Protecting yourself from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can be as easy as being aware of what they are and how to prevent them.
That's one of the reasons that April is Sexually Transmitted Infections Awareness Month. Becoming "aware" is the first step for you, your teenager or anyone you know who needs a gentle "awareness" reminder. (Go ahead - share this post!)
What is an STD?
The easy part is the definition - STDs are diseases that are passed from one person to another through sexual contact. This can be by having vaginal, anal or oral sex with someone who has an STD.
The scary part?
Your partner may not know they have an STD, because many are without symptoms for a long time - years, in fact.
STDs are more common than you might think. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 20 million new cases of STDs occur EVERY YEAR. And half of those cases are young adults, aged 15-24.
Why so many young adults? Talking about sexual activity with a doctor, nurse or informed adult is, well, uncomfortable for many.
And if they don't want to talk to a caring adult, they might not want to talk to their sex partner either. Multiple sex partners is another factor.
This isn't rocket science - a lot of it is plain common sense.
With many STDs having no symptoms, you don't know what you don't know. If you've been sexually active, you should get tested - then you'll know how to proceed with treatments (if necessary) and have open and honest conversations with future partners. Have your partner tested, too!
Not having sex is the surest prevention! Abstinence includes vaginal, anal and oral sex.
Agree to sexual relations only with each other. And start after you've both been tested.
Use a Condom
From start to finish EVERY time you have vaginal, anal or oral sex. Knowing where to get condoms, having them available and understanding the proper way to use them are all equally important.
Being aware and being smart when it comes to STDs can be the difference between being a "have" or a "have not." And when it comes to STDs, you want to be a "have not."
For women, Women's Health Clinic provider Valerie Martin does sexually transmitted infection testing, and can provide condoms in a confidential manner.
Don't be one of the 20 million new cases this year. Be aware of STDs and how to prevent getting one.