Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are passed on from person to person through vaginal, oral, or anal sex. STDs are prevalent today. Nearly 50 percent of all sexually active adults have contracted at least one STD or STI at some point in their lives. Most STDs can be cured with a course of antibiotics and other prescribed medications. Even STDs without a cure can be managed with the right treatment prescribed by your doctor. But what do you do in case you have an incurable STD? Read on to find out more about curable and incurable STDs and how to deal with them.
Overview of Curable and Incurable STDs
There are over one million sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) that get transmitted every day around the world.(1) It is estimated that each year there are over 375 million new sexually transmitted infections, with most of them being one of these four STDs:(2)
Some other STDs include:
- Genital warts
- Pubic lice
- Lymphogranuloma venereum
- Molluscum contagiosum
It is very likely that you have never heard of many of these STDs. This is because some of them are quite rare. The most common STDs that infect people are:
- Hepatitis B
- Herpes simplex virus (HSV)
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
And the top four mentioned above.
Out of all these STDs, there are only four that are incurable. These are:
- Human papillomavirus
- Hepatitis B
However, even though these STDs are incurable, they can still be managed with prescribed medication and treatment.
Ways to Deal with 4 Incurable STDs
Let us look at how these to deal with these incurable STDs.
Herpes is one of the most common STDs. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 500 million people in the world are believed to have herpes.(3)
Herpes can be transmitted through skin to skin contact, and many people with the infection do not even know that they have contracted the STD since they do not experience any symptoms. However, when people do experience the symptoms of herpes, they are usually in the form of painful sores around the anus or genital region.
Even though herpes is an incurable STD, it can be managed with antiviral medications that help decrease the outbreaks of the symptoms and also lower the risk of transmission.(4)
Using condoms cannot guarantee a 100% protection from contracting herpes, which is why you should keep getting regular tests done for herpes. You will have to take at least one medication daily to lessen the risk of transmitting the virus to your partner.
If you have herpes and are experiencing the symptoms, then you should consult a doctor to start antiviral medications for treating the STD.
Hepatitis B is another incurable STD or sexually transmitted disease, and it is one of the leading causes of liver cancer as well.(5) To reduce the transmission of this disease, babies today are given a vaccine against hepatitis B at birth itself.
Though there are five types of hepatitis, hepatitis B is the most common type of hepatitis that is transmitted through sexual intercourse.(6)
Hepatitis B can primarily be classified as a liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus. The condition can prove to be dangerous, but there is no cure for it, and you need to protect yourself by getting vaccinated and having safe sex.
Hepatitis B is a highly contagious virus and can easily be spread through contact with vaginal fluids, blood, urine, and semen.
The good news is that hepatitis B usually goes away on its own within four to eight weeks. Most cases of hepatitis B remain asymptomatic, meaning people not exhibit any symptoms. If you have tested positive for hepatitis B, the best option is to discuss with your doctor about getting regular liver checkups done.
It is only in rare cases that a person becomes a carrier for the hepatitis B virus, meaning that they will suffer from chronic hepatitis B infection. In this case, antiviral medications and immune system modulators are known to help slow down the damage caused by the virus to your liver.(7)
The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is perhaps one of the most feared incurable STDs of all. The virus attacks the immune system and ultimately leads to AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) if the infection is left untreated. HIV is able to spread easily through bodily fluids and damages the body’s white blood cells, which are responsible for fighting off diseases and infections.
This chronic viral STD has no cure, but with medication and treatment, many people with HIV can continue to live a long and healthy life with almost no risk of passing on the infection to others through sex.
The primary treatment for HIV is antiretroviral therapy. These medications help lower the amount of the virus in the blood to almost undetectable levels. (8) Antiretroviral therapy can help slow down the progression of HIV infection into AIDS, and in some cases, it can stop the progression of the disease as well.
HPV or human papillomavirus is also another common STD. It is estimated that 9 out of 10 sexually active adults will get HPV during their lifetime.(9) In almost 90 percent of all cases, HPV infections tend to go away on their own within two years of being diagnosed. However, HPV is still an incurable STD, and in many cases, it can even lead to cervical cancer, oral cancer, and genital warts.
Even if you or your partner do not experience any symptoms, it is still possible for the virus to get passed on through vaginal, oral, or anal sex.
Today in many countries, children are required to get vaccinated against the different forms of HPV. Regular pap smears for women helps check for HPV at least once in every couple of years. If HPV leads to genital warts, then these can be removed with liquid nitrogen, acid, creams, or minor surgery if the other treatments don’t work.
Contracting any type of STD is manageable, even if you catch an incurable one. Most STDs are easily treatable with a course of antibiotics or antiviral medications, while some of the infections tend to get better on their own.
Remember that many of the STDs often do not show any symptoms. Due to this reason, it is always important to keep getting regular checkups and tests for detecting any type of sexually transmitted infections or diseases. This also ensures that if you have an STD, then timely treatment can be started to prevent the condition from progressing further, especially in the cases of HIV infection.
The best treatment for STD is to practice having safe sex and use the appropriate protection. If you believe you may have contracted an STD, consult your doctor to find out about your treatment options.
- Newman, L., Rowley, J., Vander Hoorn, S., Wijesooriya, N.S., Unemo, M., Low, N., Stevens, G., Gottlieb, S., Kiarie, J. and Temmerman, M., 2015. Global estimates of the prevalence and incidence of four curable sexually transmitted infections in 2012 based on systematic review and global reporting. PloS one, 10(12).
- World Health Organization, 2019. Progress report on HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections 2019: accountability for the global health sector strategies, 2016–2021 (No. WHO/CDS/HIV/19.7). World Health Organization.
- Who.int. (2020). Sexually transmitted infections (STIs). [online] Available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/sexually-transmitted-infections-(stis) [Accessed 15 Feb. 2020].
- Cdc.gov. (2020). STD Facts – Genital Herpes. [online] Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/std/herpes/stdfact-herpes.htm [Accessed 15 Feb. 2020].
- Perz, J.F., Armstrong, G.L., Farrington, L.A., Hutin, Y.J. and Bell, B.P., 2006. The contributions of hepatitis B virus and hepatitis C virus infections to cirrhosis and primary liver cancer worldwide. Journal of hepatology, 45(4), pp.529-538.
- Cdc.gov. (2020). Division of Viral Hepatitis Home Page | Division of Viral Hepatitis | CDC. [online] Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/ [Accessed 15 Feb. 2020].
- Hirayama, C., Suzuki, H., Ito, M., Okumura, M. and Oda, T., 2003. Propagermanium: a nonspecific immune modulator for chronic hepatitis B. Journal of gastroenterology, 38(6), p.525.
- Kitahata, M.M., Gange, S.J., Abraham, A.G., Merriman, B., Saag, M.S., Justice, A.C., Hogg, R.S., Deeks, S.G., Eron, J.J., Brooks, J.T. and Rourke, S.B., 2009. Effect of early versus deferred antiretroviral therapy for HIV on survival. New England Journal of Medicine, 360(18), pp.1815-1826.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Human Papillomavirus Vaccine Safety. [online] Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/vaccines/hpv-vaccine.html [Accessed 15 Feb. 2020].
- Could I Have an STD and Not Know About It?|What are the Symptoms?
- Can a STD Go Away On It’s Own?
- How Do You Know When You Have An STD?
- How Do You Get An STD In The First Place?
- Do STD Symptoms Go Away On Their Own?
- Can STD Come Back?
- How Long Does It Take To Clear Up An STD?