By Dr. Alwyn Rapose
Division of Infectious Diseases
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are on the rise in the U.S and according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), they may be at an all-time high. In fact, the CDC estimates there are more than 20 million new cases of STDs in the U.S. each year. At least half occur in young people ages 15 to 24 years of age.
The most common STDs include HIV, syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, trichomoniasis, herpes (HSV) and human papilloma virus (HPV).
Bacterial STDs such as syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea can be cured – without long term medical complications – if treated early and with the appropriate antibiotic course. Unfortunately, viral STDs such as herpes and HPV cannot be cured. There are antiviral medications for herpes and HIV. Vaccines are available to prevent HPV. If you are given medications to treat an STD, it is important that you take all of the medication prescribed to you, even if the symptoms go away.
As is obvious from the name, these diseases are transmitted through sexual activity. If you are not sexually active, or only have sex in a mutually monogamous relationship (with an uninfected partner) you will not get an STD. Also, you cannot contract these infections from toilet seats, sharing food plates, or casual contact (hand-shake or a hug) where there is no exposure to body fluids.
Everyone who is sexually active outside of a mutually monogamous relationship is at risk of getting an STD. In this population, regular testing is an important part of reducing the risk of contracting and spreading sexually transmitted infections.
One reason that testing is so important is that some STDs may be completely asymptomatic – meaning infected persons show no symptoms and yet can transfer the infection to another person with whom they have sex. Even those diseases that produce symptoms like sores or discharge from the genitals, transmission of infection can occur before the onset of these symptoms in the infected person. It also takes time for most STDs to become detectable by laboratory tests. That’s one reason doctors recommend testing approximately every six months for people who are sexually active outside a mutually faithful relationship, even if they show no symptoms.
Here are some ways to prevent STDs:
Practice Safe Sex
safest sex means that you and your partner are in a mutually monogamous relationship and you do not have an STD. This is the only 100% safe way to avoid getting an STD.
Use of a condom to reduce contact with sexual body fluids is called safer sex. Both male and female condoms are available. Although you can still get some STDs while using a condom, it is considered “safer” than not using one to protect yourself from getting an STD.
Encourage your partner to get tested
Knowing if your partner has been exposed to an STD allows you to take important steps to protect yourself and initiate treatment for the infected partner.
Some diseases, such as HPV and hepatitis B, can be prevented with a vaccine. Your medical provider can tell you more about whether these vaccines are right for you.
Reduce the number of people you have sex with
This is considered one of the best ways to prevent getting an STD. People in a monogamous relationship (with an uninfected person) have no chance of acquiring an STD.
Talk to your healthcare provider
Having a good relationship with your doctor or other medical provider is important for your sexual health. Your medical provider can answer your questions and provide the guidance you need on testing, vaccinations, and other ways to stay healthy.
While sex can be fun and healthy, getting a sexually transmitted disease is not. So be sure to take the necessary steps to avoid STDs!
If you are sexually active, you may find the following screening guidelines from the CDC helpful: https://www.cdc.gov/std/prevention/screeningreccs.htm.
About Alwyn Rapose, MD
Originally from India, Dr. Alwyn Rapose now enjoys practicing medicine in Massachusetts. He completed his Internal Medicine residency at St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester and liked the experience so much that he stayed on board for another year as Chief Resident. He then completed his Infectious Disease fellowship at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas.
Dr. Rapose felt that Reliant Medical Group was a good fit...View profile View posts by this doctor