Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are diseases, or infections, spread through sexual contact and activity. Approximately 1 in 3 people have an STD, but 80% don’t show symptoms.
There are many types of STDs, which may be caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites. Some STDs can cause severe health issues and may even lead to death. Luckily, there are many ways to prevent STDs, including regular testing.
Tips on how to prevent STDs effectively
While no method of STD prevention is foolproof, there are many different STD prevention methods you can try to reduce your risk of exposure.
1. Take caution of how many and who you have as sexual partners
The more partners you have, the more you open yourself up to the risk of STIs. If you’re in a relationship with an uninfected partner and practicing mutual monogamy, you don’t need to worry about contracting a disease from your partner.
However, when you’re engaging in risky behaviors with anonymous partners, you increase your risk of STDs. You don’t know their sexual history or if they’re being honest with you about their sexual health. Casual encounters should always involve protection.
You can only control your choices about sex; you can’t control those of others. That’s why it’s critical to take charge of your sexual health by reducing your risk of exposure and by carefully vetting who will be your sexual partners.
2. Keep up with important vaccines
Though many STDs do not have vaccines, there are three that do: hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and human papillomavirus (HPV).
The hepatitis A virus is not exclusively sexually transmitted. Ingesting infected fecal matter shares the virus, which can happen during sexual contact. It is more common to contract hepatitis A by consuming contaminated food and drinks. Hepatitis A attacks the liver and can cause symptoms such as fever, fatigue, joint pain, and yellowing of the skin and eyes, called jaundice.
The hepatitis A vaccine is typically given in a two-dose series when a child is one to two years old. If you never received a hepatitis A vaccine as a child, talk to your healthcare provider about getting caught up on your vaccinations.
Like hepatitis A, hepatitis B isn’t exclusively sexually transmitted. The hepatitis B virus spreads when infected body fluids enter someone who is not infected, such as through sexual content. The virus also spreads through shared body fluids, such as contaminated needles, or from mother to baby during childbirth. Like hepatitis A, hepatitis B attacks the liver. In severe cases, hepatitis B may cause long-term health problems such as cirrhosis and liver cancer.
The hepatitis B vaccine requires three doses, the first given at birth, the second when the child is one or two months old, and the third between six and eighteen months. If you did not receive a hepatitis B vaccine, speak to your healthcare provider.
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States. There are many strains of this virus, with some leading to severe health problems such as cancer and infertility. Genital HPV spreads through sexual contact.
The HPV vaccine protects against some of the most dangerous and deadly strains of HPV. The CDC recommends that children get the HPV vaccine around 11 years of age. Children who are at higher risk may be able to get their vaccine earlier.
3. Use quality condoms whenever you can
Condoms are one of the most effective methods of STD prevention. Condoms act as barriers to prevent infected fluids from being transmitted. When used correctly, external condoms are 98% effective, and internal condoms are 95% effective.
In the United States, condoms are medical devices manufactured according to government regulations. However, before use, ensure that your condoms are not expired and that the packaging is not compromised.
Latex condoms are the most common, but you can also find condoms made of polyurethane or polyisoprene if you’re allergic to latex. Condoms come in a variety of sizes, textures, and even flavors.
4. Ask your sex partner for a screening before sexual intercourse
Talking about sexually transmitted diseases can be awkward. However, when you start any new sexual relationship, all parties must be open about their sexual health and history.
Regular testing is the best way to ensure that you won’t pass anything on to a new partner and that a new partner won’t pass anything on to you. Before any sexual contact, talk to your partner about getting a screening for STDs. You can even get screened together.
The facts behind preventing STDs
The STD prevention methods you choose will depend on your lifestyle. Regardless, here are some good facts to know about how to prevent STDs:
- An estimated 20% of people in the United States have an STD
- More than one million new infections occur every day worldwide
- When used as directed, condoms are 95-98% effective at preventing STDs and pregnancy
- Some STDs, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and trichomoniasis, are curable
- Other STDs, such as hepatitis B, herpes simplex, HIV/AIDS, and HPV, are not curable
- Vaccinations are available for hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and some strains of HPV
- STDs may cause symptoms that lower quality of life, cause problems with fertility and pregnancy, and can lead to death.
When testing for an STD, remember that not all STDs will show up on a test immediately. To get an accurate idea of your sexual health, you may have to wait some time after exposure. For example:
- Chlamydia takes a minimum of seven days
- Genital herpes takes a minimum of two weeks
- Gonorrhea takes a minimum of seven days
- Hepatitis C takes a minimum of three weeks
- Syphilis takes a minimum of two weeks
Decrease the risks of infection with the convenience of an at-home test
At myLab Box, we offer a variety of sexual health testing kits to keep you and your sexual partners up-to-date on your health status and reduce your risk for STDs. Regular testing is one of the best ways to avoid acquiring or passing on a sexually transmitted disease. You may opt to choose to test for a few specific STDs, or you can select one of the multi-STD testing kits.