Sexually Transmitted Diseases/Infections (STDs)
Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)/Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
STDs/STIs infect the mouth, genital and anal areas of the body. Although some STDs/STIs can also be spread through sexual skin-to-skin contact, STDs/STIs are spread mainly through oral, vaginal, or anal sex with an infected partner. Some STDs/STIs can also be spread from an infected mother to her child during the birthing process.
STDs/STIs are either viral or bacterial. A viral infection is caused by a virus and cannot be cured. However, although a virus will remain in the body for life, symptoms of the virus might not be present at all times. A bacterial infection is caused by a bacterial organism, and the active infection can be cured. The infection must be treated early, however, to ensure that the damage it caused to the body can be repaired. Whether an infection is viral or bacterial, the infection can have long-term effects on the body, such as infertility or sterility, and can leave the body vulnerable to more serious diseases, such as HIV. Ultimately, untreated STDs/STIs can affect numerous organ systems in the body.
Bacterial infections include chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. Viral infections include human papillomavirus (HPV), herpes (HSV or herpes simplex virus), human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) and Hepatitis B. STDs/STIs are 100 percent preventable through abstinence from oral, vaginal and anal sex. For individuals who choose to engage in sexual activity including oral sex, vaginal sex and anal sex, the proper and consistent use of a latex or polyurethane condom during every sexual encounter will greatly help reduce the risk of contracting an STD/STI or HIV.
Alcohol and drug use frequently play a role in STD/STI transmission because both may cause impaired judgment, leaving a person more vulnerable to engaging in risky behaviors such as unprotected or unwanted sex. Routine testing and screening for STDs/STIs, HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C through a health care provider is critical for treatment and prevention of complications. Treatment may require medicine specific to the infection, as prescribed by a health care provider.
Did you know...?
- STDs impact young people the hardest. Half of all STDs are in people under 25 years old, although they represent only a quarter of people having sex.
- The only sure way to avoid STDs is to not have vaginal, anal, or oral sex. If you are sexually active, you can reduce your risk of getting an STD by using a condom.
- You can’t tell if someone has an STD just by looking at them. Many STDs don’t cause any symptoms, so the only way to know for sure is to get tested.
- STD tests aren’t always part of a regular doctor visit. Many doctors may not give you an HIV or STD test unless you ask for one.
- Even if you use birth control, you should still think about STD prevention. Birth control methods like the pill, patch, ring, and IUD are very effective at preventing pregnancy, but they do not protect against STDs and HIV.