What you need to know about STIs...
Every year, nearly 20 million men and women in the U.S. get a sexually transmitted infection (STI) and nearly half of those individuals are between the ages of 15 to 24. It is important for anyone engaging in sexual activity to be aware of how you can get STI’s and how you can prevent spreading these infections to others.
What are STIs?
The first thing that is important to know is what an STI actually is. STI’s are a type of infection that is passed from person to person through sexual contact. You may have also heard an STI be called a sexually transmitted disease (STD) but that term wasn’t entirely accurate because they are a type of infection that is caused by things like bacteria, viruses, or even parasites.
If you look at the 8 most common STIs, four can be cured (syphilis, chlamydia, trichomoniasis and gonorrhea). The other four most common STIs, herpes simplex virus (herpes), human papillomavirus (HPV), hepatitis B and HIV/AIDS, have no cure. However, there are medications available to help manage symptoms and prevent the infection from getting worse.
How do they spread?
It is also important to know how STI’s are spread and that they can be spread even if there are no signs or symptoms. Examples include:
- Unprotected (without a condom) vaginal, oral, or anal sex with someone who already has an STI
- During genital touching (syphilis and herpes can both be spread without having sex)
- Sexual contact with individuals of the same or opposite sex
- A pregnant or breastfeeding woman to her baby
Using condoms, getting vaccinated, limiting our number of sex partners, and getting tested are all ways to lower your risk of getting an STI. It’s also important to talk to your partner and make sure they have recently been tested for STIs before having any time of sexual contact.
- STI’s such as herpes simplex virus type 2 and syphilis can increase your risk of getting HIV
- The majority of STI’s have no symptoms or only mild symptoms that may not be recognized as an STI
- Over 900,000 pregnant women were infected with syphilis resulting in 350,000 bad birth outcomes including stillbirth
- More than 1 million STIs are acquired every day worldwide
- There are vaccines available to help prevent against HPV and hepatitis B
Educating yourself, protecting yourself, and getting tested are all important ways to help prevent getting an STI.
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