What are STD’s?
STD’s (sexually transmitted diseases) are diseases you catch during sex. Some are caused by bacteria, others by viruses. The most common STD’s are:
- Genital Herpes, caused by Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV)
- Genital Warts, caused by Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
- Hepatitis B and C
- Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), which causes AIDS
What is STD screening?
STD screening involves tests that find out if a person has any STD’s. STD’s often don’t cause any symptoms. People can have STD’s and not know it. That’s why screening is so important.
Doctors recommend that people who are at risk for STD’s be screened even if they have no symptoms and feel fine. For example, you could be at risk for Chlamydia if you had unprotected sex with a new partner. Screening for Chlamydia will alert your doctor that you have this infection. Treatment will prevent the infection from getting worse and keep you from infecting other people.
How is STD screening done?
There are different types of screening tests for different infections. Some involve blood or urine tests. Others involve swabs obtained during an exam. Your provider can work with you to decide which tests are needed for you.
What symptoms should I watch for?
STD symptoms are not always obvious. You could have an STD and have no symptoms at all. Even when symptoms occur, they may be mild, and may be temporary, making them easy to overlook. Some symptoms include:
- Painful urination
- Lower abdominal pain
- Abnormal vaginal discharge (yellow, bloody, malodorous)
- Vaginal itching or irritation
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Painful, itchy, or irregular bumps, blisters, or ulcers in the genital area
- fever, rash, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes
- yellow skin or eyes, dark urine
Can STD’s be prevented?
There are several ways to avoid or reduce your risk of sexually transmitted infections:
- Abstain This is the most effective way.
- Stay with 1 uninfected partner Stay in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who isn’t infected.
- Get vaccinated Getting vaccinated BEFORE sexual exposure is effective in preventing some STDs, such as HPV and Hepatitis B. The HPV vaccine is recommended for girls and boys ages 11 and 12. If not fully vaccinated, you can receive the vaccine up to the age of 26. The Hepatitis vaccine is given to infants.
- Wait and Verify Avoid contact with new partners until you have BOTH been tested for STD’s.
- Use Protection Consistent, correct use of a new latex condom with every act of sex, whether vaginal, oral, or anal, can reduce your risk of exposure to STD’s. Never use an oil-based lubricant, such as vaseline, with a condom. Keep in mind that condoms still may not protect you from some STD’s, such as HPV and HSV.
- Don’t Drink Alcohol Excessively or Use Drugs If you are under the influence, you are more likely to take sexual risks.
- Avoid Anonymous, Casual Sex Don’t look for sex partners online or in bars or other pickup places. Not knowing your sex partner well increases the risk of exposure to STD’s.
- Communicate Before any sexual contact, communicate with your partner about practicing safer sex. Reach an explicit agreement about what activities will and won’t be okay.
- Teach Your Child Becoming sexually active at a young age tends to increase a person’s number of overall partners, and as a result, their risk of STD’s. Biologically, young girls are more susceptible to infection. Help your teen understand the risks of sexual activity, and that it’s okay to wait to have sex.
Can STD’s be Treated?
Most STD’s can be treated, and some can even be cured. Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent some of the possible long-term complications. Awareness of STD’s can help you take precautions to reduce your likelihood of infecting others. For all of these reasons, screening for STD’s is a good idea.