Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), each year approximately 20 million sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are contracted in the United States. Half of those infected with an STI are between the ages of 15-24 years.
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are infections that are passed from one person to another through sexual contact. Many of these STDs do not show symptoms for a long time, but they can still be harmful and passed on during sex.
How are STIs spread? You can get an STI by having sex (vaginal, anal or oral) with someone who has an STI. Anyone who is sexually active can get an STI. You don’t even have to “go all the way” (have anal or vaginal sex) to get an STI, since some common STIs, like herpes and HPV, are spread by genital skin-to-skin contact.
How common are STIs? STIs are common, especially among young people. There are about 20 million new cases of STIs each year in the United States. Young people are at greater risk of getting an STI for several reasons:
- Young women’s bodies are biologically more susceptible to STIs.
- Some young people do not get the recommended STI tests.
- Many young people are hesitant to talk openly and honestly with a doctor or nurse about their sex lives.
- Not having insurance or transportation can make it more difficult for young people to access STI testing.
- Some young people have more than one sex partner.
Quick STIs Facts:
- An estimated 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV. This number is growing.
- Most sexually transmitted infections do not have any symptoms!
- With the most commonly transmitted bacterial STIs — Chlamydia & Gonorrhea — only 3 out of 10 people show symptoms.
- 1 in 2 sexually active Americans will contract an STI by age 25.
- 1 in 6 people between the ages of 14-49 have genital herpes in the US.
- Each year, more than 40,000 people are newly infected with HIV in the USA.
- If a pregnant woman has an STI, she can pass it on to her infant. There are medications that can prevent transmission so early detection is vital.
- Condoms reduce, but do NOT eliminate, the risk of contracting STIs.
- Hormonal birth control does NOT protect against STIs.
- Common viral STIs such as HPV and Genital Herpes can be passed by genital skin to skin contact.
The most common STIs include the following:
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. There are many different types of HPV. Some types can cause health problems including genital warts and cancers. Some health effects caused by HPV can be prevented with vaccines (http://www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/default.htm).
- Trichomoniasis (or “trich”) is a very common sexually transmitted disease (STD) that is caused by infection with a protozoan parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. Although symptoms of the disease vary, most women and men who have the parasite cannot tell they are infected (http://www.cdc.gov/std/trichomonas/default.htm).
- Syphilis is an STD that can have very serious complications when left untreated.
Syphilis is easy to cure in its early stages. Pregnant women should be tested regularly for syphilis because infection with syphilis can cause serious problems in a baby. In 2012, 75% of the reported primary and secondary (P&S) syphilis cases were among men who have sex with men (MSM) (http://www.cdc.gov/std/syphilis/default.htm).
- Chlamydia is the most commonly reported STD in the United States. Most people who have chlamydia don’t know it since the disease often has no symptoms. Sexually active females 25 years old and younger need testing every year. Although it is easy to cure, chlamydia can make it difficult for a woman to get pregnant if left untreated (http://www.cdc.gov/std/chlamydia/default.htm).
- Gonorrhea. Anyone who is sexually active can get gonorrhea. Gonorrhea can be cured with the right medication. Untreated gonorrhea can cause serious health problems in both women and men (http://www.cdc.gov/std/Gonorrhea).
- Genital herpes is a common STD, and most people with genital herpes infection do not know they have it. You can get genital herpes from an infected partner, even if your partner has no herpes symptoms. There is no cure for herpes, but medication is available to reduce symptoms and make it less likely that you will spread herpes to a sex partner (http://www.cdc.gov/std/herpes/default.htm).
- Hepatitis B is a liver disease caused by the Hepatitis B virus (HBV). It ranges in severity from a mild illness, lasting a few weeks (acute), to a serious long-term (chronic) illness that can lead to liver disease or liver cancer. Transmission is caused by contact with infectious blood, semen, and other body fluids from having sex with an infected person, sharing contaminated needles to inject drugs, or from an infected mother to her newborn (http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/PublicInfo.htm#whatIsHep).
- Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the Hepatitis C virus (HCV). HCV infection sometimes results in an acute illness, but most often becomes a chronic condition that can lead to cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer. Transmission takes place through contact with the blood of an infected person, primarily through sharing contaminated needles to inject drugs. There is no vaccine for Hepatitis C (http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/PublicInfo.htm#whatIsHep).
- HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It is the virus that can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS. Unlike some other viruses, the human body cannot get rid of HIV. That means that once you have HIV, you have it for life. (http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/index.html).
Positive Choices can provide you with more details about how STIs can impact your life and where to find testing facilities.
* (Source: http://www.cdc.gov/std/life-stages-populations/STDFact-Teens.htm)
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