According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are around 30 bacteria, viruses, and parasites transmitted through sexual contact with eight of these linked to some of the most common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) worldwide. While four of these eight are bacterial; syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and trichomoniasis, the remaining four are viral.
As the name suggests, bacterial infections are caused by bacteria and parasites, and can typically be cured with a course of antibiotics. Whereas the four viral STDs that we mentioned are caused by, you guessed it, viruses and cannot currently be cured. In saying that, it’s important to know that viral STDs can be controlled and symptoms of the infection can be managed with the right medication, these viral STDs include:
- Herpes simplex virus (HSV or herpes)
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
Can Viral STDs be cured?
Although viral infections can’t be completely cured, if they’re diagnosed early, they can be treated and the symptoms can be controlled with antiviral medications, which is why regularly checking in on your sexual health is crucial. To put this into context, research suggests that receiving early treatment for HIV prevents serious AIDS-related and non-AIDS-related diseases and routine screening for HPV can help prevent cervical cancer.
The viral STDs that can’t be cured are sometimes referred to as the four H’s: HIV, hepatitis, herpes, and HPV. This is what you should know about each.
HIV is commonly diagnosed using a blood or saliva test. If you think you may have been exposed to HIV, it’s important to speak with your doctor as soon as possible - the only way to know for sure if you have HIV is to get tested.
People who detect HIV early and take their medicine as prescribed can live a healthy life and prevent transmitting it to their partner - this is why it’s so important to detect it early and begin treatment as soon as possible .
While hepatitis A is almost always a short-term disease, hepatitis B and C are viral infections and can lead to long-term issues in the liver if left untreated - both are commonly diagnosed with a blood test.
Treatment for Hepatitis B and C depends on a number of factors - including the severity of the virus and whether you’ve suffered from liver damage before. That said, if the virus is detected early and you follow your doctor's advice, it’s possible to live a long and healthy life .
Herpes falls under two categories - HSV-1 and HSV-2. Both can be tested for using a urine sample or a simple blood test.
Though there is no known cure for herpes, antiviral medications are known to work by reducing the frequency and the severity of outbreaks. If you take your medication as prescribed, your symptoms should be relieved and your flare-ups should become less common.
See also: Can Herpes go Away on its Own?
Human papillomavirus (HPV)
HPV is commonly transmitted through sexual contact and can be the cause of cervical cancer in women - it can be tested for with a cervical swab sample.
When it comes to HPV, prevention is the best cure - the HPV vaccination is known to drastically decrease your chances of contracting the infection and it can also lower your risk of cervical cancer .
There’s no cure for HPV but the body’s immune system can get rid of the infection naturally within a couple of years. If you experience genital warts as a result of the infection, there are medications that can be applied directly to ease the irritation .
See also: Why is it Important to Check for HPV?
Is a viral STD life-threatening?
As mentioned above, early diagnosis and treatment of viral STDs can help control the virus and the symptoms that come along with it. This means that although there is currently no cure for viral STDs, anti-viral medications can help control and manage the infection.
Still, it’s important to note that if these viral infections aren’t diagnosed and treated, they can cause complications. For example, if HIV goes untreated, it can progress into AIDs which can severely damage your immune system, and if HPV does not clear naturally, depending on the strain, it can cause cervical cancer.
Can I test for a viral STI from home?
The best way to test for an STI is to take a test - you can do this with your local doctor or from the comfort of your own home. If you think you may have been exposed to a viral STI - it’s important to speak to your doctor as soon as possible.
LetsGetChecked’s at home STI tests cover the same infections as provided by physicians, hospitals and government schemes.
You should consider getting tested if:
- You’ve become sexually active
- You’ve had unprotected sex
- You’re experiencing symptoms of a sexually transmitted infection
- You’re entering into a new sexual relationship
- You’ve received a notification from a previous partner that they’re infected (STDs can remain dormant for years and/ or take up to three weeks to become detectable.)
See also: How do you Check for STDs From Home?