Information & Prevention
Engaging in sexual activity is a leading risk factor for acquiring a sexually transmitted disease (STD), including HIV.
Anyone who begins sexual activity should develop a personalized plan on how to prevent the transmission of STDs and remain sexually healthy.
The following options can help reduce your risk for acquiring an infection through sexual activity:
- Wait to have sex: wait until you’re sober; wait until you’re a certain age; wait until you’re married; wait until…whatever time YOU choose. Whatever you decide “waiting” means for you, not having sex immediately will ensure that you won’t get an STD.
- Monogamy: discuss with your partner what this means and how it’s defined in your specific relationship.
- Communication: talk with your sexual partner(s) about your and their sexual history and when they were last tested for an STD.
- Reduce your number of sexual partners.
- Condoms: using condoms and dental dams appropriately reduces the risk of acquiring an STD by almost 100%, and the health department offers free condoms to anyone who requests them.
- Don’t have sex while impaired: anyone under the influence of alcohol or drugs is more likely to engage in higher risk sexual behaviors. Alcohol and drugs are one of the most common reasons that people modify their behaviors related to sexual activity and increase their risk of acquiring an STD.
- Don’t assume: never assume a partner would tell you if they had an infection. Most people who are diagnosed with an STD report that they “knew” their partner’s status so they thought they were being safe.
- Mutual masturbation: while this does allow for the transmission of bacterial infections such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis, the risk of transmission is much lower than during unprotected vaginal, oral, or anal intercourse.
Up to 75% of people infected with an STD have no symptoms and do not know that they are infected.
Testing is the only way to know for sure.
When people do have symptoms, they vary by disease, though there are a few general symptoms listed below that warrant a clinical examination.
If you think you may have been exposed to an STD, if you have any of the symptoms below, or if you just want to get checked out and be sure, make an appointment at the STD Clinic.
Commons symptoms of an STD:
- Discharge from the penis, vagina, or rectum
- Abdominal pain (females)
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding
- Frequent urination
- Burning during urination
- Pain during intercourse
- Itching or irritation
- Sores or bumps
- Skin rash
- Swollen or sore testicles
For disease-specific symptoms and information, visit the CDC’s information page about sexually transmitted diseases.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all pregnant women get routinely screened during the pregnancy for bacterial STDs in order to avoid maternal-to-child transmission during birth.
If a pregnant woman is infected with an STD, she can receive treatment to avoid infecting the baby.
If left untreated, the infection may be passed to the baby who may suffer from such consequences as low birth weight, eye infection, lung infection, developmental disorders, or premature death.
The consequences of an STD can occur at any time, however the longer an STD goes untreated the more likely it is to result in a long-term complication.
Consequences of having an STD include:
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Difficulty getting pregnant
- Complications during pregnancy
- Premature delivery
Sometimes talking to your regular health care provider about sexually transmitted diseases can be difficult. Testing and treatment at the health department STD Clinic is a safe, convenient option for people who would rather not discuss these topics with their family doctor.
However, if you’d like to talk to your family doctor about STDs, questions to consider asking include:
- Would I know if I had an STD? Would I have symptoms?
- How long can I carry an STD?
- Can I get an STD by sharing a towel or from a toilet seat?
- Can I get an STD from kissing or deep kissing?
- Can I have herpes without symptoms?
- Can I get an STD (including HIV) from oral sex?
- Can you cure herpes or HIV?
- How long can an STD live outside the body?
- Can I get an STD from mutual masturbation?
- Can douching after sex prevent STDs and/or pregnancy?
- Can I get chlamydia or gonorrhea more than once?