Sexually transmitted diseases or STDs is that awkward topic that people avoid talking about. It is even considered embarrassing enough to visit and discuss with a doctor or talk to one’s partner about getting tested. Imagine what it must be like for teenagers and young adults to find answers they need regarding STDs and sex!
The bottom line is that knowledge is crucial in controlling the risks involved in getting an STD, and it is important for impressionable people like teenagers to seek that information. Here’s why:
Studies show that over 50% of all people will have an STD or STI during the course of their lives.
According to CDC’s 2014 report, United States witnesses nearly 20 million new cases of STIs every year.
The American Social Health Association (ASHA) reports that half of all new HIV cases in the US are aged between 15-24 years of age.
Alarming, isn’t it? Here are some key facts and myth busters every teen must know about STDs:
What is an STD?
STDs are infections transmitted from an infected person to another through sexual activity, whether it is vaginal, oral or anal. Some STDs are curable, while there are others that cannot be treated. Many remain asymptomatic, so the person does not realize s/he has an infection that can be passed to a healthy person.
Examples of STDs include HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhoea, genital herpes, syphilis, and human papilloma virus (HPV).
Who can get an STD?
Anyone, regardless of age or gender, who engages in sexual acts, can get an STD.
A big myth buster is that STD does not always require vaginal sex to spread. Bacteria and viruses can enter the body through tears or cuts in the anus or mouth during anal or oral sex.
How will I know I have an STD?
Since many STDs can remain asymptomatic, the only way to know for sure is to get tested regularly. Blood tests are done to check for HIV, herpes, hepatitis B and syphilis. Chlamydia and gonorrhea require a urine sample. Girls may undergo a pelvic exam too in case of pelvic pain or abnormal discharge.
Can condoms protect me from STDs?
Yes, condoms can protect by reducing the risk of getting an STD, but they are not 100 per cent safe. This is because a condom only protects the area it covers, but there are other parts of skin that are exposed, which can get infected by organisms that can be transmitted through skin contact, like the human papilloma virus (HPV) or genital herpes. Some condoms, like skin condoms, do not offer protection against viruses.
Also, a condom must be worn soon after an erection. Waiting too long may lead to both – unplanned pregnancies and STDSs.
There is No Reason to Feel Embarrassed
If you feel you need more information about STDs and ways to protect yourself, don’t hesitate to seek help. If you think you have an STD or are at a high risk of getting one owing to your partner(s), you should not delay seeing a doctor.
You Can Protect Yourself!
Please know it is easier to prevent most STDs than it is to treat them. The only way to completely remove your risk to STDs is abstinence from sex. However, in a real world, you can start be following the measures:
- Don’t rush into becoming sexually active. It is okay to say ‘no’ if you do not feel comfortable with it or know much about it.
- Make sure you always use a condom. Learn the right way to use one.
- Teenaged girls must take special care to protect themselves against STDs, as these can affect their reproductive health. Once sexually active, regular screening tests are important.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs, and if you must drink, drink responsibly. These substances can make you more likely to take risks, and lead to unsafe sexual practices.
If you have any questions, feel free to drop in a question on our online teens clinic. Don’t worry, your identity is safe with us. We never share your private information anywhere.
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“CDC Fact Sheet: Information for Teens: Staying Healthy and Preventing STDs,” CDC.gov, http://www.cdc.gov/std/life-stages-populations/STDFact-Teens.htm
“Commonly Asked Questions About Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)”HHS.gov, U.S. Department Of Health And Human Services, http://www.hhs.gov/opa/pdfs/teen-talk-vol-2.pdf
Koutsky L. (1997). Epidemiology of genital human papillomavirus infection. American Journal of Medicine, 102(5A), 3-8.
“Reported STDs in the United States 2013 National Data for Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and Syphilis – CDC Factsheet,” CDC.gov, http://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/newsroom/docs/STD-Trends-508.pdf
“Sexually Transmitted Diseases,” HHS.gov, U.S. Department Of Health And Human Services, http://www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/adolescent-health-topics/reproductive-health/stds.html
“STD testing: What’s right for you?”MayoClinic.com, Mayo Clinic Staff, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sexually-transmitted-diseases-stds/in-depth/std-testing/art-20046019
“Teens and STDs: Get the Facts,” Teens.WebMD.com, Stephanie Watson, http://teens.webmd.com/features/teens-stds-get-facts
“What you should know about STDs,” KidsHealth.org, http://kidshealth.org/teen/sexual_health/stds/std.html