Sexually Transmitted Infections:
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) were formerly referred to as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). STIs cannot be diagnosed immediately following an act of sexual violence. Although you may have received preventative medications for Gonorrhea and Chlamydia, follow up testing is highly recommended one month after the sexual assault and 90 days later for syphilis testing. The Fort Wayne Allen County Department of Health offers STI testing.
You can reach the Department of Health by calling (260) 449-7504 to receive confidential testing. You can also visit their website by clicking here. The clinic is open Monday-Friday 8am-4:30pm by appointment only. The cost is $30 for both females and males. This includes all STI testing, follow up, and medications.
The Lafayette Street Family Health Clinic also offers free/reduced costs for services that include birth control/emergency contraception, pap smears/cervical cancer screenings, and HIV and STI testing and treatments. They can be reached by phone at (260) 481-0400. You can also visit their website by clicking here. Please call to make an appointment as hours vary daily Monday-Friday.
There are numerous STIs that include chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhea, genital herpes, genital warts, hepatitis B and HIV. Listed below is more information on each STI.
Chlamydia: A bacterial infection of the genital area. There are approximately 12 million new cases each year. There are often no symptoms present, but may include abnormal discharge from the penis or vagina and/or burning sensation when urinating. Women may experience abdominal pain and bleeding between periods. The infection is spread through vaginal, oral and anal sex, and may be spread from mother to child during childbirth. It is treated by oral antibiotics. If left untreated it may cause sterility (inability to have children) in males and females.
Syphilis: A bacterial infection that can spread throughout the body. There are about 46,000 new cases per year. The symptoms vary, beginning with a painful sore (chancre) on the mouth or sex organs. Other symptoms can appear up to six months after the first sore has disappeared. It is spread through vaginal, oral, or anal sex. It can be passed by kissing if a sore is present and from mother to child during childbirth. Antibiotics can cure if it is caught early, but medication cannot undo damage already done. There is an increased risk of other STIs, including HIV. If left untreated, the infection can cause damage to the brain, heart and nervous system.
Gonorrhea: A bacterial infection of the genital area. About 650,000 new cases are introduced each year, with the highest rates with women between the ages of 15-19 and men 20-24 years old. Most infected people have no symptoms. For those that do have symptoms the most common are burning while urinating, abnormal white/green/yellowish discharge of the vagina and penis. Oral antibiotics can cure the infection. If left untreated it can cause damage to the fallopian tubes in women and to the sperm passageway in men.
Genital Herpes: A viral infection of the genital area. There is an estimated 1 million new infections each year. Most people have no symptoms. Herpes 1 can cause painful blisters or cold sores around the mouth. Herpes 2 can cause genital sores or blisters. Symptoms usually occur within the first month of exposure. It is spread through vaginal, oral and anal sex. It can be passed through skin-to-skin sexual contact, kissing and rarely from mother to child during childbirth. There is no cure for herpes. The virus stays in the body and may cause repeated outbreaks. Medications can help treat symptoms, reduce the frequency of outbreaks, and reduce the likelihood of spreading it to sexual partners. The infection increases the risk for other STIs including HIV.
Genital Warts: A viral infection called HPV that causes small growths. An estimated 6.2 million new cases of HPV are infected each year. The warts may appear in or around the mouth and/or sex organs within weeks, months, years or not at all. The warts are usually painless, but can cause itching and irritation at the affected area. It is spread through oral, vaginal and anal sex. It can also be passed through skin-to-skin sexual contact and in rare cases from mother to child during childbirth. There is no cure for HPV but there are ways to treat it. Warts can be removed, frozen off, or treated with topical medicines. Even after treatment the virus can remain and warts can come back. There is currently a vaccine available to prevent infection. There is a strong link between genital warts and cervical cancer.
Hepatitis B: A viral infection that affects the liver. There are an estimated 40,000 new cases each year. Many people do not have any symptoms. People can experience tiredness, aches, nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, yellowing of skin and eyes (called jaundice). It is spread through vaginal, oral and anal sex. It is also spread through the sharing of contaminated needles or razors, exposure to the blood, bodily fluids or saliva of an infected person. There are anti-retroviral medications available. There is a vaccine available to prevent Hepatitis B. Having hepatitis B increases the risk for other STIs including HIV. It can lead to chronic liver problems and cirrhosis or cancer of the liver.
HIV: Is the virus that causes AIDS. About 56,000 new infections are reported each year. Many people who are infected with HIV do not have any symptoms and feel healthy. Symptoms people get are usually related to infections and cancers from a weakened immune system. The virus is spread through vaginal, oral, and anal sex. It can also be caused by sharing contaminated needles, from contact with blood, and from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth and breast feeding. There is no cure for HIV or AIDS. Anti-retroviral treatment can slow the progression of HIV and delay the onset of AIDs.
The risk of acquiring HIV from sexual abuse/assault is small but real. Medications may help prevent HIV transmission and are sometimes an option. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations are as follows:
- If known that the perpetrator does not have HIV or if the time frame is greater than 72 hours after potential exposure: NO MEDICATIONS
- If you don’t know the HIV status of the perpetrator and if the abuse/assault occurred in 72 hours or less: Contact your family doctor to discuss risks, side effects and appropriateness of medication options in your particular case. Medicines would need to be started within 72 hours of the assault and continued for 28 days.
- If you know the perpetrator does have HIV and there is a reasonable chance that the exposure could result in infection and the time frame 72 hours or less: Contact your family doctor IMMEDIATELY. Medicines would need to be started within 72 hours of the assault and continued for 28 days.
The Center for Disease control has a HIV hotline at 1-800-CDC-INFO or 1-800-232-4636. HIV testing is available at the sites listed above as well as the AIDS Task Force. The AIDS Task Force is located at 525 Oxford Street, Fort Wayne, IN and the telephone number is (260) 744-1144. They are open on Mondays from 3pm to 6pm. A rapid HIV test is available at the AIDS Task Force, Allen County Board of Health, emergency rooms, and most doctor’s offices. This rapid test will show if you have been exposed to the HIV virus.