DRHOOK- Acronym hell: STD, PID, HVP-- avoid them all

the handsome doctor John Hong of Charlottesville

Sex is such an interesting topic. There are talk shows solely about sex. I remember in ninth grade we had sex education in my little uber-conservative hometown. I was shocked they offered it. Most folks in my hometown believed babies came from a stork. Our very nice physical education teacher did a great job teaching us the truths and myths about sex. I was happy it wasn't handled as taboo. 

One of my friends told me he thought sex was a natural, good thing in life, and getting a sexually transmitted disease (STD) was like catching a cold from someone. Well, until it happened to him.

Does shame prevent people from seeking help for an STD? 

In the USA there are 19 million cases of STDs reported each year, and not all STDs are reported. Many folks delay diagnosis and treatment because of the stigma of having an STD. Some never see the doctor because they don't have symptoms or they ignore them.

The average age to lose virginity is 16. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) showed 26 percent of female adolescents have at least one of the following STDs: Chlamydia, herpes simplex II, trichomonas, or HPV. 

Chlamydia is not an herb. It's a common STD that can cause irritation in a man's penis– or nothing at all. In women it's often asymptomatic, which is a problem because it's often left untreated and can cause blindness in a newborn during childbirth. If symptoms occur, they can include discharge from the cervix, pelvic pain, burning urination, sore throat.

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) from Chlamydia and/or gonorrhea (since the two infections are like peanut butter and jelly– they often go together) can cause fevers and severe pelvic pain. It often sends the ailing woman to the hospital.

Gonorrhea in men can make peeing feel like burning acid. In Greek, gonorrhea means "flow of seed," describing the milky appearance or the purulent discharge. Some men wonder why their underwear keeps getting wet thinking it's semen.

Chlamydia and gonorrhea don't just live in the genitals. Anal and oral sex can cause infections in those respective areas, and they are often missed on diagnosis because many people "plead the 5th" or just aren't asked. (Paris Hilton said on Kathy Griffin's reality show that she doesn't do oral sex because it's for low-class girls. Oh, grow up! I believe that as much as I believe that's her natural hair color.)

There are many strains of human papillomavirus (HVP). Some cause cervical cancer. Others cause genital/anal warts which can be a pain to treat. Warts can take months of growth before becoming visible to the naked eye. So people can spread the warts without realizing they have the disease. 

Herpes makes a lot of people cry because there's such a huge stigma about it. Well, Mary, 45 million Americans have it. It can be spread during sexual or anal intercourse, oral sex, and even by hands. Not hand holding, but say you have a herpes lesion and you touch it. Your finger is contaminated and you can spread it to other parts of your body.

Trichomonas vaginalis is a flagellated parasite that you can actually see swimming under a microscope. For both men and women, there can be no symptoms of infection by this little devil. The most common symptoms are burning when peeing, discharge, and pain during intercourse.

There are more STDs to report, but I'm out of room. Main thing: if you aren't in a monogamous relationship, use protection. It's like the common cold. You can use Purell to try to prevent it, but there's no guarantee.


Dr. Hook cracks a joke or two, but he's a renowned physician with a local practice and an interesting website, drjohnhong.com. Email him with your questions.