More and more people in the United States are getting sexually transmitted diseases according to the CDC.
There are many factors behind this worrying trend including sustained cuts in public health funding in many states and more people forgoing protection.
As long as you are sexually active, your risk of contracting an STD is higher today than 3 or 4 years ago simply because there are more people with STDs.
According the CDC, the most at-risk groups are adolescents and young adults, gay and bisexual men and certain ethnic groups.
Thankfully, protecting yourself is easy. Here are the most effective tips.
Note: I’ll not include ‘abstain’ as a preventive measure. Sure, it’s the best way to avoid an STD. But if you are reading this I’m assuming you are sexually active and have no plans to stop being so. So let’s talk about things that you can actually do.
Practice Safe Sex
This is one of the most obvious ways to avoid an STD and yet so many people don’t do it. Studies have shown that most people use condoms only sometimes.
A survey by the CDC showed that many people use condoms during their first sexual intercourse. But when asked how often they’ve used protection in the last four weeks, the percentage of those who answered ‘none of the time’ is absurdly high (66% in men and 75% in women aged 15-44 years and unmarried).
Condoms do not provide 100% STD protection but they are a whole lot better than nothing.
They are especially important if you have multiple sexual partners or if you are in a casual relationship. Even if your sexual partner doesn’t want to use a condom, insist on it.
Get Tested Together
If you are sexually active, you should already be getting regularly tested for the most common STDs. There are plenty of anonymous online and home STD tests that offer bundled packages. See our top recommendations.
If you are in a relationship, make sure you get tested together. That way, you can be sure that none of you is putting the other at risk.
Some home STD tests offer special packages for partners.
If you are in a healthy relationship, agree with your partner to be sexually active only with each other. This is what is referred as mutual monogamy.
Being in a mutually monogamous long term relationship is one of the most effective ways to avoid getting an STD.
But both of you should still get regular STD tests just to be on the safe side. STDs are not just transmitted via sexual intercourse. One of you could have contracted the infection another way.
If you decide to get into an open relationship (where you can have sex with other partners), practice sufficient protection.
Always use protection and get STD tests even more frequently. It’s also important that each of you agree to practice safe sex with other partners.
There are several STDs for which there are vaccines. They include:
- HPV – the HPV vaccine is recommended for boys and girls starting at age 9-12 and adults up to age 26.
- Hepatitis B – the hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for anyone who is sexually active, HIV+ persons and individuals with partners who have hepatitis B.
- Hepatitis A – Vaccination for hepatitis A is recommended for children, gay men, those with hepatitis B or C and anyone travelling to an area with a high incidence rate of hepatitis A.
Talk to your doctor or visit your local health clinic to learn more about vaccinations for sexually transmitted diseases and where you can get them.
Avoid Sharing Personal Items
You don’t have to have sex to get an STD. Sharing contaminated needles, non-penetrative sexual contact and unsanitary medical procedures can also cause an infection.
Something else that you should be careful about is sharing personal items.
It is unusual for an STD to spread through things like towels, clothes and bedding. But it can happen especially if the shared items are damp. That’s why sharing items such as towels and bathing suits is a big no-no.
Other high risk items include toothbrushes, sex toys and razors.