So much wrong information about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) gets passed around that it's no surprise the diseases do too. Of course, the only way to be 100% sure you won't get an STD like herpes, chlamydia, or HIV, is not to have any type of sex (abstinence). But if you do decide to have sex, you'll need to stay informed and learn what's true — and what's not.
Here are 5 of the more common things that people get wrong about STDs.
Rich people get STDs. Poor people get them. Athletes get them. Math geeks get them. CEOs and professors get them. Even someone having sex for the first time can get an STD. The only people who have no risk of getting an STD are people who haven't had sex or any kind of sexual contact.
What can you do? If you decide to have sex, always use a condom every time. Even if you're already on another kind of birth control, like the Pill, you should still use a condom. That's because condoms are the only type of birth control that reduces the risk of getting an STD.
Even doctors often can't tell by looking if people have STDs. So they need to do tests, like bloodwork. People with STDs might not know they have them: STDs don't always cause symptoms. But it is possible to carry and spread the virus without ever having an outbreak. Untreated STDs can add up to serious health problems, like infertility (the inability to have a baby) or pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which may land you in the hospital.
What can you do? Even if you and your partner both think you're STD free, get checked out before having sex. Then use a condom every time, just to be sure. It can take a while for some STDs to show up on tests.
The viruses or bacteria that cause STDs can enter the body through tiny cuts or tears in the mouth and anus, as well as the genitals. Some STDs, like herpes or genital warts, can spread just through skin-to-skin contact with an infected area or sore.
What can you do? Use a condom or a dental dam every time you have oral or anal sex. If the taste of latex isn't your thing, there are flavored condoms made specifically for oral sex.
Some STDs are yours for life, like herpes and HIV. Others, like chlamydia and gonorrhea, can be treated, but you may get infected again if you have sexual contact with someone who has them.
What can you do? Protect yourself with condoms, of course! And if you're having sex, let your doctor know so you can get tested regularly. If you do get diagnosed with an STD, your partner should be treated at the same time you are. That way your partner will avoid future problems — and avoid reinfecting you.
Who wants to make the effort to get tested, find out they don't have an STD, and then end up catching one from a partner anyway?
What can you do? Get tested together. It may not be your most romantic date, but nothing says "I care" like trying to protect a boyfriend or girlfriend from illness.
STDs are more than just an embarrassment. They're a serious health problem. Left untreated, some STDs can cause permanent damage, such as infertility and even death.
There are tons of myths out there about sex and STDs — the ones above are just a few of them. Luckily, you only need to remember these essential truths:
|Planned Parenthood Info for Teens This site from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America has information on relationships and sexual health for teens.|
|American Sexual Health Association This nonprofit organization is dedicated to preventing sexually transmitted diseases and offers hotlines for prevention and control of STDs.|
|Planned Parenthood Federation of America Planned Parenthood offers information on sexually transmitted diseases, birth control methods, and other issues of sexual health.|
|Aids.gov Information and resources on HIV/AIDS in the United States.|
|GYT - Get Yourself Talking and Get Yourself Tested This media campaign designed to get young people to talk with their health care providers and partners about the importance of getting tested for sexually transmitted diseases.|
|Genital Warts (HPV) You've probably heard lots about sexually transmitted diseases. The good news is that STDs can be prevented. For information on how to protect yourself and how to treat genital warts, read this article.|
|Genital Herpes You've probably heard lots of discouraging news about sexually transmitted diseases. The good news is that STDs can be prevented. Read about how to protect yourself.|
|Condom Before you consider having sex, you need to know how to protect yourself. Read this article to find out how condoms work - and how well they protect against pregnancy and STDs.|
|Talking to Your Partner About Condoms Some people - even those who are having sex - are embarrassed by the topic of condoms. Here are some tips for talking about condoms with your partner.|
|Talking to Your Partner About STDs You know you should talk about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) before the action starts, but if you're like most people the thought of having "the talk" makes you completely nervous. Welcome to STD Chat 101.|
|About Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) You've probably heard lots of discouraging news about sexually transmitted diseases. The good news is that STDs can be prevented. Find out how to protect yourself.|
|HPV Vaccine The HPV vaccine can help protect against the virus that causes genital warts and may lead to some kinds of cancer. Find out more in this article for teens.|
|HIV and AIDS There is no cure for AIDS, which is why prevention is so important. Get the facts on HIV/AIDS, as well as how it affects the body and is treated, in this article.|
|Telling Your Partner You Have an STD People who have STDs might feel apprehensive about discussing their disease with a partner. Here are some tips on talking to a partner when you have an STD.|
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