a time on sheets and towels, and an infection can possibly be transmitted by sharing those objects.

The antibiotic metronidazole is generally used to treat trichomonas infection.

Elf Sternberg <>

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