Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) affect people of all backgrounds and economic levels, and nearly half of all STDs occur in young people 15 to 24 years old. Read on to learn more about STDs and what you can do to maintain your sexual health.
STD Screening at Student Health
Reducing Risk of STDs
Sexually Transmitted Diseases are quite common among young people. It is estimated that 1 in 2 sexually active people under the age of 24 will contract an STD. Some STDs are curable, and all are treatable. There are many ways to reduce risk of STDs.
Abstinence – The most reliable way to prevent STDs is to avoid intercourse. This includes vaginal, anal, and oral sex.
Vaccination – Some STDs can be prevented by getting a vaccine. These include Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and Hepatitis B. HPV vaccines can protect against some of the most common types of HPV. It is best to get all of the shots before becoming sexually active. HPV vaccines are recommended for people ages 11- 26 even if they have already been sexually active. You should also get vaccinated for hepatitis B if you were not vaccinated when you were younger.
Mutual Monogamy - Mutual monogamy means that you agree to be sexually active with only one person, who has agreed to be sexually active only with you. Being in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner is one of the most reliable ways to avoid STDs. But you must both be certain you are not infected with STDs, so make sure you get tested before you engage in sexual activity. It is important to have an ongoing open and honest conversation with your partner regarding your relationship status and STD prevention.
Consensual Non-monogamy – This is defined as any relationship where all people involved openly agree to have more than one concurrent sexual and/or romantic relationship. Studies show that STD rates in those practicing consensual non-monogamy are the same as those practicing mutual monogamy.
Reducing Number of Sex Partners - Reducing your number of sex partners can decrease your risk for STDs. It is still important that you and your partner(s) get tested, and that you share your test results with one another.
Use Condoms – Consistent and correct use of latex or polyurethane condoms for vaginal and anal sex can reduce risk of getting an STD. Both external (aka. male) condoms and internal (aka. female) condoms can protect from STDs if used consistently and correctly each and every time. Here’s a quick overview of how to use an external condom correctly and here’s one for the internal condom (for a more detailed description of how to use an internal condom, read more. For oral sex, condoms or other latex barriers (dental dams) can be used to reduce risk of STDs. Remember, condoms are the only form of birth control that also protect against STDs. Condoms and other latex barriers are available at the SHCS Wellness Center.
Regular testing - Knowing your STD status is a critical step to stopping STD transmission. If you know you are infected, you can take steps to protect yourself and your partners. Be sure to ask your healthcare provider to test you for STDs — asking is the only way to know whether you are receiving the right tests. And don’t forget to tell your partner(s) to ask a healthcare provider about STD testing as well. Many STDs can be easily diagnosed and treated. If either you or your partner(s) are infected, receive treatment at the same time to avoid getting re-infected. Find a testing center near you https://gettested.cdc.gov/ .
Chlamydia is a common STD caused by the bacterium, Chlamydia trachomatis. Even though symptoms of chlamydia are usually mild or absent, serious complications can cause irreversible damage to the fallopian tubes, resulting in infertility. Symptoms of chlamydia might include unusual vaginal discharge, pelvic pain and / or pain with urination. Chlamydia also can cause discharge from the penis.
Genital Herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the herpes simplex viruses type 1 (HSV-1) or type 2 (HSV-2). Most genital herpes is caused by HSV-2. Most individuals have no or only minimal signs or symptoms from HSV-1 or HSV-2 infection. When signs do occur, they typically appear as one or more blisters on or around the genitals or rectum. The blisters break, leaving tender ulcers (sores) that may take two to four weeks to heal the first time they occur. Typically, another outbreak can appear weeks or months after the first, but it almost always is less severe and shorter than the first outbreak. Although the infection can stay in the body indefinitely, the number of outbreaks tends to decrease over a period of years.
Genital HPV Infection- human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). The virus infects the skin and mucous membranes. There are more than 40 HPV types that can infect the genital areas, including the skin of the penis, vulva (area outside the vagina), and anus, and the linings of the vagina, cervix, and rectum. In most cases, you cannot see HPV, and it will go away on its own without causing any health problems. Most people who become infected with HPV do not even know they have it. But when HPV does not go away, it can cause health problems like genital warts and certain types of cancers of the mouth, throat, anus, rectum or genitals. Getting the HPV vaccine series and practicing safe sex can help prevent HPV.
Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Gonorrhea is caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae, a bacterium that can grow and multiply easily in the warm, moist areas of the reproductive tract, including the cervix (opening to the womb), uterus (womb), and fallopian tubes (egg canals), and in the urethra (urine canal). The bacterium can also grow in the mouth, throat, eyes, and anus.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) is a general term that refers to infection of the uterus (womb), fallopian tubes (tubes that carry eggs from the ovaries to the uterus) and other reproductive organs. It is a common and serious complication of some sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), especially chlamydia and gonorrhea. PID can damage the fallopian tubes and tissues in and near the uterus and ovaries. PID can lead to serious consequences including infertility, ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy in the fallopian tube or elsewhere outside of the womb), abscess formation, and chronic pelvic pain.
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum. The first sign of syphilis is a painless sore in the genital area, and if it is detected in its early stages, it is very easy to treat and cure. If left untreated, syphilis can lead to serious health consequences (usually 10-30 years after infection). Currently, this disease is on the rise in certain populations (for example, men who have sex with men) so any person engaging in sexual activity with a partner who may be at risk should be tested annually.
Trichomoniasis is a common sexually transmitted infection caused by a protozoan parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. Most people who have this infection don’t have any symptoms. If someone has symptoms, they can include itching, irritation, unusual vaginal discharge, and discomfort during sex. Trichomoniasis can be cured with a single dose of a prescription medication.