Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), once called venereal diseases, are among the most common infectious diseases in the United States today. More than 20 STIs have now been identified, and they affect more than 13 million men and women in this country each year. The annual comprehensive cost of STIs in the United States is estimated to be well in excess of $10 billion.
Understanding the basic facts about STIs - the ways in which they are spread, their common symptoms, and how they can be treated- is the first step toward prevention. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a part of the National Institutes of Health, has prepared a series of fact sheets about STIs to provide this important information. Research investigators supported by NIAID are looking for better methods of diagnosis and more effective treatments, as well as for vaccines and topical microbicides to prevent STIs.
It is important to understand at least five key points about all STDs in this country today:
1.STIs affect men and women of all backgrounds and economic levels. They are most prevalent among teenagers and young adults. Nearly two-thirds of all STIs occur in people younger than 25 years of age.
2.The incidence of STIs is rising, in part because in the last few decades, young people have become sexually active earlier yet are marrying later. In addition, divorce is more common. The net result is that sexually active people today are more likely to have multiple sex partners during their lives and are potentially at risk for developing STIs.
3. Most of the time, STIs cause no symptoms, particularly in women. When and if symptoms develop, they may be confused with those of other diseases not transmitted through sexual contact. Even when an STI causes...