You’ve probably heard of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) things like chlamydia and gonorrhea — and may have even seen some frightening pictures of them in your health classes. There are different types of STDS, some that can be cured (bacterial) and some that can be treated but not never go away entirely (viral) including HIV. Most STDs are not life threatening but can cause serious problems if left untreated, like not being able to have your own kids (infertility).
If you’re sexually active, you’d be smart to know how to reduce your risk of getting an STD or HIV, know the symptoms so you can tell if you have one, and to get tested every six months. Find a Health Center for free or low cost testing.
Nearly half of all new sexually transmitted diseases occur among young people ages 15-24. Chlamydia and gonorrhea can also increase the risk of HIV infection.
Chlamydia (cla-mid-ee-ah) can be transmitted from person to person without complete insertion of a penis into the vagina or butt. It can also be passed from mother to newborn during childbirth. Chlamydia infections are treatable and curable with antibiotics. Symptoms (for women, pain and itching of the vulva or vagina, for men pain or itching at the head of the penis) usually appear from one to three weeks after infection, and then go away, even if no medicine is taken. Many people infected with chlamydia never have any symptoms at all. For more on Chlamydia, click here.
Herpes and genital warts are caused by viruses and are spread by skin-to-skin contact. Herpes are sores that can appear around and on the mouth and genitals (penis and vulva); however, you don’t have to be having an outbreak to get infected. This means that just because your sex partner doesn’t have a sore on his penis or her vulva does not mean you can’t get herpes. There are drugs that you can get from your doctor or a local clinic that help control the outbreaks and make you less likely to infect someone else. For more on herpes, click here.
The same is true with human papilloma virus (HPV), the virus that causes genital warts. Actually, there are many different types of HPV, some that cause genital warts and some that cause other types of warts. Some strains of HPV that cause genital warts have been linked to cervical cancer. It is estimated that somewhere between 70 and 80% of sexually active adults have been exposed to the strains of HPV that cause genital warts. It is important that sexually active women get regular PAP smears to screen for cervical cancer. If you have not been sexually active, it’s a good idea to get the HPV vaccine to prevent the kind that is most likely to cause cancer. For more on HPV and warts, click here.