— Body Matters

These are the most common STDs — and how best to avoid them

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Mark your calendars, because April is Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) Awareness Month! Of course we should all stay informed about and aware of our sexual health and STDs during all months of the year, but this special month is the time to build awareness about and destigmatize STDs. So we’re providing you with all resources and facts about STDs you need to take into the future and better protect yourself. Because everyone deserves to enjoy safe sex.

According to the American Sexual Health Association, more than half of all people will have an STD/STI at some point during their life. Furthermore, one every four women who suffers from pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) contracted the condition because of an untreated STD — and many of these women are infertile as a result. Because there’s so much at stake, it’s important to stay on top of your sexual health screenings and tests to protect yourself and your partner(s).

Starting with the basics, these are the most common STDs, and how best to avoid them.

1Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

HPV, or Human Papillomavirus, is the most common STD in the United States. In fact, the CDC says HPV is so common that most sexually active people get it at some point in their lives. Different strains of HPV can cause genital warts and cancers, and can be totally symptomless or show symptoms years after initially contracting it.

HPV can go away on its own. But if it doesn’t, we have to worry about warts and cancer. In order to avoid the risk of developing cancer, you can get vaccinated. The CDC recommends getting vaccinated against HPV around ages 11 to 12. “Catch up vaccinations” are available to men up until the age of 21, and to women until age 26.

Although using condoms is always the right way to go to protect yourself against most STDs, HPV can still be transmitted through exposed skin. Get routine cervical cancer screenings and Pap smears, even post menopause, to stay aware of potential HPV hazards.

2Gonorrhea

Anyone can get gonorrhea. It’s super common among young sexually active people and can cause infection in the genitals, rectum, and throat. Gonorrhea usually does not show any symptoms. But when symptoms do show, they are usually mild and women can often mistake them for a bladder or vaginal infection.

Abnormal discharge, vaginal bleeding between periods, and burning during urination are all signs that you might have gonorrhea. The best way to avoid gonorrhea is to refrain from sex (heh) or, better yet, use latex condoms. Make sure you know your partner’s sexual history and ask them if they have been recently tested for STDs.

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