What are STDs?
STDs are diseases that are usually passed through sexual contact with an infected partner. STDs include many diseases, such as AIDS, chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital herpes, genital warts, and syphilis. STDs are widespread; more than 12 million people in the US are infected each year.
Why should I learn about STDs?
STDs are a danger to everyone who has sex, even ONCE. Unborn children are
also at risk.
If left untreated, STDs can have serious side effects, including:
- sterility (being unable to have a child)
- brain damage
- heart disease
- birth defects
- low birth rate
- premature Birth
- increased risk for some types of cancer
How are STDs spread?
STDs are spread through contact with:
Activities that expose you to infected body fluids or skin include:
- infected body fluids, such as blood, vaginal secretions, or semen
- infected skin or mucous membranes - for example, sores in the mouth
- vaginal, anal, or oral sex WITHOUT proper use of a latex condom or other barrier methods. Anal sex is especially risky because it often causes bleeding.
- sharing needles or syringes for drug use, ear piercing, tattooing, etc.
- Having an STD may increase your risk of getting HIV. STDs can break down the body's most important defense - the skin and mucous membranes, causing sores and thus provide a way for HIV to enter the body.
Most activities don't spread STDs!
You cannot get an STD from everyday, nonsexual activities, such as:
- giving blood
- sitting next to an infected person
- sitting on toilet seats
- sharing eating utensils
- touching doorknobs
- using swimming pools
How can you avoid STDs?
There are safe alternatives to vaginal, anal, or oral sex. For example:
If you are not in a monogamous relationship, be sure to:
- Don't have sex. Abstinence is the only sure way to avoid getting an STD.
- Masturbation. Masturbation with your partner (on unbroken skin), or alone,can provide sexual pleasure safely.
- Massage. Caressing and stroking can express affection and give pleasure.
- Kissing. This can be a safe way to be physically close, as long as both partners are free of cuts and sores in the mouth.
- Fantasy. The brain is one of the most powerful sex organs. Use your imagination for satisfying sexual pleasure.
- If you have sex, have sex only with one partner who:
- has no STD (monogamy)
- has sex with you only (monogamy)
- Use barrier methods like latex condoms. Latex condoms are your best protection from STDs during intercourse. But remember, even condoms are not 100% effective.
- Limit the number of partners you have. The more partners you have, the greater the risk of being exposed to an STD. Remember, you can't tell if someone has an STD just by looking at them.
- Have regular physical exams. Ask you physician to test for STDs if you think you've been exposed. Regular tests help find STDs early, when treatment can be most effective.
Condoms help protect both partners from STDs and unwanted pregnancy.
To use a condom properly, you'll need:
To use condoms correctly:
- A latex condom ("rubber"). The HIV virus and other STDs may pass through "natural" or "skin" condoms.
- A water-based lubricant. This helps keep the condom from breaking. Never use products that contain oil or fat, like petroleum jelly or cooking oil. These products weaken latex and may cause the condom to break.
- A new condom. Use one every time you have sex, even oral or anal. Discard any "new" condom that's damaged, sticky, or brittle.
- Put the condom on BEFORE any sexual contact.
- Leave a 1/2 inch space at the tip to collect semen. Cover the penis completely.
- Smooth out any air bubbles to reduce stress on the condom, and to increase feeling. Apply spermicide to the outside of the condom.
- Check the condom during sex to make sure it's unbroken and still on properly.
- Withdraw slowly right after climax. Hold the condom by it's base so it doesn't slip off. Dispose of properly.
To help further reduce the risk of contracting an STD:
- Don't inject drugs. Sharing needles or syringes can expose you to infected blood. Not injecting drugs is an essential part of protecting yourself from STDs.
- Avoid alcohol and other drugs. They can make you more likely to take chances when having sex.
- Don't douche. You may force germs farther into the vagina or alter the natural balance of vaginal fluids.
The symptoms of STDs may include:
- sores or blisters on or around the sex organs or mouth
- pain or burning during urination
- discharge from the penis or vagina that smells or looks unusual
- itching, swelling, or pain in or around the sex organs
Get tested right away if you think you have any symptoms, or think you've been exposed to an STD (even if have no symptoms, talk about your STD testing needs with your doctor during your health care visits). Remember, many STDs don't have any symptoms, especially in women.
Remember: If you have an STD, seek proper medical care immediately! Home remedies can make an accurate diagnosis difficult!
If you have an STD, be sure to:
- Talk to all sex partner(s) who may have been exposed. Encourage them to get tested. Both partners need to be treated to avoid reinfection.
- Avoid sexual intercourse until your physician says it's okay to resume so you don't get reinfected, or spread the disease to others.
- Follow your treatment plan and finish all medications, even if you feel well. Follow up exams can make sure treatment was effective.
- Get counseling if you're worried or upset about having an STD. Your physician or STD clinic can recommend a counselor.
What other types of birth control help protect against STDs?
Only latex condoms are considered effective protection against STDs. Birth control pills, diaphragms, sponges, and other contraceptives do not prevent STDs.
A lot of men carry condoms in their wallets. Is this a good idea?
No. Exposure to body heat, sunlight, and extreme cold can all damage condoms and make them more likely to break.
Once I've had an STD, can I get it again?
Yes. Sex without a condom can result in getting an STD, no matter what STD you've already had.
For more information on AIDS/HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Call 311.