What are sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)?
STDs, once called venereal diseases, are among the most common diseases in the United States. STDs are diseases that you get by having sexual contact (vaginal, oral, or anal) with someone who already has an STD. Caused by a number of bacteria and viruses, more than 20 STDs affect both women and men.
While some STDs can be cured, other STDs are life long (can't be cured). STDs can affect a person's physical health, emotional health, and quality of life. While rare, STDs can cause life-threatening conditions, particularly when they are not treated.
Experts believe that having an STD can increase a person's chances for getting infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
STDs affect everyone.
STDs affect women and men of all ages, racial/ethnic backgrounds, and income levels. Teenagers and young adults get STDs more often than any other age group. This is because they tend to have sex more often and have more sex partners.
The number of people getting STDs is going up.
The number of people getting STDs has gone up over the last 20 years, and the numbers continue to rise. This is due, in part, to young people becoming sexually active at earlier ages and marrying later. And today, sexually active people tend to have more than one sex partner during their lives. This can end up increasing a person's chances of being exposed to an STD.
You can have an STD, have no symptoms, and still pass it to another person.
Much of the time STDs cause no symptoms, especially in women. When and if symptoms develop, they may be confused with symptoms of other diseases that aren't STDs. Even if you have no symptoms of an STD, you can still pass the infection on to another person. This is why it is so important to get tested. Talk with your health care provider about getting tested for STDs, particularly if you have more than one sex partner. Remember, you don't have to have symptoms to get tested.
STDs can cause life long and severe health problems.
Health problems tend to be more severe and more frequent for women than men. This may be because women most often have no symptoms and seek care only when serious problems develop. STDs can affect women in different ways.
Some STDs are linked to cancer of the cervix. One STD, human papillomavirus (HPV) causes genital warts and cervical and other genital cancers.
A mother can pass an STD to her baby before, during, or right after birth. Some of these infections can be easily cured. But others can harm a newborn, causing life long damage or even death.
STDs are most successfully treated if caught early.
There are tests to tell if you have an STD and many treatments for STDs. When you have an STD, getting treated right away is best. It is important to know that even with treatment that cures an STD, you can still get the STD again.