ARE YOU AT RISK?

WHO GETS STDs?

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) don’t discriminate — they can happen to anyone, regardless of sexual preference, race, religion, age, or social or economic status. There are some factors that can put people at higher risk for getting an STD. Some of these factors may be out of your control, but there are many others you can control with simple behavior changes and good decision making skills.

STD RISK FACTORS

Here are some factors that increase your risk for getting an STD:

LESS CONTROL

  • Biology — females are especially prone to STDs and other types of vaginal infections. This is because of the warm, moist environment that makes it easier for bacteria to grow as well as the naturally fragile cells in and around the vaginal area and reproductive organs. Young women (those younger than 25 years old) are especially at risk because these cells are less developed than they are in older women.
  • Not enough access to health care — not being able to find, get to, or pay for a doctor’s visit can make it less likely that an STD is detected early or detected at all before it causes major health complications.
  • Not enough access to accurate health information — it can be hard to find accurate, easy to understand information about STDs and how to maintain good reproductive or sexual health. Without this information, it’s harder to make good, responsible decisions about sexual activity.

MORE CONTROL

  • Any kind of sex at an early age – biologically, the younger you are, the more likely you’d be to get an STD (as described above).  Additionally, young men and women are often inexperienced in talking to their partners about sex and being able to assert their desire to use protection, including condoms or latex barriers.
  • Unprotected sex of any kind, even just one time – STDs can be spread to and from your partner(s) during ANY kind of sex you have with them, this includes oral, vaginal and anal sex. IT ONLY TAKES ONE TIME to come in contact with bacteria or a virus to become infected.
  • Multiple partners now or in the past – the more people you’ve had sex with, the more chances you’ve been exposed to one or more STDs. You need to think about every time you have unprotected sex with someone, you’re basically having sex with everyone from that person’s past as well. Take a look at this chart to see the number of chances you have of getting an STD.
  • Not talking to or being honest with a healthcare provider about your sexual activity – if a healthcare provider doesn’t know you’re concerned about, or that you may be at risk for STDs, they probably won’t talk to you about your sexual heath. Be completely honest with your doctor.  Life-long health complications may develop while you wait to “feel” or “see” proof that anything is wrong, so get tested regularly (even if you have no symptoms).
  • Douching – do not douche!  Forcing fluid into the vaginal cavity can push semen and bacteria further into the reproductive tract.
  • Assuming that birth control protects you against STDs – the only form of birth control that offers protection against STDs is the latex or polyurethane, male or female condom.  Pills, shots, patches, rings and spermicidal lubricant DO NOT offer protection from STDs.
  • Drugs or alcohol – when you use any kind of alcohol or drugs, your brain isn’t as able to make the same good decisions it would make if you were sober. This impaired judgment can easily lead to having unplanned or unprotected sex, increasing your risk of sexual assault, STDs or pregnancy.

WHAT’S AT RISK?

STDs can seriously threaten the health of you, your partner(s) and the fetus/baby of an infected mother. Some of the health risks may include:

  • HIV/AIDS, which has no cure. Not only does HIV/AIDS severely effect your immune system, but it can also lead to major health complications and for some, death.
  • Some STDs, including Herpes and Human Papillomavirus (HPV), cannot be cured and will stay with you for the rest of your life.
  • Most cervical cancers, which can be traced back to an HPV infection. Learn more about HPV.
  • Ectopic/tubal pregnancy which may occur in women. When an ectopic pregnancy occurs, it can be fatal to the mom and is always fatal for the unborn baby.
  • Babies born to moms with untreated STDs can be infected with the STD or suffer developmental or physical damage either while in the mom’s womb or during delivery. Find out more about the dangers to a fetus and baby when the mother has an STD, visit pregnancy & STDs.
  • Inability to have or father children for both women and men who have a current or past history of STDs.
  • Some women may have pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) which can cause chronic pain in the pelvic/abdominal region.
  • Men can have testicular pain and epididymitis (inflammation of the male reproductive tract) that can also be quite painful.


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