What is Trichomoniasis?

Trichomoniasis is a protozoan parasite that infects the genital tract. In North America it infects about eight million people each year. Worldwide the annual total is 170 million. According to the CDC, it is the most common curable STD among young women.[1]

However, most people who are infected with trichomoniasis do not have symptoms, especially males. When symptoms are present, they may include genital irritation and burning with urination. For women the parasite can cause vaginitis, cervicitis, abnormal bleeding, swelling, itching, discharge, abdominal pain, and other symptoms. When a woman is infected with trichomoniasis, she is also more susceptible to contracting HIV, if exposed.[2] Although uncommon, an infected mother can pass the parasite on to her baby through childbirth. If she is infected while pregnant, the baby also has an increased risk of being born early and having low birth weight.

In regard to condom effectiveness in preventing the spread of trichomoniasis, the National Institutes of Health reported, “One limited study demonstrated a 30 percent protective effect for women. The [lack] of epidemiologic studies on condom effectiveness for trichomoniasis does not allow an accurate assessment of the reduction in risk of trichomoniasis offered by condom usage.”[3]

[1]. Centers for Disease Control, “Trichomoniasis,” fact sheet (May 2004).
[2]. F. Sorvillo, et al., “Trichomonas Vaginalis, HIV, and African-Americans,” Emerging Infectious Diseases 7:6 (November/December 2001), 927–932; J.R. Schwebke, “Update of Trichomoniasis,” Sexually Transmitted Infections 78:5 (2002), 378–379; Centers for Disease Control, “Trichomoniasis,” fact sheet.
[3]. National Institutes of Health, “Workshop Summary: Scientific Evidence on Condom Effectiveness for Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) Prevention.”