6 Things Every Sexually Active Person Should Know
If you’re sexually active, here are 6 questions you may want to ask yourself?
Is it really a big deal to get tested for STDs (sexually transmitted diseases)?
In short — yes, it’s very important. Even though it can be scary to think about the possibility of getting bad news — or it can be worrisome to wonder how an STD diagnosis might affect a relationship, it’s still important to get tested. And it’s important to get tested if you’ve been sexually active – even if you don’t have any symptoms. Because many STDs don’t have any noticeable symptoms at all.
Why is it important to get tested?
It’s important to get tested so that you don’t inadvertently infect other people. If you don’t know you have an STD, you may spread that infection to a partner without realizing it.
It’s also important to get tested so that you can get treatment for the STD.
If you always use condoms, do you still need to be tested?
Yes. Condoms are not 100% effective in preventing the spread of infections. Some STDs can be spread by skin-to-skin contact in the genital area that’s not covered by a condom.
If there aren’t any symptoms, why would you need treatment?
That’s a reasonable question. If you don’t feel sick or you aren’t having any problems, why would you need to get treatment? Because left untreated, STDs can cause some pretty major complications.
- Future infertility
- Endanger a future or current pregnancy
- Increase your risk for HIV (the virus that can lead to AIDS)
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- Bladder problems
- Liver cancer or cirrhosis
- Cervical cancer
- Anal cancer
- Damage to other organs
- Reduced life expectancy
We aren’t listing these potential complications to scare you, but it’s important that you understand the risks. Many of these physical complications can be avoided if you get tested for STDs and receive the appropriate treatment. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends yearly screening for certain STDs for anyone under age 25 who is sexually active and for anyone older who has a new sex partner, multiple sex partners, or anyone who has had any sort of sexual activity with someone who has an STD.
What are other effects of STDs?
Carrying a disease or infection in your body can cause physical damage, but STDs can also be difficult on your emotional and relational health.
For many people, there’s still a stigma to an STD diagnosis. Some people feel like only certain types of women get STDs. So you may avoid testing because you aren’t that type of woman or because you don’t want to be labeled that type of woman. But the truth is that you can get an STD after any type of sexual activity, even if you only do it one time. According to the CDC, there were nearly two and a half million cases of STDs reported in 2018. Sexual health is a legitimate health concern for everyone.
If you have been diagnosed with an STD or if you think you may have one, it’s important to talk to someone who may help you break through the stigma and shame. You don’t have to carry shame and emotional trauma on top of the physical effects.
An STD can also be a challenge for relationships to overcome. It can be a challenge for a current relationship, but it will also come up in future relationships. Because this subject is so emotionally charged, it can bring our worst fears and biggest insecurities to the surface. And these feelings impact relationships. It’s completely normal for partners to need time to process the emotions around an STD diagnosis. And it’s possible that an STD will be a deal-breaker in relationships.
We’re a culture of instant gratification. And sometimes we don’t pause to consider the long-term effects of our choices. The desire for sex and for physical connection is normal. But it’s important to remember that the choices we make today affect our future. You deserve good physical and emotional health today and in the future, and you deserve strong, connected relationships today and in the future. We want you to feel empowered to make choices with knowledge and confidence so that you take the best care of yourself – your current self and your future self.
How can you best protect yourself from getting an STD?
The only way to completely avoid an STD is not to have vaginal, anal, or oral sex.
You can reduce your risk by having sex only in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship (you both only ever have sex with each other and you know neither of you has an STD).
You can talk to your medical provider about ways to lower your risk or to schedule a test or to talk about treatment.
If you’re sexually active and don’t have a medical provider or you don’t feel comfortable talking to your doctor, you can call us to set up a confidential appointment to discuss STD testing and so we can help you get the resources you need to be healthy.