How Dangerous is Chlamydia?

If you’ve been diagnosed or exposed to chlamydia, you may be wondering, just how dangerous is it?

Will it keep coming back, like herpes? Can it cause brain damage, like syphilis? Is there any chance you’ll die, like with AIDS?

Most women, about 75% of those infected, have no symptoms and therefore don’t even know they’ve been infected with chlamydia. If symptoms do occur they may be confused with a urinary tract infection or vaginal yeast infection. Burning on urination or vaginal discharge are among the more common symptoms, but when the infection reaches higher into the cervix or fallopian tubes, abdominal pain may occur, along with fever, nausea, back pain, pain with intercourse, or abnormal menstrual bleeding. It’s important to see your physician if you experience these symptoms.

Because many women have no warning symptoms, and because the infection is sometimes mistaken for something else, damage may occur even before a women knows she’s infected. Up to 40% of untreated women eventually develop pelvic inflammatory disease, which may cause chronic pelvic pain, infertility, or blockage of the fallopian tubes.

Usually the damage is not life-threatening. However, if the fallopian tubes become sufficiently scarred, an ectopic pregnancy (tubal pregnancy) may occur. If this isn’t detected in time, the tube may burst, causing internal bleeding, which may be fatal.

Another scary fact: if you already have chlamydia and are then exposed to HIV, you’re 4-5 times as likely to become infected with HIV than if you don’t have chlamydia. STDs run in pairs. A person infected with one sexually transmitted disease is at high risk of having contracted a second as well.

Premature birth is a possible complication for pregnant women infected with chlamydia. Infected mothers may pass the disease to their babies, who may suffer from infection in their eyes or lungs, even pneumonia.

As for men, up to half of infected men don’t have symptoms and therefore can pass the disease on without even knowing it. Those who do have symptoms usually exhibit burning on urination, and so may confuse this STD with a urinary tract infection. Occasionally the infection spreads up through the urethra and bladder to the epididymis, causing pain behind the testicles, sometimes fever, and occasionally sterility.

If you have any of the above symptoms see your doctor promptly before irreversible damage sets in. If you don’t have symptoms but worry you may have been exposed, see your doctor as well. Any sexually active person (anyone having sex) should be tested yearly for chlamydia, especially those 25 years of age and younger (except for those in a long-term totally monogamous relationship who have never been at risk for contracting chlamydia). All pregnant women should be tested as well.

Antibiotic treatment is effective but may not be able to reverse scarring from a prolonged infection, so don’t put off seeing a doctor for this potentially serious infection.

Copyright 2010 Cynthia J. Koelker, M.D.

Should People With HIV Date Individuals Who Are Already Infected?

When it comes to dating, people who are infected with HIV have two choices – either date a person who is already infected or date someone who is HIV – negative.

Over the years, as people studied the Human Immunodeficiency virus, they got to know about various techniques that can be employed in order to prevent the spread of the virus. These methods can be very useful in cases where a HIV – positive individual is in a relationship with a person who is absolutely clean. In the field of medicine, such couples are known as serodiscordant partners.

Nevertheless, people are still very skeptical about dating while infected. There are several questions that pop up, some of which are as follows –

  • Should infected individuals date only those who are infected too?
  • If they have begun dating someone who is HIV – negative, when is the ideal time to reveal the medical condition? During the initial stages of dating or when mutual interest is established?

Opinions of people remain split on the issue. While some believe that it would be wise to make things clear in a couple of dates, leaving no space for surprises, others feel that it would be better to let things go at their own pace before confession about having HIV.

Engaging in Sexual Activity With Other HIV-Infected Individuals

If you are under the impression that unprotected sex between two people who are already infected with HIV would cause no harm, then you are mistaken.

In such a case, there are chances of occurrence of a super-infection. This situation arises when an individual already infected with a particular strain of the virus is again infected with a different strain. A recent study reveals that being infected with more than one strain of the virus, potentially leads to development of resistance against certain type of medications.

It also shows that super-infections can lead to increased viral loads and therefore aggravate the condition. An increase in viral loads can cause a significant deterioration of immunity, meaning that more copies of the virus are formed. The best way to reduce the chances of a super-infection is to use protection such as a condom. Minimizing the number of sexual partners can also lower the risk of a super-infection.

Finding Your Soul Mate

There are several dating websites operating today that cater to people with STD. Standard Membership on most of these websites is free and users can participate in discussions held on the forums section. There are many such website that aim to help people with STD connect and find friends or romantic partners. In addition to this, it also helps people get more information about the condition and how to deal with it.

The Impact and Consequences of AIDS/HIV in India

The impact and consequences of AIDS/HIV in India

Whenever AIDS has won, stigma, shame, distrust, discrimination and apathy was on its side. Every time AIDS has been defeated, it has been because of trust, openness, dialogue between individuals and communities, family support, human solidarity, and the human perseverance to find new paths and solutions.” – Michel SidibĂ©, Executive Director, UNAIDS

What are AIDS and HIV?

Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is caused by a virus called HIV or Human Immunodeficiency Virus. The disease changes the immune system, making people very vulnerable to infections and diseases. This vulnerability gets worse as the syndrome progresses, sometimes with fatal results.

HIV is a virus: Specifically, HIV is the virus, which attacks the T-cells (CD-4 cells) in the immune system.

AIDS is a medical condition: AIDS is the syndrome, which appears at an advanced stage of the HIV infection.

The HIV infection can cause AIDS to develop but it is possible to be infected with HIV without developing AIDS. However, without treatment, the HIV infection can progress and, eventually, develop into AIDS in most cases. Once an AIDS diagnosis is made, it will always be a part of a patient’s medical history.

What causes HIV and AIDS?

A retrovirus that infects the vital organs and cells of the human immune system, HIV develops in the absence of antiretroviral therapy (ART) – a drug therapy that slows, and can prevent, the growth of new HIV viruses.

The rate of virus progression in various individuals differs widely, depending on many factors including:

  • Age
  • The body’s ability to defend itself against HIV
  • Access to healthcare
  • Other infections the patient may have
  • The person’s genetic inheritance
  • Resistance to certain strains of HIV
  • Other factors

How is HIV transmitted?

Sexual transmission: Contact with infected sexual fluids (rectal, genital, or oral mucous membranes) while having unprotected sex with someone infected with HIV

Perinatal transmission: A mother can pass the infection on to her child during childbirth, pregnancy and breastfeeding

Blood transfusion: Transmission of HIV through blood transfusion is extremely low in developed countries, thanks to meticulous screening and precautions. This is often not the case in the developing world

Early symptoms of HIV infection

Many people with HIV have no symptoms for several months, or even years, after being infected. Others may develop symptoms similar to flu, usually two to six weeks after being infected by the virus. The symptoms of early HIV infection may include fever, chills, joint pains, muscle aches, sore throat, sweats (particularly at night), enlarged glands, red rash, tiredness, general weakness and weight loss.

Myths and facts about HIV and AIDS

There are many misconceptions about HIV and AIDS which are not based on scientific and medical facts. The virus CANNOT be transmitted by:

  • shaking hands
  • hugging
  • casual kissing
  • sneezing
  • touching unbroken skin
  • using the same toilet
  • sharing towels
  • sharing cutlery
  • mouth-to-mouth resuscitation or other forms of “casual contact”

Is there treatment for AIDS and HIV?

Currently, there is no vaccine or cure for HIV, but certain treatments have evolved which are much more effective and better tolerated – improving the patients’ general health and quality of life considerably – by just taking one pill a day.

Certain treatments can slow the course of the condition, allowing most infected people the opportunity to live long and relatively healthy lives. Starting HIV antiretroviral treatment early is crucial. According to the World Health Organization’s guidelines, issued in June 2013, early treatment improves the quality of life, extends life expectancy and reduces the risk of transmission.

How can HIV be prevented?

To prevent being infected with HIV, medical professionals advise taking the following precautions:

Avoid the dangers of unprotected sex: Having sex without a condom can put a person at risk of being infected with HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Drug abuse and needle sharing: Intravenous drug use is an important factor in HIV transmission, especially in developed countries. Sharing needles can expose users to HIV and other viruses, such as hepatitis C.

Body fluid exposure: Exposure to HIV can be prevented by employing precautions to reduce the risk of exposure to contaminated blood. Healthcare workers should use barriers (gloves, masks, protective eyewear, shields and gowns).

Pregnancy: Some treatments can harm the unborn child. To protect the baby’s health, delivery through caesarean section may be necessary. HIV-infected mothers should not breastfeed.

The importance of education: This is an important factor in reducing risky behaviour that results in HIV/AIDS.

Social stigma associated with AIDS

Fear surrounding the growing HIV epidemic in the 1980s persists even today. At the time, since very little was known about HIV and how it is transmitted, the disease scared people because of their fear of being infected.

This fear, to this day, means that lots of people still believe that HIV and AIDS:

  • Still ends in death
  • The syndromes’ association with behaviours that large numbers of people still disapprove of – such as homosexuality, drug use, sex work or infidelity
  • That the syndrome is transmitted through sex, which is a taboo subject in some cultures
  • The infection is because of personal irresponsibility or moral flaws that deserve to be punished
  • False information about how the virus is transmitted, giving rise to irrational behaviour and misconceptions about personal risk

What is the level of awareness about AIDS in India?

According to a comprehensive survey undertaken by UNDP post 2005, “HIV and AIDS are a serious challenge for the developing as well as the developed world. India, with an estimated 5.206 million people living with HIV in 2005, accounts for nearly 69 percent of the HIV infections in the South and South-East Asian region. This is despite it being a low prevalence country with an overall adult HIV prevalence rate of 0.91 percent.”

“India has six high prevalence states: Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Manipur and Nagaland. Of these Andhra Pradesh has recorded the highest prevalence of two percent among the antenatal clinic attendees and 22.8 percent among STD clinic attendees in 2005. Given the overall low prevalence of HIV, focus so far has been on studying the AIDS/HIV impact at the level of the individual and households“, the survey emphasises.

In conclusion, we quote studies carried out by the World Bank Group in 2012, “The Government of India estimates that about 2.40 million Indians are living with HIV (1.93-3.04 million) with an adult prevalence of 0.31% (2009). Children (<15 years) account for 3.5% of all infections, while 83% are the in age group 15-49 years. Of all HIV infections, 39% (930,000) are among women. India’s highly heterogeneous epidemic is largely concentrated in only a few states – in the industrialized south and west, and in the north-east. The four high prevalence states of South India (Andhra Pradesh – 500,000, Maharashtra – 420,000, Karnataka – 250,000, Tamil Nadu – 150,000) account for 55% of all HIV infections in the country. West Bengal, Gujarat, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are estimated to have more than 100,000 PLHA each and together account for another 22% of HIV infections in India.

Study Links Drug Use to High Rates of Syphilis

A connection between drug use and high syphilis rates in the United States was established by a recent report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Sarah Kidd, lead author of the report, pointed out that two major health issues, namely addiction and syphilis, seemed to be colliding with each other.

The report displayed a connection between drug use and instances of syphilis in heterosexual men and women. As per the report, the usage of heroin, methamphetamine, and other injection drugs by the aforementioned group almost doubled from 2013 to 2017.

The report however, did not display a similar increase in drug abuse in gay men suffering from syphilis. According to the researchers, the results of the study indicated that risky sexual behaviors associated with drug abuse may be one of the key driving factors for this increase in syphilis among the heterosexual population.

People using drugs more likely to engage in unsafe sexual activities

According to experts, people abusing drugs are more likely to engage in unsafe sexual activities, thereby making them more susceptible to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Syphilis significantly increased among heterosexuals especially during the ‘crack cocaine epidemic’ prevalent during the 1980s and 1990s. It was observed that during this particular time period, the usage of drugs was connected with the higher transmission rates of syphilis.

According to Patricia Kissinger, professor epidemiology at the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, it is common tendency among people abusing drugs to indulge in unprotected sex, exchange sex in lieu of money or drugs, and have multiple sex partners. All these are considered as significant risk factors contributing to the spread of the disease.

Syphilis rates are setting new records

At the national level, the occurrences of syphilis jumped by around 73 percent at an overall level and 156 percent in case of women patients between 2013 and 2017. While syphilis had been almost eradicated, of late, the highest resurgence of the disease was reported in California, Louisiana, and Nevada. Syphilis can be treated with antibiotics, but if left untreated, it can cause organ damage and even death in some cases. In women, congenital syphilis typically occurs when a mother transmits the disease to her unborn baby, leading to cases of premature birth and newborn fatalities.

Analyzing the syphilis cases that occurred between 2013 and 2017, the researchers discovered that methamphetamine abuse was the biggest contributor. The report revealed that more than one-third of women and a quarter of heterosexual men suffering from syphilis were reported to be abusing methamphetamine within the last year. The California Department of Public Health reported that methamphetamine use by people suffering from syphilis, doubled in case of heterosexual men and women between 2013 and 2017.

Why is it difficult to treat sexually transmitted infections?

Owing to the overlapping instances of substance abuse and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), it becomes challenging to identify and treat people suffering from syphilis. That is because, typically, people using drugs are less likely to visit a doctor or report their sexual activities or partners.

Likewise, pregnant women may refrain from seeking prenatal care and get themselves tested for syphilis owing to concerns such as their gynecologists reporting their drug abuse. To combat this issue, the CDC urges to bring about more collaboration between programs treating substance abuse and programs addressing STIs.

Fresno County reported highest rate of congenital syphilis

According to the report, the highest rate of congenital syphilis was reported in Fresno County in California. The county’s community health division manager, Joe Prado, said that the California Health Department analyzed around 25 congenital syphilis cases in 2017 and more than two-thirds of these women were abusing drugs.

To address this issue, the country took proactive measures such as offering STD testing for patients getting admitted into inpatient drug treatment centers. Patients coming back for reports were provided incentives including gift cards. Apart from this, for patients undergoing drug treatment, the county offered a care package comprising of contraceptives and education materials about STIs.

Challenges faced

While it is significant to have an increased collaboration between STD clinics and drug treatment providers, it is not always that simple, since these two entities have not worked together previously. Usually both these units tend to focus only on their relevant specialties and often fail to screen people for associated ailments like syphilis or other forms of STIs or for drug abuse.

According to Jeffrey Kalusner, professor of medicine and public health at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), in order to fight the rising rates of syphilis more resources are needed. He added that though policies can be implemented towards syphilis testing, these policies need to be accompanied with appropriate resources.

Seeking treatment for drug abuse

Drug abuse is often associated with the development of physical ailments like hepatitis C, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), syphilis and other STDs. These infections can be severe and result in rapid deterioration of overall health. The best way to avoid the contraction of these diseases is to avoid taking drugs or if addicted, to seek addiction treatment help at the earliest.

The drug rehab centers of Hillside Mission offer comprehensive evidence-based treatment plans for substance abuse. Whether selecting an inpatient, outpatient, or a residential plan, the detox process at Hillside Mission is designed to minimize the patient’s discomfort and result in a shorter treatment cycle.