HIV and AIDS are the most feared of all the sexually transmitted diseases and generally the first to come to mind. The other STDs are more prevalent, though.
In order to prevent any STD it is important to know how they are spread, the common symptoms and how they are treated. STDs affect women and men of all races, backgrounds and economic levels. About 2/3 of these infections are diagnosed in people under the age of 25.
The incidence of STDs is rising. People are likely to have more sexual partners throughout their lifetime than in the past, which increases the risk of STDs. Young people are becoming sexually active earlier, they’re getting married later and divorce is more common.
Many STDs have no symptoms, especially in women. These infections can still be spread to sexual partners. Health problems caused by sexually transmitted diseases tend to be more severe for women than men. Some STDs, especially chlamydia and gonorrhea, can spread from the vagina to the uterus and fallopian tubes causing Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). The scarring left by PID can lead to infertility or ectopic pregnancies (a pregnancy outside the uterus which if not terminated early can lead to death.) Human Papilloma Virus, HPV, one of the most common STDs, can cause cervical cancer and other cancers of the genitals. Undiagnosed STDs can be passed from mother to baby before and during delivery. Some infections are easily cured while others may require more extended treatment.
How are STDs Prevented?
- Arm yourself with information. Learn to recognize the symptoms in yourself and your partner.
- Do not have sex if you or your partner have symptoms of an STD and have not seen a health professional.
- Ask your partner about exposure to STDs.
- Use condoms correctly and consistently.
- Have regular checkups for STDs, even in the absence of symptoms.
- Inquire about any available vaccines.
How Do I Know if I am at High Risk for a STD?
- You have had more than one sexual partner in your lifetime
- You know or suspect your partner has had sex with other partners.
- You have shared IV drug needles, or have had sex with someone who has.
- You received blood between 1978 and March of 1985 or have had sex with someone who has.
- You have had an STD in the past.
Get tested if you think you are at risk for a sexually transmitted disease. Any information you share with your physician is confidential. When diagnosed early almost all STDs can be treated effectively, if not cured. It is important to always finish all the treatment prescribed.
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