Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are infections that are spread from one person to another by sexual contact. There are many different types of STDs. Some of the more common STDs are chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, crab lice, syphilis, condylomata (genital warts), trichomonas, HPV, HIV (the virus that causes AIDS), and hepatitis B (a liver disease). Some of these diseases are more dangerous than others. Some STDs can be cured with antibiotic medicines. However some STDs, such as herpes, HIV, HPV, and genital warts, are caused by viruses. There is no cure for these STDs. They can make you very sick. In severe cases, they can cause death.
Many times a person can have one of these diseases and not know it because they don’t have any symptoms and don’t feel sick. The person can then spread the disease to sexual partners. Sometimes a person thinks or knows that they have an STD but they are too embarrassed to talk about it with a sexual partner. Sexual partners are at risk for getting the disease if safe sex isn’t practiced every time.
Deciding to Have Sex
Having sex can be a very loving and special experience between two people. However, you should think about it before you decide to have sex. Sex can cause a pregnancy or give you a sexually transmitted disease. You can get a disease after only having sex once. You can also get hurt emotionally because of the strong feelings involved.
Decide ahead of time what is right for you. Find an adult with whom you can discuss your feelings and opinions, and ask questions. Although it is sometimes awkward to start the conversation, you can talk with your parents. You might also speak with your healthcare provider, school counselors, teachers, or adult relatives. You can usually discuss issues with these adults confidentially.
To protect yourself from sexual diseases, the only absolutely risk-free activity is to be abstinent and not have sex. Many people decide to wait to have sex until they are older, married, or feel more comfortable. There are also many intimate activities that are almost always safe without taking any special precautions. These activities include holding hands, hugging, touching, and kissing. Intimate touching and mutual masturbation may be less risky than intercourse, though some STDs can be spread this way.
If you have vaginal or anal intercourse, you can help protect yourself by using latex or polyurethane condoms each time. During oral sex, flavored condoms can be used on males. Hormonal birth control methods, such as birth control pills or Depo-Provera shots don’t prevent you from getting an STD. Condoms must absolutely be used to help prevent sexually transmitted infections.
- Condoms are sold in drug and grocery stores. Buy latex condoms. Never use condoms made from animal skins because they do not prevent STDs.
- To use a condom:
- Hold the condom at the tip to squeeze out the air.
- Roll the condom all the way down the erect (hard) penis. Don’t try to put a condom on a soft penis.
- After intercourse, hold onto the condom while the penis is being pulled out of the sexual partner.
- Never use the same condom more than once. It is a good idea to have two condoms available in case one breaks.
- If a condom breaks, as soon as you realize it take it off and put on another one. If you don’t have another condom, stop having sexual intercourse until you can get another.
- The man should pull out of his sexual partner while his penis is still hard. If his penis gets soft first, the sperm can leak out of the condom.
- If you use a lubricant with condoms, make sure it is water based (such as K-Y jelly). Do not use Vaseline or Crisco. These can cause the condom to break.
- Some condoms are lubricated with the chemical Nonoxynol-9, which helps kill some of the germs that cause STDs.
There is a female condom, one that lines a woman’s vagina, but it is more difficult to use. Talk with a healthcare provider or other adult who knows how to use it before you try it.
Other Information About STDs
- Your chance of getting an STD is greater if you have more than one sexual partner.
- Douching the vagina or showering after sex does not prevent STDs.
- Withdrawal (when a man pulls his penis out before he ejaculates) is not a way to prevent STDs or pregnancy.
- You can get the same STD again, even if you have had it once and have been treated.
- You can get an STD even if you have sex just one time.
- It is dangerous to mix alcohol or drugs with sexual activity, because they might lead you to take risks (you might forget or not care about using a condom).
- If you think you might have an STD, it is important to get treated as soon as possible.
Call your healthcare provider if:
- You are having any symptoms that you think might be caused by a sexually transmitted disease. These include burning or pain when urinating; strange or weird-smelling discharge from the vagina or penis; itching, burning, or pain around the vagina, penis, or anus (bottom); and rashes, sores, blisters, or growths around the vagina, penis, or anus.
- You think you might have been exposed to someone with an STD.
- You had sex without a condom and you are worried about getting pregnant.
- You missed your period and you have had sex with someone (that is, you might be pregnant).
- You have questions about sex.
Written by J. Todd Jacobs, MD. Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2011-02-10
Last reviewed: 2010-10-04 This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional. References
Pediatric Advisor 2011.4 Index
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