Sexual Health

Becoming pregnant is often your greatest concern once you become sexually active. However, sexual health goes beyond pregnancy. STDs and STIs (sexually transmitted diseases and sexually transmitted infections) also may affect your future and your health.

What is an STD or STI?

STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) and STIs (sexually transmitted infections) are diseases passed from person to person through sexual activities like vaginal, oral, and anal sex. They are often spread through bodily fluids yet it is possible for some diseases to spread through skin-to-skin contact, including genital touching [i].

Not everyone who has a STD will have symptoms. STDs can still cause damage and be unknowingly passed to you or from you even without any present symptoms. Young women in particular are at a greater risk due to the biological make-up of their bodies and the long-term effects STDs can have on their health [ii].

What’s the difference between STDs and STIs?

The terms are often used interchangeably. The term “disease” indicates there is some symptom present in a person who has been infected. Because several STDs have no signs or symptoms, some public health experts believe “infection” is a more accurate term. An infection can be present even without symptoms and it does not necessarily result in a disease. In sum, all STDs are also STIs but not all STIs are STDs [iii].

How common are STDs/STIs?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are about 20 million new cases of STDs each year in the United States. Approximately half of those cases occur in people between the ages of 15 and 24 [iv].

Can I prevent STDs and STIs?

Condoms can reduce the risk of giving or getting STDs but they do not completely eliminate the risk. Available vaccinations may offer protection from some STDs but will not protect you from all STDs.

Abstaining from all sexual activity before marriage and staying sexually faithful in marriage is the only way to remain 100 percent protected from STDs and STIs.

Treatment

If you think you may have an STD or STI contact your health care provider immediately for testing and treatment. It is recommended that you stop all sexual activity, and notify all sexual partners that they may be at risk if you think you may have an STD or STI.

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.

[i] http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/sexually-transmitted-infections.html (Accessed 9/9/14)

[ii] http://www.cdc.gov/std/life-stages-populations/STDFact-Teens.htm (Accessed 9/9/14)

[iii] http://www.ashasexualhealth.org/std-sti.html (Accessed 9/9/14)

[iv] http://www.cdc.gov/std/life-stages-populations/STDFact-Teens.htm (Accessed 9/9/14)

 

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