The Worst Best-Kept Secret: STDs

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Pretending STDs Don't ExistAccording to your favorite TV show, they never happen. No one on your playlist of love songs ever sings about getting one. Most people you know only joke about them. Do they even exist?

Oh, yes they do. They’re called STDs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases) or STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections)—two names for the same ugly secret. The old, dark secret that people try to keep hidden. The secret that “casual sex” can have terrible physical consequences.

The Center for Disease Control states that, “There are about 20 million new cases of STDs each year in the United States, and about half of these are in people between the ages of 15 and 24.” This means that about 10 million young adults will get an STD in the next 12 months.

Whoa. Can you even picture 10,000,000 people? Here’s one way: 10,000,000 people is about equal to the combined populations of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Montana. Now imagine each of those 10,000,000 people moving on to a new sex partner. . . or two. The potential result: 10,000,000 or more new infections.

Calculate Your Sexual Risk

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So you’re probably wondering, “Why don’t we hear more about STDs?” Here’s what I think.

  • First of all, talking about STDs is a bummer. Who really wants to discuss the downside of a lifestyle they’re hooked on? Besides, many people believe they are not sexually active “enough” to contract an STD. Unfortunately, once is enough—especially if your partner has had sex with other partners. Wondering what your risk might be? Take this private quiz online to find out.
  • Third, a lot of people want to believe condoms block all STDs. There are two flaws in that thinking. Condoms can usually prevent transmitting STDs that are passed through body fluids, but only if they are always used “consistently and correctly.” Let’s get real: that just doesn’t happen. And even if a condom were used perfectly, it couldn’t protect against the STDs that are passed from skin to skin—like genital herpes—that often occur outside a condom’s coverage area. Ever notice that no condom comes with a 100% money-back guarantee?
  • Fourth, some STDs seem easy to “fix” because they can be treated with antibiotics. But if you feel no symptoms, will you go to the doctor for that “fix”? Probably not. Meanwhile, the infection is rampaging through your body, doing its damage. And what about STDs caused by viruses—like HIV/AIDS? Against those diseases, antibiotics are powerless. Medicine can only make the symptoms easier to endure.
  • Lastly, many people haven’t heard another ugly secret: getting one of the “treatable” STDs makes a person more vulnerable to HIV infection. Further, someone who has already contracted HIV/AIDS along with an STD is more likely to pass on the HIV/AIDS virus to a sex partner than someone with HIV/AIDS alone.

If you’re reading this, then for you the secret is out. You’ll be a whole lot harder to fool now. But what are you going to do with this information? You have a few options—

  1.  Bury your head in the sand. Bad idea. Ignoring truth doesn’t make it go away.
  2. Already living clean? Keep it up! Preserve your sexual integrity so you have something beautiful and pure to offer your future spouse.
  3. Make a U-turn if you’ve been living a life at risk for STDs/STIs. Begin by getting tested for STDs so you can get treatment to limit the damage to your body. Then stop exposing yourself to STDs.

At Choices, we are all about giving you the support you need to live a healthy lifestyle–one you can be proud of. Let us know how we can help you.

Let’s bring this ugly secret out into the open. Share this post on Facebook or tweet a link to it on Twitter. Add your own voice to the conversation by answering this question:

How does hiding the truth about STDs interfere with your freedom to make a wise choice about sexual activity? (Write your comment below; it will show up on this page when we post you a reply.)

Thanks for helping us tell the secret.