STD Awareness Month: Taking Control of Your Sexual Health

March bringing awareness to STDs

STDs in the United States have been steadily on the rise for several years. Between 2003 and 2017, cases of Syphilis increased 196% and Chlamydia increased 95%, despite advances in medicine and technology that allow the public to be better informed about STDs. April is STD awareness month; do not be a statistic this month. Learn how to take control of your sexual health and protect yourself against threats.

1. Schedule a Visit with Your Doctor

Your doctor should be your first stop when taking control of your health. Talking to your physician about your sexual history can feel uncomfortable. Find confidence in knowing your doctor cares about your well-being and will not judge your choices. It is important to be completely honest when answering your doctor’s questions about your sexual activity; they can make recommendations about testing and, perhaps, the treatment plan you may need. While it is crucial to answer all of your physician’s questions, it is also important to ask your own. If you have questions about risk factors, potential symptoms, tests, or treatments, do not be afraid to speak up and get answers. If you have a regular sexual partner, you should also encourage him or her to make regular visits to their doctor and get tested, as needed.

2. Get Tested

There are an estimated 110 million cases of STIs in the United States. However, many people with STIs or STDs are unaware of their infection because they lack symptoms or they brush off the symptoms they do experience. The only way to know whether or not you have an STD is to be tested. Below are the testing guidelines for common STDs:

  • HIV: People between the ages of 13 to 64 should be tested at least once in their lifetime for HIV. If you are at higher risk for HIV (sexually active gay or bisexual men, women who have had sex with a bisexual man, or people who share drug equipment), you should be tested each year. You should also be tested for HIV if you are pregnant, preferably early in your pregnancy.
  • Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, & Syphilis: If you are sexually active, you should be tested for Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, and Syphilis each year. If you participate in higher-risk sexual activities (having multiple or anonymous partners), you should be tested more often, typically every three to six months. If you are pregnant, you should be tested early in your pregnancy.
  • Hepatitis B: If you are sexually active or have shared drug equipment with someone else, you should be tested for Hepatitis B regularly. If you are pregnant, it is important to be tested in the early stages of your pregnancy. 

3. Take Steps to Protect Yourself

While talking to your doctor and regularly getting tested for STDs can lower your chances of contracting an STD, you are fully responsible for your sexual health. You should always take precautions when you engage sexually with anyone. Here are some practical ways to protect yourself:

  • Use physical protection. Using a condom can drastically reduce the chance of contracting an STD. Condoms should be used from the beginning to the end of your sexual encounter.
  • Know the right way to use a condom. Make sure you read all of the information on the condom’s packaging; adhere to the expiration date and refrain from using condoms that may have been punctured or exposed to extreme heat. Stay away from oil-based lubricants, as they will make the condom more likely to rip. Additionally, only use condoms that are made of latex or polyurethane – animal skin condoms are not as effective at protecting from STD infections.
  • Get vaccinated. You can protect yourself from Hepatitis B and HPV (Human papillomavirus) through vaccination. These vaccines are safe, effective, and recommended by physicians. You may have been vaccinated for both these conditions as a child, however, you can still receive these vaccines as an adult. Review your medical history with your physician to determine if these vaccines are still necessary/recommended for you.
  • Reduce your number of sexual partners. Reducing your number of sexual partners will limit your chance of exposure to an STD. Mutual monogamy is the safest way to have a sexual relationship. Mutual monogamy means you and your partner agree to be exclusively sexually active with each other.
  • Be honest with your partner(s). No matter how many sexual partners you choose to have, you should be honest with each one about your own sexual history when it comes to any STDs you may have contracted. If you are putting your partner at risk, they need to know. Ideally, your partner will also be honest with you about his or her history and risk factors. If you have doubts, ask questions to protect yourself.
  • Practice abstinence. This seems to be a no-brainer, but the way to completely eliminate your risk of contracting an STD is by not having sex.

Have questions about your sexual health or getting tested for STDs? The team at Capital Women’s Care can help. Contact your local office today.

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The providers of Capital Women's Care seek the highest quality medical and ethical standard in an environment that nurtures the spirit of caring for every woman.

 

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