When you’re sexually active, pregnancy is usually your greatest concern. While pregnancy is something to be very concerned about, STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) are equally, if not more, worrisome. You are only at risk for pregnancy about three days per month (around the time of ovulation), but you are at risk for getting an STD every time you have sex.
There are now more than a dozen STDs, several of which are chronic, life-long infections. In the United States, an estimated 20 million new infections are diagnosed each year—over half of which occur in people ages 15 to 24. This costs the U.S. health care system about $17 billion per year.
What Are STDs?
Sexually transmitted diseases are diseases passed from person to person during sexual activity (e.g. vaginal, oral and anal sex, outercourse or mutual masturbation). STDs can be transmitted through bodily fluids and, in some cases, skin-to-skin contact.
It’s important to remember that not everyone infected with an STD will experience signs or symptoms. But STDs can still cause severe damage, and can be passed to your partner(s) without your knowledge. You don’t need to be experiencing symptoms to be contagious. You can spread the disease at any time.
STDs and STIs… What’s the difference?
The terms STD (sexually transmitted disease) and STI (sexually transmitted infection) are often used interchangeably. But do you know the difference?
The term “STI” (sexually transmitted infection) is used to describe the presence of an infection in the body, which may or may not be accompanied by symptoms. The term “STD” (sexually transmitted diseases) on the other hand, describes an infection that has caused damage in a person’s body—though, like sexually transmitted infections, an STD may or may not be accompanied by symptoms.
STI is the broader of the two terms. All STDs are STIs, though not all STIs become STDs.
Condoms are not as effective as you might think when it comes to preventing the spread of STIs. Using a condom during sex can reduce the risk of transmitting or contracting certain STIs, but using a condom never eliminates the risk entirely. Vaccinations exist for some STIs, but not all. The only sure way to avoid infection is to refrain from engaging in sexual activity.
If you think you may have an STI, call us to talk with a peer counselor and get a referral for STI testing right in your community. Facing the possibility of a sexually transmitted disease is scary, but you don’t have to go through it alone.
Some STIs can be treated and even cured with medications. Early detection is essential for effective treatment. Other STIs cannot be cured, but symptoms can be managed. Being checked for STIs is easy and harmless, and your health and safety is certainly worth it.
This information is intended for general educational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional counseling and/or medical advice.
"STD Trends in the United States," The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last modified March 2013, http://www.cdc.gov/std/stats11/trends-2011.pdf