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The 6 Most Common STDs in Men

You can prevent STDs. Here’s how.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

Experts are most concerned about women getting HPV because the virus is known to cause cervical cancer. But HPV is also known to cause genital warts and to increase the risk of cancers of the penis, anus and rectum in men. What’s more, millions of men carry the virus and risk giving it to their sexual partners. According to the CDC, more than six million Americans are infected with HPV every year. In recent surveys, as many as 48% of men showing up in STI clinics tested positive for HPV. The number is about 8% among the general male population.

A new vaccine has proven remarkably effective in preventing HPV infection. In 2006, the CDC recommended that the vaccine be routinely given to girls when they are 11 to 12 years old. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP)recommendation allows for vaccination of girls beginning at nine years old as well as vaccination of girls and women 13 to 26 years old. That recommendation has sparked controversy, of course. But it could well save lives. HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer in women.

Syphilis

Fortunately, modern medicine has found effective drugs to treat the scourge of syphilis. Preventing the disease hasn’t proved as easy, however. Through the 1990s, rates of syphilis fell, reaching an all-time low in 2000. Since then, they’ve been climbing again. “Syphilis rates have increased for five consecutive years,” says Jennifer Ruth, spokesperson for the CDC. Between 2004 and 2005 alone, the national syphilis rate jumped more than 11%. Among men, the risk has soared 70% in the past five years.

That’s scary for plenty of reasons. Untreated syphilis can damage the brain, cardiovascular system and many organs in the body. What’s more, having syphilis increases the danger of being infected with HIV/AIDS at least two- to five-fold.

The ABCs of STD Prevention

You’d think advice on how to prevent sexually transmitted diseases would be noncontroversial, right? Wrong. Like so much else these days, STD prevention advice is a political hot potato. Some sides want to focus exclusively on abstinence and monogamy in marriage. Others say more should be done to promote condoms.

To keep everyone happy, public health officials have latched on to an easy-to-remember acronym for prevention: "ABC." A is for “abstinence.” B is for “be faithful.” C is for “condom.”

Obviously, the only foolproof way to prevent STDs is to avoid sex. The second most effective way is to settle down and live happily -- and faithfully -- ever after with a sexual partner who is free of infections. That’s great if you can manage it. But let’s face it -- plenty of people these days are sexually active, with more than one partner. In that case, especially if you aren’t sure whether you or your partner may have an STD, using a condom is critical.

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