What You Need to Know About STDs
Originally Published: June 10, 2011
Revised: January 3, 2019
Every time I hear the terms “sexually transmitted disease” or “STD,” I can’t help but groan just thinking of all those nasty pictures from health class. They showed gross warts spurting out pus and blood in hundreds of different directions. To make matters worse, each photo would be accompanied by a mind-numbing lecture on painful symptoms, frightening “facts” and complicated names. Sounds fun, doesn’t it? This is just one of the many reasons why teenagers don’t want to hear about STDs.
The scary pictures are disgusting, and I can’t think of anyone who believes STDs have anything to do with them. It’s not like I’m ever going to get one of these infections. I don’t even know anyone who has an STD, so why should I even be worrying about this? Besides, only people who engage in strange and dangerous behaviors can get them. Right?
Wrong. It’s these kinds of attitudes about STDs that put people at risk for getting them. If you think it will never happen to you, you won’t do what you need to do to protect yourself or get treatment if you need it.
The truth is one in four teens has an STD. This is not meant to scare you; it is simply to show you that STDs are a lot more common than you may think. As always, the only 100-percent effective way to prevent these infections is abstinence—not having any kind of sex at all. So, if you are sexually active or plan to have sex one day, you need to know about STDs.
Read on to learn about some of these infections and how to protect yourself from getting one or treat one if you do have one.
The truth is one in four teens has an STD. This is not meant to scare you; it is simply to show you that STDs are a lot more common than you may think.
A Look at the Facts About STDs
People are always talking about STDs, but what exactly are they? Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are infections that are spread through bodily fluids, including blood, semen, pre-cum and vaginal secretions. During oral, anal or vaginal sex, these fluids can be passed from partner to partner, which means you can get an infection if your partner has one. Some STDs, such as genital warts or herpes, can also be passed through skin-to-skin contact below the waist. Pretty simple, huh?
There are three types of STDs: bacterial, viral and parasitic. Bacterial STDs, like gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia, and parasitic STDs, such as pubic lice, scabies and trichomoniasis, can be cured. On the other hand, viral STDs, like HIV, HPV and herpes, cannot be cured, but can be treated with medication. And there you have it: The basics of STDs.
Syphilis, herpes, genital warts, oh my! With all these different names, it can be hard to remember the specific symptoms and treatments for common STDs. This handy guide is full information about the most common STDs, so that you’ll be an expert by the time you’re finished reading it. But keep in mind that since many infections have no symptoms, you should get tested regularly if you’re having anal, oral or vaginal sex.
Bacterial, Viral and Parasitic STDs Guide (click images to enlarge)
STD Prevention & Treatment
Now that you know the basics, you are ready to tackle the topic of STD treatment and prevention. As mentioned before, abstinence is the only guaranteed method of protection against STDs. This means refraining from vaginal, oral and anal sex or rubbing bodies naked below the waist. But if you are already having sex or are planning on doing so soon, your next best option is to practice safer sex with your partner.
Since most STDs are transmitted through bodily fluids and skin-to-skin genital contact, it is extremely important to use latex barriers during oral, vaginal and anal sex to reduce your chances of getting an infection. A male condom acts as an effective latex barrier between you and your partner, so you don’t exchange fluids, which can carry STDs.
Another option is the female condom or vaginal pouch, which is a latex sheath that has a ring on both ends and can be used during vaginal or anal sex. One ring is inserted into body, while another is left outside to cover the labia or anus, which offers additional protection against STDs that can be transmitted from skin-to-skin contact. A Sheer Glyde dental dam—a thin latex sheet that is placed against a vulva during vaginal-oral sex or an anus during oral-anal contact—can also be used to prevent STDs.
Of course, there is more to safer sex than simply using latex barriers. Frequent and honest communication is just as important to building a healthy relationship. Before having sex, you should always ask your partner if he or she was ever tested or treated for an STD. You can then talk about getting tested together and what safer-sex methods you will use to prevent STDs.
Since most STDs do not have symptoms, it is critical to get tested once a year to help detect and treat STDs before they cause any long-term damage. Free or low-cost testing is available at most hospitals and local health centers. You should also choose your sexual partners carefully, since your chances of contracting an STD are increased with every additional person you have some kind of sex with.
Now you’re ready to make healthy decisions about STDs and safer sex.
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