When it comes to sexual health, it's important to be aware of the risks associated with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). STDs are infections that are spread primarily through sexual activity, including vaginal, oral and anal intercourse. Every year, millions of Americans are infected with some type of STD, and half of the diagnoses occur in adolescents and young adults between the ages of 15 and 24. The most common STDs include chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital herpes, HIV, and HPV (human papillomavirus) infection. Symptoms vary depending on the disease, but many STDs don't always cause symptoms, so it's possible to get or spread an infection even if you or your partner seem healthy.
If left untreated, certain STDs can cause devastating, long-term health problems, such as blindness, brain damage, infertility, birth defects, and even death. If you're sexually active, getting tested for STDs is one of the most important things you can do to protect your health. Home test kits are available for several sexually transmitted diseases, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, trichomoniasis, and hepatitis C. If you're not comfortable talking to your regular healthcare provider about STDs, there are many clinics that offer free or low-cost confidential testing.
Be sure to have an open and honest conversation with your doctor about your sexual history and STD testing and ask if you should be tested for STDs.