Although we frequently state that every person engaging in sexual activities is always at risk for contracting STDs and the best way to avoid them is to abstain from any form of sex, some STDs can be more common and prevalent in certain age groups, sexual preferences and genders. Here is one important piece of information: STDs are unfair and sexist as women are biologically more vulnerable to being exposed to STIs or STDs due to their anatomy.
However, when it comes to sexual health, knowledge is power and being aware of this information helps women determine the correct prevention methods or treatment to undergo. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United states, bacteria and viruses are more likely to penetrate the vagina because the lining of the vagina is thinner and more fragile compared to the skin around the penis. Women are also more at risk to develop complications from STIs than men. Despite the fact that every sexually active person is encouraged to get tested for HIV and hepatitis C, sexual health examinations for women are far more extensive compared to men. Based on the list of sexual health examinations issued by Singapore’s Department of STI Control (DSC), women ideally get regular screenings for candida, bacterial vaginosis, trichomonas vaginalis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea. Men, on the other hand, are only tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea. In this article, we will detail several most common STDs and their prevalence in certain genders, age groups and sexual preferences.
Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection caused by bacteria. In fact, this is the most common STI to occur in sunny Singapore. The culprit behind this infection is called Chlamydia trachomatis and can be spread through vaginal, anal or oral sex. The good news is, since chlamydia is a bacterial infection, it can be effectively treated with antibiotics (doxycycline and azithromycin). The symptoms of chlamydia revolve around pain and burning while urinating, abnormal vaginal and penile discharge and painful sexual intercourse (in women). Despite being most prevalent in young people (youth aged 15-24 years), according to HealthHub, sexually active young women (and teenage girls) are more prone to contract the infection since the opening of the uterus has yet to completely mature.
Casually known as “trich”, trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted disease stemming from a protozoan parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. One trivia about this STD is that most people who have trich do not show any symptoms. As with other STDs, sexual contact is how this disease is transmitted. In women, the lower genital tract (vulva, vagina, cervix or urethra) is the body part that is usually infected while men normally get infected in the urethra. Trich can also spread from vagina to other vaginas. Even though the genital areas are the parts where infections occur, it is not possible for this disease to spread to hands, mouth and anus. Symptoms are not present in most trichomoniasis cases, but when they do, people will experience itching around the genitals, uncomfortable urination and vaginal or penile discharge. Trichomoniasis is more common in women than men. The age group that is most prone to trich is among 19-59 years old, but older women are believed to more likely be infected compared to younger women.
Caused by a bacteria called Neisseria gonorrhoeae, gonorrhea can attack both men and women. Any person who is engaging in unprotected sexual contact is at risk for exposure to this infection. This bacterium can infiltrate and multiply in women’s cervix, womb and fallopian tubes as well as the urethra of men and women. What is more, gonorrhea can also affect the mouth, anus, throat and eyes. Symptoms of this disease include painful and burning sensation during urinating, increased frequency of urination, swelling in penis or testicles, and pain during sexual intercourse (in women). Although this STI can attack both men and women, the symptoms in men are more obvious and prominent. Women are usually asymptomatic or only develop mild symptoms. Bisexuals and men who have sex with men are also more prone to catch gonorrhea and chlamydia. As for age groups, young people and teenagers are more susceptible to being exposed to the bacteria.
If there is an STD that we have to pay more attention to, it should be human papillomavirus (HPV). This disease is caused by a group of viruses (more than 150). Among these viruses, more than 40 affect the genitals. HPV is categorized as low-risk and high-risk types. Low-risk HPV strains normally result in genital warts, but high-risk HPV strains are known to lead to cancer. In fact, 70% of cervical cancer stems from these high-risk HPV strains (types 6 & 18). Almost every sexually active person has experienced HPV at some point in their life, but most cases go away and clear up on their own within 2 years. No accurate test methods can determine HPV in men, but visual examination is usually used to gauge whether or not a man has HPV (by detecting warts and abnormal skin development). Both men and women can get HPV, but men are less likely to develop serious health problems from this disease. HPV is often more associated with women because cervical cancer is almost always caused by HPV. This is why there are reliable methods to diagnose HPV in women (PAP and DNA tests).
A viral infection, herpes can spread through sexual and skin-to-skin contact. There are two types of herpes virus: HSV-1 and HSV-2. HSV-1 is referred to as oral herpes that leads to blisters and cold sores on the face and around the mouth, while HSV-2 is known as genital herpes. Unlike chlamydia and gonorrhea, no cure is currently found for herpes. Once a person has it, the virus continues to live in the nerves. Most common symptoms are skin lesions which are often mistaken as other skin conditions. Lesions often take the form of tiny blisters and vesicles dotting the genitals, rectum or mouth. HSV-2 occurs more in women than men and genital herpes can also originate from oral herpes. Women are probably more prone to HSV-1 and HSV-2 because infections take place more from men to women than from women to men when sexual intercourse happens. The prevalence for contracting oral and genital herpes goes up with age.
Your overall well-being largely depends on how solid your sexual health is, and we believe that now is the second best time to get tested. Shim Clinic is always by your side to assist with STD tests and diagnosis as well as treatments and prevention methods such as HIV PEP and HIV PrEP. Never put off STD testing and compromise a good night’s sleep, because sooner is better.