Sexually Transmitted Diseases and Sexually Transmitted Infections (aka STDs and STIs) are just what they sound like – diseases and infections spread through sexual contact. There are many different types, some are more serious than others, some are treatable, and some have more symptoms than others. The best thing that you can do to protect yourself is to be armed with the knowledge of the risks, how to minimize your risk, and to get tested. The only certain way to avoid STDs is to avoid sex. IF you are having sex, you should always use either a male or female condom to minimize your risk of contracting or spreading an STD.
Anyone can get an STD
Women and men, young and old, any race or background – anyone can get and spread an STD. STDs are most common in teens and young adults. In fact, about one quarter of all sexually active teens get an STD each year.
You can’t always see an STD
Some STDs are visible – like genital warts or rashes -- but most aren’t. This could mean that you or your partner could have an STD without knowing it. That’s why protection is always important. Even if your partner tells you that he or she does not have an STD, they just may not know or may not be being honest with you. It’s important to know the non-visible symptoms of an STD so that you can identify them. It is also a good idea to get tested regularly while you are sexually active.
You can get an STD through any kind of sex
Vaginal, anal, oral – you name it, you can contract and spread an STD through any form. Some STDs are even spread through simple skin-to-skin contact or kissing. That’s why it is so important to know who you are intimate with and use discretion.
How to minimize your risk
Have an open conversation with your partner before you start getting intimate with each other. Ask when the last time they got tested was, their sexual history, and their drug use. Bother partners need to be completely open and honest with each other. If you or your partner haven’t been recently tested, then you should both be sure to get tested before becoming intimate. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Using condoms can sometimes be a hassle, but wouldn’t having an STD for the rest of your life be an even bigger hassle? Trust your judgment, if you ever feel uncomfortable with a situation or with what your partner is doing then walk away from the situation or talk about it together.
You can also minimize your risk by avoiding alcohol and drug use. If you’re drunk or high, it’s hard to make good decisions about anything, including sex. It’s very common for people to do things drunk or high that they normally wouldn’t do if they were sober. STDs can be spread through sharing drug paraphernalia like needs and bongs. Being responsible and avoiding drugs and alcohol altogether will significantly reduce your risk of STDs.
Since STDs and STIs don’t always have symptoms, the only way to be sure that you don’t have one is to get tested. Getting tested is fast, painless, and easy. If you do have an STD or STI, it’s important to start treating it immediately so it doesn’t turn into a bigger problem. To find a testing center near you, visit http://stayteen.org/health-centers.