Sexually transmitted diseases
Handsfield, H. Hunter Sexually Transmitted Disease Control Program, Seattle-King County Public Health Department, Harborview Medical Center, Seattle, Washington.
Last reviewed:August 2019
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Infections that are acquired and transmitted by sexual contact. Although virtually any infection may be transmitted during intimate contact, the term sexually transmitted disease (often abbreviated STD) is restricted to conditions that are largely dependent on sexual contact for their transmission and propagation in a population. The term venereal disease is literally synonymous with sexually transmitted disease, but traditionally was associated with only five long-recognized diseases [syphilis, gonorrhea, chancroid (soft chancre), lymphogranuloma venereum, and donovanosis (granuloma inguinale)]. Today, more than 20 conditions are categorized as sexually transmitted diseases, and they can be caused by a variety of pathogenic organisms, including bacteria, viruses, protozoans, and ectoparasites (parasites that live on the exteriors of their hosts). Sexually transmitted diseases occasionally are acquired nonsexually (for example, by newborn infants from their mothers, or by clinical or laboratory personnel handling pathogenic organisms or infected secretions), but in adults they are virtually never acquired by contact with contaminated intermediaries (for example, towels, toilet seats, or bathing facilities). However, some sexually transmitted infections, including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection [the cause of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS); Fig. 1], viral hepatitis, and cytomegalovirus infection, are transmitted primarily by sexual contact in some settings and by nonsexual means in others. See also: Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS); Cytomegalovirus infection; Gonorrhea; Granuloma inguinale; Hepatitis; Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV); Infection; Infectious disease; Pathogen; Public health; Syphilis
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