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Family Planning

The impact of untreated STIs

There are currently 27 known Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) which, as the name suggests, are mainly spread through sexual contact. This is prevalent when people have intercourse without using a condom, and the infections are not limited to vaginal penetration but can also be transmitted via oral and anal sex.

It’s possible for a person to have an STI without showing any visible or obvious symptoms of infection even for up to a few days, weeks or months. If left untreated these STIs can affect different parts of your body in different ways.

What happens if these STIs are not treated at all?

Herpes

Herpes leaves sores on the skin. And if you don’t get it treated, your chances of contracting HIV increase as it can more easily enter your body during sex.

Chlamydia

Chlamydia is an STI that is easily treatable with medication, due to its bacterial nature. It hardly has any symptoms, but in the event that you do showcase some symptoms – they will include:

  • Abnormal vaginal discharge, which may have a strong smell
  • A burning sensation when urinating
  • Pain during intercourse

Women who have chlamydia may develop pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which may cause infertility or continuous pelvic pain.

Gonorrhoea

If left untreated, gonorrhoea can cause serious and permanent health problems for women. Much like chlamydia, it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Some of the complications associated with PID are

Syphilis

Syphilis may stay in your body for a while before any symptoms are visible. Without the right treatment, your infection will move to the latent and possibly tertiary stages of syphilis.

The latent stage of syphilis is when there are no visible signs or symptoms and can remain in your body for years.

It’s important to note that most people with untreated syphilis do not develop tertiary syphilis. However, in the event that it does happen, it may affect many different organ systems including the heart; blood vessels; the brain and nervous system. Tertiary syphilis would occur 10 – 30 years after your initial infection with the disease damaging your internal organs and resulting in death.

Human papillomavirus (HPV)

There is no treatment for the virus itself. However, there are treatments available for the health issues that can arise as a result of contracting HPV:

  • Genital warts:Treatable by medication which your healthcare provider can prescribe for you. If left untreated, genital warts may go away, stay the same, or grow in size and number.
  • Cervical precancercan be treated. Women who get routine Pap smear tests and follow up as needed can identify problems before cancer develops.
  • Other HPV-related cancersare also more treatable when diagnosed and treated early.

HIV

The Human Immune Virus (HIV) is a virus that causes AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). If left untreated – by antiretroviral therapy – there will be an increase in your viral load which will leave your immune system too damaged to defend itself against life –threatening infections and cancers and may lead to death.

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