Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are more prevalent than you may think, with millions of new infections each year in the U.S. We realize you may feel uncomfortable reading this article if you are working right now. But our commitment to health and wellness education makes it very important to pass along startling information for STD Awareness Week (April 12-18, 2020).
There are nearly two dozen infections, but the good news is they are preventable, treatable and most are also curable. Also known as sexually transmitted infections (STIs), there are common misconceptions about these conditions. For instance, some STIs are contracted through many physically intimate activities, not just through intercourse alone. And those infections which are asymptomatic or only show mild symptoms are easy to pass to partners without knowing it.1 Some diseases are not transmitted during sex, but affect the sex organs as a result of it, such as urinary tract infections (UTIs). These are referred to as sexually associated diseases.2
STDs are on the rise. The CDC reports the following cases:
In support of the CDC’s efforts through the Division of STD Prevention, we’re providing an overview of the most common infections (the info that some people might be hesitant to show in their search history) with strategies on communicating information with your teens, partners and physicians.
Sexually Transmitted (and Associated) Diseases
Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)
Hepatitis B & C
Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
Lymphogranuloma Venereum (LGV)
Source: VeryWell Health
Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA)
Mycoplasma Genitalium (MG)
Source: VeryWell Health
Source: VeryWell Health
STDs and Fertility/Pregnancy
Some of these infectious diseases can complicate pregnancy and even interfere with fertility. It is important that you share information on an STD with your OB-GYN and/or get tested for better health outcomes for your baby and yourself. Many can be treated during pregnancy and some will need to be monitored during pregnancy and labor. Read the CDC Fact Sheet on STDs during pregnancy.
To mitigate pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and infertility risk, it is recommended that sexually active women under 25, those with multiple partners or a partner who has an STI get annual screenings for chlamydia and gonorrhea. If left untreated, 10-15% of women with chlamydia will develop PID or other fallopian tube infections that can cause permanent damage. What is most concerning is that most women with chlamydia or gonorrhea have no symptoms and could be unaware of their lasting consequences.
Why Youths Are at Risk
A range of unique factors place youths at risk for infection. Many young women don’t receive the chlamydia screening that the CDC recommends. They may be reluctant to disclose risky behaviors to doctors. Female bodies are biologically more susceptible to sexually transmitted infections. Additionally, younger males and females may lack insurance or transportation to access prevention services. And many young people have multiple partners, which increases STI risk.
You might be thinking, I’m never having sex again! But consider this: most sexually transmitted infections are preventable and treatable, with a bit of wisdom behind you.
If you’re sexually active and think you’ve been exposed to an STD, it is important to immediately inquire about available treatments with your doctor, communicate with your partner and/or past partners, and get retested after treatment. Find a testing site here.
… with your partner. Since not all STDs show symptoms, it is important to tell your partner, or in some case past partners of your diagnosis so they can get tested. While this is an uncomfortable conversation to have, even for adults, it is likely humiliating for your teen to break the news to their partner. Here are communication tips.
… with your teen.
It may be equally humiliating for parents to discuss STDs with their teens. Many school districts incorporate such lessons into health classes, but it is important for parents to keep the lines of communication open with their kids for added data and emphasis on the risks. This information from the CDC can help. Get the Teen Info Sheet.
… with your healthcare provider.
By talking to a physician about what to do—and how to work together—patients can be proactive in safeguarding their sexual health. Here are some ways patients can stand up for themselves and their health in and out of the exam room:
- Prepare to honestly answer provider’s questions.
- Get tested – many STDs are curable, and all are treatable. Getting tested is the only way to know for sure if you have an STD.
- Get treated – prevent long-term, irreversible damage by starting treatment immediately.
- Know the benefits of expedited partner therapy (EPT) in which a provider may be able to give medicines or a prescription to partners of someone with an STD without seeing them first.
- Get retested –STDs can occur more than once, so getting retested in 3 months is important, even if you and your partner took medicine.