Interesting Facts about STDs
Interesting Facts about STDs

65 Shocking STI/STD Facts

Karin Lehnardt
By Karin Lehnardt, Senior Writer
Published June 24, 2017Updated September 7, 2019
  • An STI (sexually transmitted infection) is a germ (virus, bacteria, parasite) that can cause an illness inside a person even though the person doesn’t have any symptoms. An STD (sexually transmitted disease) refers to infections that are causing symptoms or problems.[12]
  • A Brazilian Web site lets people send their partners e-cards informing them they have an STD and that they should see a doctor.[14]
  • Child rape is an epidemic in Africa, largely due to the entrenched belief that sex with a virgin can cure sexually transmitted diseases, such as AIDS.c[4]
  • Direct medical costs associated with STIs/STDs in the United States are estimated at $13 billion per year.d[5]
  • Pre-ejaculate can still transmit infection. Withdrawing before ejaculation also does not prevent STDs.[5]
  • Douching (from the Latin ducere, “to lead”) before and after sex does not protect against STDs/STIs and, in fact, may promote an infection after exposure to an STI/STD.[5]
  • History of STD Fact
    The word "venereal" is from the goddess of love, Venus
  • STIs/STDs were previously called “venereal diseases” (VDs), a term which derives from Veneris, or Venus, the Roman goddess of love.[1]
  • Unprotected anal intercourse with a partner whose status for STIs/STDs is unknown is the highest-risk sexual practice.[13]
  • Genital pimples do not necessarily mean an STD and may simply indicate a case of genital acne.[5]
  • Each year there are approximately 333 million new cases of STDs in the world, according to the CDC.[12]
  • The first hospital for venereal disease was the London Lock Hospital in 1746. Treatment was not always voluntary.[1]
  • Since the beginning of the epidemic in 1981, over 70 million people have been infected with the HIV virus and approximately 35 million people have died.[6]
  • The CDC initially called AIDS the “gay cancer” and later renamed it GRID (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency). In 1982, the disease was renamed AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome).[11]
  • Over 110 million Americans have an STD at any given time, and over 20 million cases of new STD infections are reported each year. The eight most common sexually transmitted diseases are: chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis B virus (HBV), genital herpes, HIV, human papillomavirus (HPV), syphilis and trichomoniasis.[3]
  • Mutual masturbation is not a guarantee against contracting an STD. Pubic lice, scabies, bacterial vaginosis cytomegalovirus, herpes simplex, and human papillomavirus virus (HPV) can all be contracted through mutual masturbation.[5]
  • Roughly 40,000 new HIV infections in the United States occur each year.[7]
  • One of the best ways to fight stigma and empower HIV-positive people is by speaking out openly and honestly about who we are and what we experience.

    - Alex Garner, HIV Activist

  • Donovanosis is a very rare sexually transmitted disease. Small, painless nodules appear after 10-40 days after exposure and, if left untreated, can destroy penile tissue.[11]
  • The origins of STIs/STDs are obscure. Some researchers have argued that microbes adapted themselves to affect the human genital area or even jumped from animals to humans.[1]
  • Curable STIs/STDs are usually bacterial and include chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and trichomoniasis. Viral STIs/STDs cannot be cured and include HPV (though the body can clear this disease), Herpes, Hepatitis B, and HIV.[5]
  • While some STIs/STDs—such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis—are curable, if left untreated, they can cause death, infertility, chronic pain, serious birth defects, and miscarriages.[5]
  • Interesting HPV Fact
    HPV is the fast growing STI/STD in the United States
  • The human papillomavirus (HPV) is currently the fastest growing STI/STD.[12]
  • Over 180 million cases of trichomoniasis occur worldwide per year. In the United States, it is estimated that 7.4 million new cases of trichomoniasis occur each year.[5]
  • Though scientists first recognized HIV/AIDS as a disease in 1981, it was introduced into North America by a Haitian immigrant during the late 1960s.[2]
  • Many sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, can be transmitted through oral sex.[11]
  • Chlamydia is Greek for “cloak” because early researchers believed the disease “cloaked” the nucleus of an infect cell. Chlamydia is found only in human cells, though it shares a common ancestor with plants and exhibits unusual plant-like traits.[8]
  • Nearly 700,000 people in the United States are infected with gonorrhea per year. Gonorrhea is also called “the clap,” from the Middle English clapper meaning a rabbit burrow, which was slang for a place of prostitution.[1]
  • HIV/AIDS originated in primates in Sub-Sahara Africa and transferred to humans during the late nineteenth or early twentieth century, probably when a bushmeat hunter was bitten or cut by an infected animal.[11]
  • The CDC estimates that 20 million Americans are currently infected with the genital human papillomavirus (HPV), a virus that causes most cases of cervical cancer and genital warts.[5]
  • Nearly 6.2 million Americans get a new HPV infection each year. Most HPV infections cause no clinical problems and resolve on their own without treatment (91% of new infections clear up within two years).[5]
  • Some strains of HPV can lead to a persistent infection that can progress to cervical cancer if left untreated. Every year, about 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in the United States and nearly 4,000 die. However, cervical cancer is largely preventable with effective screening.[5]
  • Between 1,500 and 1,700 new cases of new HIV/AIDs infections occur daily in South Africa.[7]
  • Women and their children are at much greater risk than men for long-lasting or permanent consequences of STIs/STDs.[12]
  • Interesting Fact about STD
    Women often suffer more serious health complications from STIs/STDs than men

  • The rate of chlamydia among African-American men is more than 11 times that of white men. Additionally, African-Americans remain the group most heavily affected by gonorrhea.[5]
  • With a single chlamydia infection, there is a 25% chance of sterility for women. With a second infection, there is a 50% chance. And a third infection almost guarantees sterility, due to PID (pelvic inflammatory disease).[5]
  • While most STDs can be accurately tested soon after exposure, HIV should be tested for most accurate results about six months after possible exposure.[13]
  • STIs/STDs cannot be acquired in a swimming or public bathroom (unless you have sex in the pool or on the toilet). Most STIs/STDs are spread only through direct genital contact and begin to die immediately after they leave the infected person.[13]
  • Chancroid (“soft chancre”) is highly contagious but usually curable STI/STD. Unlike a syphilis chancre that is hard or rubbery, a chancroid is soft to the touch. Ulcers are painful in men, but women may not be aware of them. Rare in the Western world, the disease can be easily confused with syphilis or herpes.[11]
  • Bathhouses, which were popular in the 1970s—and offered gay men a variety of partners and sex, with promiscuity the norm—became breeding grounds for HIV.[1]
  • Interesting Syphilis Fact
    This is the earliest known medical illustration of people with syphilis, Vienna, 1498
  • Doctors in the late 1400s and early 1500s were so afraid of syphilis they would not write down its name. Instead they used the Greek letter Sigma as its symbol.[1]
  • Nearly half of U.S. youths and adolescents are unaware of their HIV infection, and less than a quarter are tested for the virus.[10]
  • The only STD that affects more men than women is syphilis.[5]
  • The rate at which HIV becomes AIDS varies greatly among individuals. Some who contract HIV develop AIDS very soon after; in others, full-blown AIDS won’t develop for 10 or more years.[13]
  • African-American children represent two thirds (65%) of all reported cases of pediatric AIDS.[7]
  • People with an STD are more likely to become infected with HIV because they usually have genital ulcerations which provide an easy route for HIV to enter the bloodstream.[13]
  • One in four teen girls has a sexual disease, with HPV (human papillomavirus) by far being the most common.[5]
  • HPV is believed to cause oral cancer in men at the same rate as tobacco and alcohol.[5]
  • A girl is four times more likely to contract an STI/STD than she is to become pregnant.[5]
  • Some STDs (syphilis) can cross the placenta and infect a baby while in the uterus. Other STDs (gonorrhea, genital herpes, chlamydia, hepatitis B) can be transmitted from mother to baby during delivery through the birth canal. HIV can cross the placenta during pregnancy, infect the baby during the birth and, unlike most STDs, can also infect the baby through breastfeeding.[12]
  • A pregnant woman with STDs may have an early onset of labor, premature rupture of membranes, uterine infections after delivery, or a stillbirth. The baby may suffer from low birth weight, eye infection (conjunctivitis), pneumonia, neonatal sepsis (blood infection), neurological damage, blindness, and liver disease.[12]
  • Every day in America, 12,000 teenagers contract a sexually transmitted disease.[5]
  • Interesting STD Statistic
    Young people, between the ages of 15 to 24, account for 50% of all new STDs; however, they represent just 25% of the sexually experienced population

  • The Pap test is named after the physician George Papanicolaou, who introduced this technique in 1949.[11]
  • Researchers now can identify the DNA of many HPV strains, which can be used to confirm the presence of HPV types that are linked to cervical disease.[9]
  • One out of 20 people will become infected with hepatitis B (HBV) during their life. HBV is linked to chronic liver disease and liver cancer.[13]
  • Hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and some types of HPV are the only vaccine-preventable STDs.[13]
  • Though one in five Americans has genital herpes, nearly 90% are unaware they have it. Some estimates suggest that by 2025 up to 40% of all men and half of all women could be infected.[13]
  • Al Capone had syphilis and it may have driven him mad. Other notable people who most likely suffered from syphilis include Hernando Cortéz, Adolph Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Friedrich Nietzsche, Edourd Manet, Napoleon and, possibly, Franz Schubert.[11]
  • A condom merely reduces—but does not eliminate—the risk of an STD.[13]
  • Interesting Condom Fact
    The US has the highest rate of STD infection in the industrialized world

  • In the beginning of the twentieth century, up to a third of all patients in mental asylums were thought to be suffering from tertiary syphilis.[11]
  • Second to African-American women, Native American women are diagnosed with STIs/STDS at a higher rater than all other racial/ethnic groups.[5]
  • Gonorrhea got its name in the year A.D. 131 from Galen, one of the greatest Greek physicians. Its name literally means “flow of seed” because Galen mistakenly thought the penile discharge was “seed” flowing out against its will.[11]
  • Syphilis is named after a mythological Greek shepherd named Syphilis who was cursed with a horrible disease as a punishment for insulting the god Apollo.[11]
  • Interesting Crab Louse Fact
    Humans are the only known hosts of the crab louse
  • Crabs (pubic lice) are small parasites that feed on human blood. They can be sexually transmitted even if there is no penetration or bodily fluid exchanged or even if a condom is worn. They can live 24 hours off a human host, making it possible to get crabs from infested bedding or clothes. Animals do not get crabs.[11]
  • Italians and Germans call syphilis the “French Disease,” and the French call it “the Spanish Disease.”[1]
  • Historians believe syphilis originated in the New World among the Native Americans in the Caribbean, and that Christopher Columbus may have been responsible for spreading syphilis to Europe.[1]
  • During the first outbreak of syphilis in Europe, in the late fifteenth century, nearly 10 million Europeans died.[1]

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