Peer Health

STDs

The term “sexually transmitted disease” (STD) is relatively new and has replaced the term “venereal disease.” This shift in terminology serves to expand awareness of a greater number of infectious diseases transmitted through sexual contact. There are more than 20 STDs, including AIDS, Chlamydia, Herpes, and other organisms and syndromes. Every year millions of STDs are passed from person to person, primarily through sexual contact. Many people feel uncomfortable talking about STDs and try not to think about them, hoping they will go away. Sometimes infections will go away, but usually an STD will return and the infected person will suffer grave consequences of an untreated STD.

Transmission and Prevention of STDs
The organisms which cause these diseases (except for crabs and scabies) usually enter the body through mucous membranes, such as the warm, moist surfaces of the vagina, urethra, anus, and mouth. STDs can be caught through intimate contact with someone who is infected, especially during oral, anal, or vaginal sex. Some infections are also transmitted nonsexually.

Sexually active college-age men and women are at the highest risk for contracting STDs. Basically, if you have sexual contact with someone who is infected with an STD, you are likely to develop the infection as well. Lesbians are much less likely than heterosexuals, or bisexual or gay men to get an STD because most STDs are not transmitted easily between women.

STD Protection

You can protect yourself from acquiring an STD in a number of ways:

  1. Talk to your partner about STDs before having sex, and ask if he or she has been exposed to any STDs.
  2. Look carefully at your partner’s body. If you notice any unusual discharge, sores, bumps, or redness and think your partner might have an infection, you should probably refrain from intercourse until the condition is taken care of.
  3. Use a dental dam or cut condom during vaginal oral sex (cunnilingus).
  4. Use a latex condom during penile oral sex (fellatio).
  5. Use a spermicidally lubricated latex condom during intercourse. Consider using vaginal spermicide as well.
  6. Remember that many STDs are largely asymptomatic, so caution is important when choosing a partner.
  7. Also, please remember that condoms are not foolproof but are the best choice for infection protection during intercourse.

What To Do If You Think You Have an STD

First of all, don’t be embarrassed. If you think you have an STD, get help immediately. Call the Health Center and make an appointment. In most cases antibiotics can cure bacterial STDs. They are not, however, effective in fighting viral infections such as herpes. No matter what treatment is followed, curing an STD does not provide immunity against future infection. If you have an STD, your partners should be checked. Intercourse should be avoided until treatment is complete.

In Summary…

STDs are very common. If you are sexually active in anything but a totally monogamous relationship, you have a good chance of getting an STD. You can also get some of these diseases (such as genital warts or syphilis) without sexual contact at all.

The best way to deal with an STD is to avoid getting it in the first place. Use preventive methods (like those described above) whenever possible.

If you think there is the slightest possibility you have an STD, get medical attention as soon as you can. In the meantime, try to figure out if the person you had sex with thinks she or he has been exposed to an STD. That can help to indicate how likely you are to get it.

If you should contract an STD, don’t have sex until you have been tested or are sure you are cured (usually indicated by two negative follow-up tests).

If you have an STD, inform all your recent partners personally.

Before accepting treatment, make sure you understand what you are taking and for how long, the side effects and any follow-up tests or treatment required. Don’t be embarrassed about asking questions. It’s your life, not theirs.

Remember, if you are cured you can get the same STD again. Also, having one STD doesn’t protect you from getting any others.