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Quick GuideSTD Diagnosis, Images, Symptoms, Treatment
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is perhaps the most feared STD. Infection with the HIV virus can occur during sexual contact, by sharing needles, or from an infected pregnant woman to her baby. The virus ultimately causes dysfunction of the body's immune system at a later time point. The average time from infection to immune suppression is 10 years. There are no specific symptoms that signal HIV infection, but some people develop fever and a flu-like illness 2 to 4 weeks after they have contracted the virus. Once immune suppression is present, serious complications like unusual infections, certain cancers, and dementia may develop. Numerous medications are available to help affected people manage the infection and delay or prevent progression of the illness.
The herpes simplex viruses (HSVs) cause painful blistering sores on sexually-exposed areas of the body. They can be transmitted during any type of sexual contact. Typically, the HSV type 1 (HSV-1) causes cold sores around the mouth, while the HSV type 2 (HSV-2) causes genital herpes, but both types of HSV are capable of infecting the genital area. As with some other STDs, it is possible to be infected with HSV and not have signs or symptoms, or to have very mild symptoms. Even when symptoms have occurred in the past, it is possible to transmit the infection during any time period in which symptoms are not present. The lesions caused by HSV typically take the form of painful blisters that eventually open, forming ulcers, and then crust over. In men, the sores can be found on the penis, scrotum, buttocks, anus, inside the urethra, or on the skin of the thighs. The first outbreak of HSV infection may be more severe than subsequent outbreaks and can be accompanied by fever and swollen lymph nodes.
HSV infection is not curable and persists for life. The infection has the potential to cause an outbreak at any time, although affected people vary in terms of the number and severity of outbreaks. Antiviral medications can shorten the severity and duration of an outbreak. For people who have very frequent outbreaks, antiviral medications are often recommended as ongoing therapy to suppress the virus.