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STDs Straight Talk

STDs Straight Talk


Know the Facts, Keep Yourself Healthy

Everyone wants to avoid sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Many people are embarrassed to talk about them. But did you know that 50% of sexually active people will get an STD before the age of 25? Anyone can get an STD: men or women, young or old. It doesn’t matter how many partners you’ve had or what your sexual orientation is. You can get an STD the very first time you have sex, and there are some STDs you can get even if you use a condom.

To keep yourself healthy, know the facts about STDs. Know how to prevent them, know when and where to get tested, and know what to do if you find out you have one. Most importantly, learn how to talk about it. All STDs are treatable, and many are curable. Keep reading for straight talk on STDs. 

How Can I Avoid Getting an STD?

STDs, depending on the type, can be passed from one person to another in several ways: vaginal sex, oral sex, anal sex, blood contact, contact with semen or vaginal fluids, skin-to-skin genital contact, and mom to baby contact.

You can lower your chance of getting an STD in several ways:

  • Don’t have sex. (This is the only 100% way to avoid STDs.)
  • If you’re pregnant, get tested for STDs. If you have one, learn about how to avoid passing it to your baby.
  • Before you have sex with a new partner, make sure you both get tested.
  • Talk to your partner about your sex history.
  • Use a barrier method—like a condom or dental dam—when having sex.
  • Only have sex when you’re sober.
  • Only have sex with one uninfected partner. (No STD will be caught if neither of you has one.)
  • Have sex with fewer partners. (This seems obvious, but it’s a good way to lower your risk.)
  • Get vaccinated against HPV and hepatitis B.

Will I Know if I Have an STD?

Most people are surprised to find this out: you often can’t tell if you, or someone you’re with, has an STD. You might notice that something feels wrong, depending on the STD, but it’s most common not to feel or see anything!

The most common STD symptom is no symptom.

Find out if you have an STD. Many STDs can be diagnosed and cured after a quick trip to a clinic. But without treatment, some STDs can have serious long-term effects like infertility, cancer, or even death. And if you don’t know you have an STD, you may end up giving it to a partner or your baby by accident.

Without getting tested you won’t know for sure, and the sooner you get tested the better. Once you know, you can take medicine for a cure. Or if an STD is not curable, you learn how to manage it so it interferes with your life as little as possible and you don’t pass it on to other people. You need to get tested whether you’ve had unprotected sex or regularly use protection--no method of protection is 100%. 

How Do I Get Tested?

Testing is easy—but you have to know what to ask. When you go in for a routine visit, you don’t usually get tested for STDs unless you ask for it. So ask!

You and your health care provider will decide which STDs you should be tested for. But most importantly, you need to speak up and ask to get tested. You can’t assume that you have been tested for STDs just because you have had blood taken, have given a urine sample, or (for women) have had a pelvic exam or Pap test. Some STDs are so common that your health care provider may suggest you get tested for them regularly.

Even if you feel embarrassed to talk about your sex life, be honest and open with your health care provider. They need to have all the facts to give you the right test.

Your health care provider may ask you what seem to be really personal questions about your sex life—like how many people you’ve had sex with, what types of things you’ve done during sex, what kind of birth control you use, and if you use drugs or drink alcohol. There is no one single test that tests for all types of STDs, so these questions are just trying to figure out which tests you need. Your health care provider isn’t there to judge you, and you probably can’t say anything he or she hasn’t already heard before. Really.

Find a testing center near you. Put your zip code in this locator or text your zip code to GYTNOW (498669) on your cell phone. You will get a text back with the nearest testing center to you. 

How Much Will It Cost?

How much (or if) you pay to get tested for STDs depends on where you go. Be sure to ask about cost when you call to make your appointment. Many places offer low-cost, sliding scale (based on what you can afford), or even free testing, and most places accept health insurance. If you don’t have insurance or prefer not to use your health insurance for STD testing, ask about payment options.

How Do I Talk to My Partner?

Everyone who gets an STD gets it from someone else. Part of stopping the spread of STDs is open communication. Maybe you got tested and you want to talk to your partner about the results. Maybe you’d like to ask your partner to get tested too. This conversation is really important. Think about what you’d like to say in advance, make a plan to talk to your partner at a good time, and realize that your partner may have a range of reactions—from scared to embarrassed to angry. Good communication is key. 

Who Will Know?

When you’re at the clinic to get tested, talk to your health care provider about how you want to get the results and how concerned you are about privacy. Can your provider call and leave a message on your home phone? Would your cell phone be better? Is it okay to get the results or a bill in the mail? Talk ahead of time about the best way for your health care provider to contact you. 

Learn More

Get the facts on all the types of STDs and how to reduce your risk

Get information on the most common STDs

Find out what other teens are saying about STDs.