Your STD Breakdown: The Cheat Sheet To The Diseases That Can Kill You

by Toni Sims

The prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases in the United States is serious. According to recent estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 20 million new STD cases are reported in the US each year.

Of those cases, half occur among young people between the ages of 15 and 24. In most instances, a person who has contracted an STD is not aware of the infection, as there may be no obvious symptoms. So, it is totally possible for someone to live with an STD for years and have no idea.

There are approximately 20 different types of STDs, which range in terms of severity and long-term consequences. Some STDs come with relatively mild symptoms (that will grow worse over time if left untreated) while others can kill you. Here is a list of four deadly STDs:

1. Hepatitis

Out of all strains of the hepatitis virus (A, B and C), only hepatitis B and C are recognized as STDs. The hepatitis B virus can be transmitted through unprotected vaginal, anal or oral intercourse, and is most commonly spread through contact with blood or sexual fluids of an infected person. The hepatitis C virus is contracted when an infected person's blood enters the body of an uninfected person, usually through sharing dirty needles, syringes or other drug-injection equipment.

If left untreated for six months or longer, both hepatitis B and C progress to a chronic stage. At this point, each virus becomes a serious disease that may lead to liver failure, liver cancer or even death. As of 2009, the CDC estimated that 800,000 to 1.4 million in the US have chronic Hepatitis B and that 2.7 million Americans have chronic Hepatitis C. Each year, between approximately 3,000 and 5,000 people in the US die from liver damage or liver cancer caused by Hepatitis B.

2. Syphilis

The only bacterial STD to make the list, syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease that is transmitted during vaginal, oral and anal sex. There are three distinct stages to syphilis: primary, secondary and latent or late, with each stage possessing its own signs and signals. The symptoms of the primary and secondary stages will go away with or without treatment. The latent (or hidden) stage happens after primary and secondary symptoms disappear, and the syphilis infection itself becomes difficult to detect.

Syphilis can continue to be asymptomatic and can live in your system for many years. In addition, the tertiary stage develops in about 15 percent of people who have not received syphilis treatment, according to the CDC. People with untreated syphilis infections usually progress to this stage 10 to 20 years after contracting the disease. Late stage syphilis can result in internal organ damage and may include complications like difficulty coordinating muscle movements, paralysis, numbness, gradual blindness and dementia. Damage caused by such complications can ultimately result in death.

3. HPV

The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). At least 50 percent of sexually active people will contract genital HPV at some point during their lifetimes. The virus is transmitted easily through vaginal, anal and oral sex, and most people who carry the HPV virus never develop any symptoms or health issues.

Though 90 percent of HPV infections disappear by themselves within two years, when symptoms do occur, the infection will linger and may lead to serious health problems like cauliflower-shaped genital warts, cervical cancer, recurrent respiratory papillomatosis (RRP), anal cancer or even death. HPV is not deadly if it is diagnosed early. Though there isn’t a cure, genital warts and cancers can be treated. There are also vaccinations available to help prevent this virus.

4. HIV

Each year in the United States, about 50,000 people are infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). HIV is mainly spread through unprotected sexual intercourse, but can also spread through sharing dirty needles during intravenous drug use. These infected bodily fluids contain high levels of the HIV virus and can infect you upon entering your body.

The specific fluids that transmit the HIV virus are blood (including menstrual blood), semen, vaginal fluids and secretions, rectal mucous and even breast milk. HIV can ultimately lead to the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). It is important to keep in mind that HIV and AIDS are not the same disease. HIV is an incurable disease that if untreated, can lead to death.

It is important to take preventative measures to keep yourself STD and HIV-free. If you're concerned about having contracted a STD, be sure to get tested today.