What are STDs? Myths and Facts


STDs also Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) or Venereal diseases are contracted during unprotected sexual intercourse or sexual activity with an infected person. This means they are most often — but not exclusively — spread by sexual intercourse. HIV, chlamydia, genital herpes, genital warts, gonorrhea, some forms of hepatitis,syphilis, and trichomoniasis are STDs. They are among the most common contagious diseases.

Each year an estimated 333 million new cases of curable sexually transmitted infections (STI) occur worldwide with the highest rates among 20-24 year olds, followed by 15-19 year olds. One in 20 young people is believed to contract a STI each year, excluding HIV and other viral infections. Also,  every year 1 out of every 20 adolescents, become infected with STDs and 80% of HIV infections in Nigeria are contracted through sexual intercourse.

STDs are serious illnesses that requires treatment. Some STDs, such as HIV, cannot be cured and can be deadly. By learning more about STDs, you can learn ways to protect yourself.

You can get a STD from vaginal, anal, or oral sex. You can also be infected with trichomoniasis through contact with damp or moist objects such as towels, wet clothing, or toilet seats, although it is more commonly spread by sexual contact. You are at high risk if:

  • You have more than one sex partner.
  • You have sex with someone who has had many partners.
  • You don’t use a condom when having sex.
  • You share needles when injecting intravenous drugs.
  • You trade sex for money or drugs.

HIV and herpes are chronic conditions that can be managed but not cured. Hepatitis B also may become chronic but can be managed. You may not realize you have certain STDs until you have damage to your reproductive organs (rendering you infertile), your vision, your heart, or other organs. Having an STD may weaken the immune system leaving you more vulnerable to other infections. Pelvic inflammatory disease(PID) is a complication of gonorrhea and chlamydia that can leave women unable to have children. It can even kill you. If you pass an STD to your newborn child, the baby may suffer permanent harm or death.


What Causes STDs?

STDs include just about every kind of infection. Bacterial STDs include chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. Viral STDs include HIV, genital herpes, genital warts (HPV), and hepatitis B. Trichomoniasis is caused by a parasite. The germs that cause STDs hide in semen, blood, vaginal secretions, and sometimes saliva. Most of the organisms are spread by vaginal, anal, or oral sex, but some, such as those that cause genital herpes and genital warts, may be spread through skin contact. You can get hepatitis B by sharing personal items, such as toothbrushes or razors, with someone who has it.

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Some common myths on STDs are:

MYTH: The Pill prevents STDs.

FACT: The Pill does not prevent STDs. It is only designed to prevent pregnancy. If you are using the Pill because you think it provides protection against STDs, you need to get tested.

MYTH: You can only catch herpes when your partner is having an outbreak.

FACT: It may surprise you, but many people who have herpes don’t know it. (In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 750,000 people are infected with herpes every year!) Herpes symptoms can lie dormant for weeks before an outbreak occurs. So even if your partner looks and feels healthy, they could be infected and pass the herpes virus to you. Only an STD test that screens for herpes can tell you for sure whether you have it or not. Be smart – get tested and ask your partner to get tested too.

MYTH: Teens don’t get STDs.

FACT: About three million teenagers get an STD every year. One in three sexually active young people will get an STD by age 24.

MYTH: STDs are only passed through sexual intercourse.

FACT: Some STDs, like genital warts and herpes, can be passed just by having genital areas rub against each other. Others, like HIV, can be spread through oral sex. All STDs can be passed through both vaginal (penis to vagina) and anal (penis to anus) intercourse.

MYTH: There’s nothing that can prevent STDs.

FACT: There are lots of ways to protect yourself! The only sure way is to not have sex. If you do have sex, you can protect yourself from STDs by using a condom with lots of water-based lubricant every time. One way to reduce your STD risk is to have sex with only one person who is only having sex with you.

MYTH: STDs are only passed through sexual intercourse.

FACT: Some STDs, like genital warts and herpes, can be passed just by having genital areas rub against each other. Others, like HIV, can be spread through oral sex. All STDs can be passed through both vaginal (penis to vagina) and anal (penis to anus) intercourse.

MYTH: STDs can be cured.

FACT: Some STDs, like Chlamydia and gonorrhea can be cured with medicines, but they can cause a lot of damage if they’re not treated right away. Other STDs, like herpes, genital warts, and HIV/AIDS, can be controlled but there is no cure for them right now

MYTH: You can tell by looking at someone that they have an STD.

FACT: Often, symptoms for an STD don’t show up right away, and sometimes they don’t show up at all. Just because someone has an STD does not mean you can see it. You could definitely have an STD and not know it.

MYTH: If I get an STD, including HIV, there’s nothing I can do about it.

FACT: Many STDs are curable and most, including HIV, are treatable. The sooner you know if you have an STD, the sooner you can get treatment or take steps to prevent passing it on. There are different treatments for different STDs.

If your health care provider gives you antibiotics to treat a curable STD, it is important that you continue your medication until it is finished, even if your symptoms have already gone away. Also, you should avoid having sex until your infection is fully cleared, and tell your partner(s), who should be tested and treated too.

If you have a non-curable STD, like herpes, remember that medication is available to treat any symptoms, and daily therapy is available for people with outbreaks to reduce their chances of passing the virus on to partners. Also, remember that you’re not alone! Genital herpes caused by HSV-2 infection is extremely common, affecting about one in six teens and adults (most of whom don’t even know it). In addition, about 60% of American teens and adults have HSV-1 (which causes cold sores, but can also cause genital herpes through oral sex). Rates of HSV-1 vary by age and racial/ethnic group – in some groups, as many as 90% of people are infected.



Action Health Incorporated

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