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Ten Things You
Are you having safe sex? If you answered “Sometimes” or “I think so,” consider these scary statistics: The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 19 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases occur each year in the U.S., and almost half are among 15- to 24-year-olds. Shocked? It gets worse. More than 50% of people worldwide will become infected with an STD in their lifetime. If you still think it can’t happen to you, here are 10 things you need to know about STDs…
1. Women are more susceptible to STDs than men…
It has nothing to do with promiscuity. Women are more vulnerable to infection than men because of our anatomy. It’s easier for men to transmit infections to women than vice versa. STDs are also more difficult to detect in women.
2. There are more than 25 known STDs…
The most common STDs are chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis B, genital herpes, HIV, human papillomavirus (HPV), syphilis, pubic lice/crabs, and trichomoniasis. Since 1980, more than eight new STDs, including HIV/AIDS, have been identified. Infections can be viral, bacterial or parasitic.
3. STDs can be transmitted through oral sex…
Contrary to popular belief, having oral sex doesn’t mean you’re playing it safe. In fact, having unprotected oral sex puts you at especially high risk for gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, and hepatitis B. Always use a condom when having oral sex with a new partner. Female condoms can also help reduce the risk of STDs, and should be used when receiving oral sex.
STDs can be contracted through vaginal, anal and oral sex. They travel from person to person through semen, vaginal fluids and blood. Some STDs can also enter the body through tiny cuts or tears in the mouth, genitals or anus.
4. STDs are treatable, but not all are curable…
Bacterial STDs like chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis can be cured. Viral STDs like herpes, hepatitis B, HIV, HPV, and genital warts are incurable, though they can be managed.
Living with an STD affects not only your physical health, it affects you emotionally, too. It can also take a toll on your romantic relationships.
If you have an STD, tell any potential partners before having sexual contact with them. Be straightforward and honest. In some states, it’s a criminal offense if you don’t! And before you have sex with a new partner, you should both get tested.
5. Some STDs are asymptomatic…
Since certain diseases have no visible symptoms, you may not know that you or your partner has been infected. Chlamydia, for example, is especially asymptomatic. Likewise, it can take up to 10 years or more for women to develop the symptoms of HIV. The time it takes for an STD to appear depends on the type of STD contracted.
STD symptoms are often similar to those caused by other infections, so it’s easy to mistake them for conditions like yeast infections or urinary tract infections. Remember: You don’t need to see an STD’s symptoms for it to be contagious.
Because many STDs are asymptomatic and women don’t get treated, it’s hard to know how many people become infected each year.
6. Untreated STDs can have serious health consequences…
Women suffer more frequent and serious health complications from STDs than men do. And by the time women notice symptoms or see a doctor, complications from the untreated infection may already have jeopardized their health.
STDs can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), cervical cancer, liver disease, and infertility. Some can be passed from mother to baby before, during or after birth. Pregnant women with STDs are also at a higher risk for tubal pregnancies, miscarriages and premature delivery. In a worst-case scenario, untreated syphilis can lead to death in women.
7. Chlamydia is the most commonly reported infectious disease in the U.S…
The CDC estimates that 2.8 million new cases of chlamydia are contracted each year. Most go undiagnosed. Chlamydia infects the cervix, making adolescent girls most susceptible since their cervix is changing during puberty.
The majority of women with chlamydia have no symptoms. Left untreated, chlamydia can cause PID, ectopic pregnancy and infertility. Fortunately, if detected early, chlamydia can be easily cured with antibiotics since it is a bacterial infection.
8. Most doctors don’t routinely screen for STDs…
The American Social Health Association reports that less than one-third of physicians routinely screen patients for STDs. And don’t assume a normal Pap test gives you a clean bill of health. A Pap smear only detects changes in cervical cells; it doesn’t test for specific diseases. However, an abnormal pap smear may indicate HPV, and further tests may be done. Ask your doctor what your exam will entail and request relevant testing if you’re sexually active.
9. Condoms aren’t a 100% guarantee against STDs…
They’re not fail safe, but aside from abstinence, condoms are the best and only protection against STDs. Use a new latex condom every time you have oral, anal or vaginal sex with a new partner outside of a monogamous relationship.
10. About 50% of sexually active women acquire genital HPV infection at some point in their lives…
Out of 100 strains of HPV, about 30 are sexually transmitted. About 10 are “high risk” and can lead to cervical cancer. “Low risk” types may cause genital warts.
Most will never know they have it because the immune system can eliminate the less aggressive forms of HPV on its own. However, more aggressive strains of HPV will stick around and cause multiple health problems, like cervical cancer. The only way to detect HPV is through a Pap smear, where pre-cancerous changes in the cervix are visible.
In June 2006, the FDA approved Gardasil, a cervical cancer vaccine for women between the ages of 9 and 26 years old. Talk to your doctor about whether you would benefit from vaccination.
Did You Know?
- 50% of all men and 75% of all women with Chlamydia do not even know that they are infected and show no visible signs?
- If you or your partner has one STD, your chances of contracting ANOTHER STD are greatly increased?
- 30% of people infected with Syphilis show NO signs or symptoms?
- Genital Herpes will infect 25% of ALL young adults in the United States by the age of 35?