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STDs are sexually transmitted diseases—what used to be called VD (venereal disease). These diseases can be passed from one person to another during sex. Anyone who is sexually active could be at risk of STDs. If you’ve had sex with only one person for many years, you are not likely to be at risk. But if you have sex with more than one person, or recently had a new sex partner, this sheet is for you.
STDs may seem like a young person’s problem. Not true! Anyone who has sex could catch an STD. Even you!
Most STDs are passed through contact with the body fluids, genital sores, or blood of an infected person. You’re at risk if you:
Have had sex with even one person who has an STD.
Have multiple sex partners (this increases the chance that one of them has an STD).
Have had sex with a new or casual partner without using a latex condom.
Think that any of the above could be true for a past or present sex partner.
HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) and hepatitis can be passed in other ways besides sex. These include: Taking drugs using a needle that someone else has used, or having had a blood transfusion before 1985, or in a country where blood isn’t tested for viruses.
If you think you’re at risk for an STD, get tested. The sooner you know about an STD, the sooner it can be treated. And getting early treatment reduces the damage an STD does to your body. When you’re tested, you’ll get a chance to talk to a health professional about your risks—and how to keep from spreading the disease to others.
For some STDs, results are ready right away. For others, results can take up to 2 weeks. Talking to a health professional about the results can help you understand exactly what they mean. If your risk continues after you’ve been tested, you may be advised to repeat the test from time to time. If you find that you do have an STD, your healthcare provider can help you inform your partners so they can get tested and treated.
If you have sex, there are two simple rules for protecting yourself. First, limit the number of sex partners you have. Second, use a latex condom each time you have sex. Talking to your partners about STDs is also a key step in protecting yourself and others.