STDs used to be called venereal diseases or VD. They are among the most common contagious diseases. More than 65 million Americans have an incurable STD. Each year, 20 million new cases are reported; half of these infections are among people ages 15 to 24 and they can have long-term consequences.
By Kimberly Goad
As Amanda Clark, 33, a caterer from Boston, walked down the aisle toward her fiancé, wearing a $15,000 gown and a 7-carat ring, she felt nothing but dread. I don't want to go through with this, she thought, with each step toward the altar.
Just two hours before the ceremony, Clark had gone for a dip in the ocean with her two sisters. When it was time to get ready, Clark wouldn't budge. "I couldn't get out of the water," she says. "It was like knowing you have a work meeting...
STDs are serious illnesses that require treatment. Some STDs, such as HIV, cannot be cured and can be deadly. By learning more about STDs, you can learn ways to protect yourself.
You can get a STD from vaginal, anal, or oral sex. You can also be infected with trichomoniasis through contact with damp or moist objects such as towels, wet clothing, or toilet seats, although it is more commonly spread by sexual contact. You are at high risk if:
You share needles when injecting intravenous drugs
You trade sex for money or drugs
HIV and herpes are chronic conditions that can be managed but not cured. Hepatitis B also may become chronic but can be managed. You may not realize you have certain STDs until you have damage to your reproductive organs (rendering you infertile), your vision, your heart, or other organs. Having an STD may weaken the immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to other infections. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is a complication of gonorrhea and chlamydia that can leave women unable to have children. It can even kill you. If you pass an STD to your newborn child, the baby may suffer permanent harm or death.
What Causes STDs?
STDs include just about every kind of infection. Bacterial STDs include chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. Viral STDs include HIV, genital herpes, genital warts (HPV), and hepatitis B. Trichomoniasis is caused by a parasite.
The germs that cause STDs hide in semen, blood, vaginal secretions, and sometimes saliva. Most of the organisms are spread by vaginal, anal, or oral sex, but some, such as those that cause genital herpes and genital warts, may be spread through skin contact. You can get hepatitis B by sharing personal items, such as toothbrushes or razors, with someone who has it.