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Prevention of Sexually Transmitted Diseases

About STDs

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are diseases that are spread from one person to another during some type of sexual activity. There are many different types of STDs. Some of the more common STDs are chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, crab lice, syphilis, condylomata (genital warts), trichomonas, HIV (the virus that causes AIDS), and hepatitis B (a liver disease). Some of these diseases are more dangerous than others. We have treatments for some of them but not all. Some can be deadly or make you very sick.

Many times a person can have one of these diseases (especially chlamydia) and not know it because they don't have any symptoms and don't feel sick. The person can then unknowingly spread the disease to sexual partners if careful precautions aren't always used. Sometimes a person suspects or knows that they have an STD but is too embarrassed to talk about it with a sexual partner. If safe sex isn't practiced every time, then sexual partners are at risk for also getting the disease.

Deciding to Have Sex

Having sex can be a very loving and special experience between two people. However, you should think about several important issues before you decide to have sex. Not only might sex cause a pregnancy or give you a sexually transmitted disease, but you also can get hurt emotionally because of the strong feelings involved.

Decide ahead of time what is right for you. Find an adult with whom you can discuss your feelings and opinions, and ask questions. Although it is sometimes awkward to start the conversation, you can discuss these things with your parents. Other adults from whom you might be able to get valuable information or insights include pastors or rabbis at your church or synagogue, school counselors, teachers, or adult relatives. Also your doctor's office can help you. You can usually discuss issues with these adults confidentially.

Safer Sex

In terms of sex and sexual diseases, the only absolutely risk-free activity is to be abstinent and not have sex. Many teens decide to delay having sex until they are older, married, or feel more comfortable. There are also many intimate activities that are almost always safe without taking any special precautions. These activities include holding hands, hugging, touching, and kissing.

Other sexual activities, especially sexual intercourse, are very risky if precautions aren't taken and if you don't think things through and talk with your sexual partner. If you have vaginal or anal intercourse, you can protect yourself against almost all of the STDs by using condoms each time. Other birth control methods, such as birth control pills, Depo-Provera shots, Norplant, or an IUD, don't prevent you from getting an STD. Even if you are using another form of birth control, you still want to protect yourself with condoms.

Using Condoms

  • Condoms are sold in drug stores. Buy latex condoms. Never use condoms made from animal skins because they can leak.
  • To use a condom:
    1. Hold the condom at the tip to squeeze out the air.
    2. Roll the condom all the way down the erect (hard) penis. Don't try to put a condom on a soft penis.
    3. After intercourse, hold onto the condom while the penis is being pulled out of the sexual partner.
  • Never use the same condom more than once. It is a good idea to have two condoms available in case one breaks.
  • If a condom breaks, as soon as you realize it take it off and put on another one. If you don't have another condom, stop having sexual intercourse until you can get another.
  • The man should pull out of his sexual partner while his penis is still hard. If his penis gets soft first, the sperm can leak out of the condom.
  • If you use a lubricant with condoms, make sure it is water based (like K-Y jelly). Do not use Vaseline or Crisco; these can cause the condom to break.
  • Some condoms are lubricated with the chemical Nonoxynol-9, which helps kill some of the germs that cause STDs. It doesn't matter which kind you use as long as you use a condom every time you have sex.

There is a female condom, one that lines a woman's vagina, but it is more difficult to use. Talk with a doctor or nurse or other adult who knows how to use it before you try it.

Other Information About STDs

  • Your chance of getting an STD is greater if you have more than one sexual partner.
  • Douching the vagina or showering after sex does not prevent STDs.
  • Withdrawal (when a man pulls his penis out before he ejaculates) is not a way to prevent STDs or pregnancy.
  • You can get the same STD again, even if you have had it once and have been treated.
  • You can get an STD even if you have sex just one time.
  • It is dangerous to mix alcohol or drugs with sexual activity, because they might lead you to take risks (you might forget or not care about using a condom).
  • If you have symptoms of an STD, it is important to get treated as soon as possible.

Call your health care provider if:

  • You are having any symptoms that you think might be caused by a sexually transmitted disease. These include burning or pain when urinating; strange or weird-smelling discharge from the vagina or penis; itching, burning, or pain around the vagina, penis, or anus (bottom); and rashes, sores, blisters, or growths around the vagina, penis, or anus.
  • You think you might have been exposed to someone with an STD.
  • You had sex without a condom and you are worried about becoming pregnant.
  • You missed your period and you have had sex with someone (that is, you might be pregnant).
  • You have questions about sex.
Written by J. Todd Jacobs, M.D.
Published by McKesson Provider Technologies.
Last modified: 2006-10-10
Last reviewed: 2006-05-01
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright 2006 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All Rights Reserved.
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