STD’s are diseases that are passed from one person to another through sexual contact. These include chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital herpes, human papillomavirus (HPV), syphilis, and HIV. Many of these STD’s do not show symptoms for a long time. Even without symptoms, they can still be harmful and passed on during sex.
You can get an STD by having vaginal, anal or oral sex with someone who has an STD. Anyone who is sexually active can get an STD. You don’t even have to “go all the way” (have anal or vaginal sex) to get an STD. This is because some STD’s, like herpes and HPV, are spread by skin-to-skin contact.
STD’s are common, especially among young people. There are about 20 million new cases of STD’s each year in the United States. About half of these infections are in people between the ages of 15 and 24. Young people are at greater risk of getting an STD for several reasons:
The surest way to protect yourself against STD’s is to not have sex. That means not having any vaginal, anal, or oral sex (“abstinence”). There are many things to consider before having sex. It’s okay to say “no” if you don’t want to have sex.
Many STD’s don’t cause any symptoms that you would notice. The only way to know for sure if you have an STD is to get tested. You can get an STD from having sex with someone who has no symptoms. Just like you, that person might not even know he or she has an STD.
There are places that offer confidential and free STD tests. Many are teen-friendly if you are a young person. This means that no one has to find out you’ve been tested.
Your doctor can prescribe medicine to cure some STD’s, like chlamydia and gonorrhea. Other STD’s, like herpes, can’t be cured, but you can take medicine to help with the symptoms.
If you are ever treated for an STD, be sure to finish all of your medicine, even if you feel better before you finish it all. Ask the doctor or nurse about testing and treatment for your partner, too. You and your partner should avoid having sex until you’ve both been treated. Otherwise, you may continue to pass the STD back and forth. It is possible to get an STD again (after you’ve been treated), if you have sex with someone who has an STD.
Some curable STD’s can be dangerous if they aren’t treated. For example, if left untreated, chlamydia and gonorrhea can make it difficult—or even impossible—for a woman to get pregnant. You also increase your chances of getting HIV if you have an untreated STD. Some STD’s, like HIV, can be fatal if left untreated.
Some STD’s, like herpes and HIV, aren’t curable, but a doctor can prescribe medicine to treat the symptoms.
If you are living with an STD, it’s important to tell your partner before you have sex. Although it may be uncomfortable to talk about your STD, open and honest conversation can help your partner make informed decisions to protect his or her health.
If you have questions, talk to a parent or other trusted adult. Don’t be afraid to be open and honest with them about your concerns. If you’re ever confused or need advice, they’re the first place to start. After all, they were young once, too.
Talking about sex with a parent or another adult doesn’t need to be a one-time conversation. It’s best to leave the door open for conversations in the future.
It’s also important to talk honestly with a doctor or nurse. Ask which STD tests and vaccines they recommend for you.