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    by Ngozi Osuagwu, MD | March 5th, 2017


    I want to believe that most of us would answer “no” to this question; however there are sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that can result in death.

    Syphilis and congenital syphilis is on the rise in the United States. Congenital syphilis is syphilis that is transmitted to the unborn child when the pregnant woman has syphilis. Congenital syphilis can result in a baby who is stillborn or born with significant medical problems.

    Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) related deaths still occurs and people of color are mostly affected. We do have ways of managing the disease, but that requires regular medical care and treatment. That could only happen if you know your status. One in 8 of those infected with HIV do not know they have the disease. HIV untreated can lead to death.

    Human papillomavirus (HPV) has been found to be associated with 99% of cervical cancer and when cervical cancer is not caught on time, can result in death. Not everyone with HPV gets cervical cancer but it is important to be screened and get the vaccine if you are the appropriate age.

    Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C can result in chronic liver disease that can lead to liver cancer and death.

    March 10 is National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. The motto this year is The Best Defense is a Good Offense.  This can be applied to all sexually transmitted infections.

    There are more than 25 bacteria, viruses and parasites that are known to be transmitted through sexual contact. There are eight that are common – chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, trichomoniasis, hepatitis B, herpes simplex virus (HSV or herpes), HIV and HPV. Although most are spread through sexual contact like vaginal, anal and oral sex, some can be spread through blood or blood products. Some can even be spread from mother to child.

    Whether you are a teenager or a grandmother, whether you are having sex or not and whether you are a female or male, we all need to be involved. We can stop the spread of sexually transmitted infections and make a difference – THE BEST DEFENSE IS A GOOD OFFENSE.

    1. Know your status – when you go to the gynecologist, you are not automatically tested for sexually transmitted infections. Generally if you are under 25 years old, you will probably be tested for chlamydia or gonorrhea. If you want to know your HIV status or any other status, you need to ask to be tested. I will tell you, the hardest part of being tested is waiting for the results.
    2. Before you engage in sex, know your partner’s status – You should not be afraid to ask your partner about his or her history and ask them to get tested. You can even take it one step further and have a date at the health department.
    3. If you were born before 1965, you should at least have been tested once for the hepatitis C virus.
    4. If you are 21 years old and above make sure you are up to date with your pap smear.
    5. Get vaccinated – If you are under 26 years old, you should have been vaccinated for HPV. There is a vaccine available for hepatitis B. You can get a blood test to find out if you have already received the hepatitis vaccine.
    6. If you are pregnant, you should be tested for syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia and hepatitis B. For some tests, you might be checked more than once during your pregnancy.
    7. Although most times there are no symptoms, if you do notice something is not right, do not have sex until you get it checked out.
    8. Abstinence is the best way to avoid STIs. Condoms and dental dams (for oral sex) is the next best thing.
    9. Learn about Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis ( PrEP) – This is for people who do not have HIV but are at risk of getting HIV and want to cut down their risk. You would take a pill every day while you are at risk. People who would benefit are those who are having sex with a partner that is known to have HIV or with a partner that is using IV drugs.
    10. If you do test positive, get treated for those diseases that are curable and learn to manage your disease for those that are not curable. Ask questions.


    For more information on STIs, please click here.

    For more information on National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, click here.

    Together we can make a difference. If you have learned something new, please share the information so that others can learn. Please reference as your source.

    (This is part 5 of 10 in the Gynecology 110 series – reasons to have an annual exam – sexually transmitted infections screening)



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    With her trademark wit and straightforward communication, Dr. Osuagwu continues to dole out valuable medical advice using the letter form and addressing women’s health conditions and issues in a method that was praised for its innovative approach in her earlier award-winning book, Letters to My Sisters: Plain Truths and Straightforward Advice from a Gynecologist. In this book, each letter is paired with reference sources and statistics about the condition that is the subject of the letter.

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    The book discusses common gynecological and women’s health issues in a series of witty and entertaining letters. These letters, all educational, offer suggestions on what approaches to take in tackling the medical problems that typically bring women to an ob/gynecologist. The letters are spiced with art, a poem and quotes. Although its emphasis is on gynecology and women’s health, it touches on some other medical issues that make women visit their doctors.

    The second half of the book briefly discusses the most common gynecological conditions and also provides an overview of sexually transmitted infections. A list of annotated websites dealing with the different topics in the book is provided for the reader who wants to pursue each subject in depth.

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