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Should I Worry About Getting an STD?

People who have sex need to know how to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). These infections (also called sexually transmitted infections or STIs) spread from person to person during vaginal, oral, or anal sex; using fingers ("fingering"); or other sexual contact. The risk is higher if someone has sex without using a barrier method like a condom.

Even if someone has had only one sexual partner, they could get an STD if that person has an infection. Many people who have an STD don't know they have one and don't have symptoms. The chances of getting an STD are even greater if a person has unprotected sex with different partners.

How Can I Know if My Partner Has an STD?

The only way a person who is sexually active can know for sure if they have an STD is by getting tested. Many people who have STDs don’t have signs or symptoms. It can take up to 4 weeks for an STD to show up on a test.

The only way to completely avoid getting an STD is to not have sex. If you do have sex, use condoms or other barrier methods like dental dams or finger condoms every time. Besides the risk of STDs, unprotected sex can sometimes lead to accidental pregnancy.

What if My Partner Was Treated for an STD?

Some STDs, like chlamydia, can be treated so they go away. But others, like genital herpes or genital warts (HPV), can stay in the body even after treatment. This means the person could spread them to a partner. Also, if someone was treated for an STD and it went away, they can get that or another STD from a partner who has it. So it's wise to always use a condom, even if a partner says their test result was negative.

What Else Should I Know?

Anyone who is planning to have sex, or has had already it, should be tested for STDs. It’s also important for partners to talk about STDs and how to help prevent them.

If you have questions about STDs or sex, talk with your doctor or another trusted adult. You also can find support and more information online at Planned Parenthood.

Reviewed by: Lonna P. Gordon, MD
Date Reviewed: Jan 1, 2024

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