Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are infections, which are spread from one person to another by coming into sexual contact with an infected person. A person who has a sexually transmitted infection (STI) can pass the infection to other people by way of contact with their skin, mouth, genitals, body fluids or rectum. Anyone having sexual contact-oral, vaginal or anal sex- with an infected person can get the STI. It is not necessary to exhibit symptoms of an STD. Even if no symptoms are present, your health may be affected. Although treatment and cures exist for some STDs, not all of them can be treated. Since STDs are highly preventable, prevention is always the best option.

What are the causes of STDs?

The causes of STDs are viral or bacterial infections. STDs that are caused due to bacterial infections are treated using antibiotics. There is no cure for STDs that are caused by viral infections, but you can take measures to treat their symptoms. 

What factors increase your risk of contracting an STD?

The below-mentioned factors can increase your risk of contracting an STD:

  • Having sex with greater than one partner
  • Having a sexual partner who themselves have sex with greater with one partner either currently or in the past
  • Having sex with a person who has an STD or STI
  • Having a personal history of STDs/STIs
  • Using intravenous drugs or if your partner uses intravenous drugs

What are the most commonly occurring STDs?

Some of the commonly occurring STDs are:

  • Chlamydia
  • Genital herpes
  • Gonorrhea
  • HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infection
  • Syphilis
  • HPV (human papillomavirus) infection
  • Hepatitis B
  • Trichomoniasis

How can you prevent STDs?

The following are the top five methods to prevent STDs:

Abstinence

Abstaining from having all types of sexual contact; i.e., vaginal, oral or anal is the most efficient and reliable method to avoid contracting an STD. However, most individuals don’t find abstinence a practical method of dealing with the situation. 

Vaccination

Getting a vaccine is a safe and effective method that is recommended to prevent HPV and hepatitis B. The HPV vaccine for both females and males may protect against certain common forms of HPV. It is recommended that you get all the three shots (doses) before engaging in sexual activity. However, an HPV vaccine is recommended for all the teen girls and females after the age of 26 years and all the teen boys and males after the age of 21 years who were not given the three shots or doses of HPV vaccine before (at a younger age). You must also get a hepatitis B vaccine in case you had not received the vaccine before (at a younger age). 

Reduce the number of your sex partners

Reducing the number of sex partners can also decrease the risk of contracting an STD. It is also important to know about the sexual history of your partner. The greater number of partners you have, the greater your risk of getting an STD. The same is also true for your sexual partners, i.e., if they have more partners, then it still increases your risk. You and your sexual partner should get tested for STDs. Moreover, both of you should share the results of your tests with each other. 

Mutual monogamy

The meaning of mutual monogamy is that you have agreed to have sex with only one individual who has also agreed to have sex with only you. Having a long-term relationship that is mutually monogamous is among the most effective and reliable methods to prevent STDs. You should also have an honest and open conversation regarding sex with your partner. 

Use condoms

Using male condoms made of latex correctly and consistently is greatly effective in reducing the transmission of STDs. You must use a latex condom each time you are involved in vaginal, oral or anal sex. You can also use a female condom while having vaginal intercourse. You should use dental dams or condoms while having oral sex and gloves during manual penetration. 

In case of using a lubricant, be sure to use a water-based lubricant. It is important to use condoms during the entire sexual act. Though condoms aren’t 100% effective in preventing STDs, they are still extremely effective when used correctly. Hence, learn the method to correctly use condoms. 

You don’t get extra protection by using condoms that have a spermicide as a lubricant. On the contrary, frequently using some spermicides may increase your risk of contracting HIV.  

Rinsing or washing after having sex may help in removing the infectious material present on the skin. Women should pass urine after sex as it reduces the risk of getting UTIs (urinary tract infections). 

Some more tips to prevent STDs:

  • Avoid having sex with any person who has genital sores, discharge, rash, or any other symptoms.
  • Avoid sharing underclothes or towels.
  • Wash before and after  having sexual intercourse.
  • Both you and your partner should get tested for STDs, especially HIV before getting involved in sexual activity. 
  • Avoid having sex when you are drunk or have taken drugs. In case you suffer from alcohol or drug abuse, seek help. Individuals who are on drugs or drunk while having sex often don’t follow safe sex practices. 
  • Avoid getting involved in risky sexual practices. Sex acts that break or tear the skin increase your risk of contracting an STD. Germs can pass by way of even tiny cuts, which don’t bleed. The risk is increased with anal sex as rectal tissues may tear easily. STDs can also be transmitted by body fluids. Your risk is highly increased if you have unprotected sex with a person infected with an STD.