Each year, it is estimated that there are 20 million new cases of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) in the United States. Here’s your guide to preventing, diagnosing, and treating STIs.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are preventable, so there are many ways you can protect yourself and your sexual partners.
- Get the HPV vaccine. Girls from ages 13 to 26 and boys from age 13 to 21 should get the HPV vaccine. The HPV vaccine is an effective way to prevent HPV, which can cause health problems such as genital warts and cervical cancer.
- Use condoms. Condoms are the most widely available and proven method for reducing the transmission of STIs, including HIV, and preventing pregnancy.
- Have fewer partners and talk with your partners about safe sex practices. One of the most reliable ways to avoid STIs is knowing that neither you or your partner has an STI. Communication and honesty can go a long way toward making a decision that is right for both of you.
- Practice abstinence. The surest way to avoid STIs and pregnancy is to not have vaginal, oral, or anal sex.
Talking with your Doctor
Talking with a healthcare provider about your sexual health is important, but can be intimidating. Make sure you feel comfortable communicating with your doctor and remember that they there to help you. They have seen and heard it all before, so don’t feel shy about being truthful. In order to provide the best care, they need to know the whole picture to be able to give you advice and/or treatment.
It may be a good idea to talk to your doctor about:
- Your sexual history
- Your sexual practices
- Any symptoms you have
There aren’t specific guidelines for STI testing if you don’t have symptoms, however many STIs have no signs or symptoms. To determine if you should get tested for STIs, the CDC has screening guidelines for certain groups, and your doctor can recommend which STI tests you should get.
Young adults, men who have sex with men, and certain races and ethnicities are disproportionately affected by STIs and should talk with their doctor.
If you test positive
If you or your partner test positive for an STI, remember that all STIs are treatable and many are curable. Many STIs can cause additional health problems, so the next steps you should take after getting diagnosed is get treated, tell your partner, and get retested.
Being aware of STIs is just one part of sexual health. Talk with your doctor about any other questions or concerns you may have regarding your sexual health.