STDs, also known as STIs (sexually transmitted infections), are infections spread through sexual contact. They can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites and are surprisingly common. Millions of new cases occur every year.

The important thing to remember is that STDs are often preventable and treatable. This article will explore what STDs are, how they spread, and what you can do to protect yourself and your partner.

How are STDs Spread?

STDs are most commonly transmitted through vaginal, oral, and anal sex. While less frequent, some STDs like herpes and HPV can also spread through skin-to-skin contact in the genital area. Mothers can also pass certain STDs to their babies during pregnancy or childbirth.

Common STDs

  • Chlamydia: A bacterial infection that can cause pelvic pain and infertility.
  • Gonorrhea: Another bacterial infection that can infect the genitals, rectum, and throat.
  • Genital Herpes: A viral infection that causes outbreaks of painful blisters. There is no cure, but medication can manage outbreaks.
  • HIV/AIDS: A virus that attacks the body’s immune system. While there is no cure, medication can help people with HIV live long and healthy lives.
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV): A virus that can cause genital warts and certain cancers. There is a vaccine to prevent some strains of HPV.
  • Syphilis: A bacterial infection that can cause sores and serious health problems if left untreated.
  • Trichomoniasis: A parasitic infection that causes vaginal discharge and irritation.
Why Get Tested?

Many STDs don’t cause any symptoms, so it’s possible to have an infection and not know it. This is why getting tested is crucial, especially if you are sexually active. Early detection and treatment can prevent serious health complications, such as infertility and certain cancers.

Protecting Yourself

The most effective way to prevent STDs is to abstain from sexual contact. However, if you are sexually active, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk:

  • Be in a monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and is STD-free.
  • Get tested regularly, especially if you have new sexual partners.
  • Always use condoms correctly and consistently during vaginal, oral, and anal sex.

If You Think You Have an STD

If you think you may have an STD, it’s important to see a doctor or visit a Planned Parenthood clinic. They can provide testing, diagnosis, and treatment. Early treatment can prevent the spread of STDs and protect your health.

Remember: STDs are a common concern, but they are not something to be ashamed of. By getting informed, practicing safe sex, and getting tested regularly, you can protect yourself and your partner.

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