Sexually transmitted diseases or STDs are infectious diseases that spread from person to person though intimate contact. STDs can affect guys and girls of all ages and backgrounds who are having sex.
STDs are becoming more and more common: By the age of 21, almost one in five Americans require treatment for an STD. Because teens are more at risk for getting some STDs, it's important to learn what you can do to protect yourself.
STDs are more than just an embarrassment. They're a serious health problem. If not treated, some STDs can cause permanent damage, such as infertility (the inability to have a baby) and even death (HIV/AIDS is one of the STDs that's on the rise in teens).
How STDs Spread
One reason STDs spread is because people think they need to have sexual intercourse to become infected. That's wrong. A person can get some STDs, like herpes or genital warts, through skin-to-skin contact with an infected area or sore. Another myth about STDs is that you can't get them if you have oral or anal sex. That's also wrong because the viruses or bacteria that cause STDs can enter the body through tiny cuts or tears in the mouth and anus, as well as the genitals.
STDs also spread easily because you can't tell whether someone has an infection. In fact, some people with STDs don't even know that they have them. These people are in danger of passing an infection on to their sex partners without even realizing it.
Some Things That Increase the Risk of Getting an STD Are:
- Sexual activity at a young age. The younger a person starts having sex, the greater his or her changes of becoming infected with an STD.
- Lots of sex partners. People who have sexual contact - not just intercourse, but any form of intimate activity - with many different partners are more at risk than people who stay with the same partner.
- Unprotected sex
Preventing and Treating STDs
As with many other diseases, prevention is key. It's much easier to prevent STDs than treat them. The only way to completely prevent STDs is to abstain (go without) any and all types of sexual contact.
Don't let embarrassment at the thought of having an STD keep you from seeking medical attention. Waiting to see a doctor may allow a disease to progress and cause more damage. If you think you may have an STD, or if you have had a partner who may have an STD, you should see a doctor right away.
Not all infections in the genitals are caused by STDs. Sometimes people can get symptoms that seem very like those of STDs, even though they've never had sex. For girls, the vaginal infection bacterial vaginosis can easily be confused with both STDs and yeast infections. Guys may worry about bumps on the penis that turn out to be pimples or hair follicles. That's why it's important to see a doctor if you ever have questions about your sexual health.
Types of STDs
- Human Papilloma Virus & Genital Warts
- Genital Herpes (HSV-2)
- Genital Warts
- Hepatitus B (HBV)
- HIV and AIDS
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
- Pubic Lice (Crabs)
Find out more at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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