Q & A

Q. Are STDs really that common?

A. STDs are very common everywhere, including Spokane. It’s currently estimated that 25% of those aged 15-24 have an STD or will get one this year. In a recent survey of Spokane youth, we found that 43% of teens were sexually active.  Last year, more than 460 cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea (treatable STDs caused by bacteria) were reported in Spokane youth ages 15-19 years of age.

Q. If I have sex in a pool, will the chlorine kill STDs that I might have?

A. Chlorine will not kill the bacteria, viruses or other causes of STDs, nor will it stop or kill sperm, so girls may still get pregnant if you have unprotected vaginal sex in a pool. Also, vaginal or anal sex may be more uncomfortable since water will wash away any lubrication (natural or synthetic).

Q. Is it possible to have more than one STD at a time?

A. Absolutely! You can be infected by one person with more than one STD or you can be infected with an STD from one partner, and then get another STD from someone else.

Q. Can you tell by looking at someone’s genitals if they have an STD?

A. Not always.  Many people infected with an STD won’t have any outward signs or symptoms of an STD for weeks, months, years or at all. Sometimes the signs of an STD are on the inside of the genital area where they are not visible.  You should assume that anyone who’s been sexually active may have come in contact with an STD.

Use latex or polyurethane condoms or barriers consistently and correctly every time you have sex and get tested regularly!  It’s always a good idea to “look before you love.”  If you are embarassed or uncomfortable looking at your partner’s genital area or embarassed or uncomfortable having them look at your body, then you are not ready to be having sex.

Q. Do condoms not work all the time because they have little holes that let diseases and sperm get through?

A. When condoms “don’t work”, it’s not because they have little holes that let things through but generally because the condom is not put on correctly or has been damaged in the process of putting it on.

Male condoms only cover the penis and not the surrounding areas.  Female condoms also do not cover all areas around the genitals.  Using condoms consistently and correctly every time you have sex greatly cuts down on the spread of STDs and unintended pregnancy. Some protection is better than no protection.

Q. When someone has an STD, will they be able to easily recognize the symptoms?

A. Not always.  Many STDs have no signs or symptoms for long periods of time.  Some people may not have any signs or symptoms.  Additionally, some of the signs and symptoms are similar to other, non-STD related infections.

For example, a rash on your inner thigh or a woman having slightly more vaginal discharge might not be warning signs that there’s anything serious going on. The best way to know for sure is to get tested for STDs regularly and see a healthcare provider anytime you think you might have been exposed.

Q. Am I safe from STDs if I only have oral sex?

A. Any type of sex- including oral, anal, and vaginal carries the risk of STDs. Having oral sex puts you at risk for the same viral or bacterial STDs that are passed with vaginal sex.

Q. If I have herpes and I’m not having an outbreak, can I have sex with my partner without passing it?

A. Even though it’s most contagious when you’re having an outbreak with sores, Herpes can be passed at anytime. You should make sure your partner knows about the infection so that the two of you can decide together whether to be sexually active. When and if you decide to continue to be involved in sexual activities, make sure you’re practicing safer sex.

Using condoms 100% of the time and using them correctly is important regardless if you have any kind of infection. Even though condoms do not provide complete protection against Herpes, they are important to use because you or your partner could still spread other STDs.