Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs or STIs). Not exactly what you’re thinking about in the heat of the moment. And not exactly the most romantic thing to talk about.
But take a moment to consider:
- There are about 20 million new incidences of STDs each year.
- Half of those infected are between the ages of 15 and 24.
- About 1 out of every 4 college students has one.
- Many people with an STI don’t know that they have an infection because they may not have symptoms, as symptoms sometimes do not show up for several weeks or at all. So they may be unintentionally spreading the infection to new partners.
- Certain STIs, when undiagnosed and untreated, can cause serious health problems.
- Untreated infections may cause damage to the reproductive system. In fact, according to the CDC, undiagnosed STIs cause an estimated 20,000 women to become infertile each year.
So, what steps can you take to reduce your risk? The CDC recommends the following ways, from least effective to most effective:
Using condoms can be effective at reducing your risk of contracting an STD when used consistently and correctly. This means they must be used from start to finish, every time you have vaginal, oral and anal sex. However, condom use cannot provide absolute protection against any STD.
Condoms can have varying levels of effectiveness, depending on how the STIs are transmitted. Some infections, such as ones that are passed by skin-to-skin contact (like HPV and herpes), can still be passed from person to person because the condom does not prevent all skin contact.
Reduce number of sex partners
The more sex partners you have, the higher your risk for having been exposed to STDs. Check out our post to find out your sexual exposure. Reducing your number of sex partners can help reduce your risk.
Mutual monogamy means being in a long-term relationship with only one uninfected partner. So you’re sexually active only with that person, who has also agreed to be sexually active only with you. To be sure this person is not infected, it’s important that the two of you have an open conversation and determine whether or not you may need to be tested for STDs.
Abstinence – not having sex (vaginal, oral, or anal) – is the only way to not only reduce, but to eliminate your risk for getting an STI. Most people assume that sex is a given in today’s culture, but it’s certainly not unreasonable to want to wait. In fact, 40% of college students polled recently by New York Magazine reported being virgins. Some speculate that more students are choosing to wait until marriage, as this is the more unique option in the midst of our hook-up culture.
No one will deny that abstinence can be a difficult decision to make, but research shows that it could lead to a stronger, more committed relationship and have healthy, positive outcomes for your future marriage.
Talk to Your Partner and Get Tested
We at Valley Women’s Clinic care about your health and hope you will consider taking steps to reduce your risk for STDs. No matter you decide about how to do that, it’s important that you talk to your partner and consider getting tested today – no matter how unromantic that conversation may be.
If you are sexually active, keep in mind that the only way to know for sure if you have an STI is to get tested. Valley Women’s Clinic offers free and confidential STI testing for women and men for chlamydia and gonorrhea, two of the most common STIs. We will provide you with referrals for treatment if your test comes back positive. We also offer free pregnancy testing. All of our services are free and confidential. Request an appointment today for our Blacksburg or Radford clinic.