Prevention of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
Each year, hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. contract a sexually transmitted disease. Thus, it is important to understand what behaviors put you, your family and friends at risk. All of us must take responsibility for protecting ourselves and our partners. Simply addressing these issues does not imply approval of the sexual practices discussed.
Most STDs are treatable, but AIDS has no cure and death is virtually certain. Therefore, education about this disease is vital. Although AIDS can be spread through shared use of contaminated needles among drug abusers, or rarely, through a blood transfusion, it is usually transmitted by sexual contact. The virus is present in semen and vaginal secretions and enters a person's body through the small tears in the vaginal or rectal tissues that can develop during sexual activity. AIDS is not considered a highly contagious disease; transmission of the virus occurs only after very intimate contact with infected blood or semen.
On the other hand, STDs (such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, venereal warts and syphilis) are highly contagious and many can be spread through even brief sexual contact. However, none of these infections are spread through casual contact, such as handshaking, talking, sitting on toilet seats, or living in the same house with an infected person. The microorganisms that cause STDs (including AIDS) all die quickly once outside the body.
The only sure way of preventing STDs and AIDS is through sexual abstinence or a relationship with only one uninfected person (straight or gay). If you have several partners, either heterosexual or homosexual, you place yourself at a high risk of contracting disease. At present, no vaccine is available to prevent any of the STDs.
To help prevent the spread of STDs:
- Know your sexual partner. Tell your sexual partner if you have an STD and ask your partner if they may have an STD.
- Look for signs of an STD in your sexual partner. For example, look for sores around the penis or vagina. If your partner has: