Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are contagious infections. STDs are most commonly passed in the following ways:
- Through sexual contact
- Through contact with items contaminated with infected fluids (like sharing needles in drug use)
- From mother to child during pregnancy or birth
What Are STDs?
STDs are contagious infections that cause diseases in the body. If you are sexually active, you are at risk for STDs. Using protection and screening your sexual partners can lessen the risk, but the only way to ensure that you do not get an STD is through abstinence.
There are three main types of STDs: viral, bacterial, and parasitic.
Viral STDs cannot usually be cured, but treatments are available to help manage symptoms and reduce the risk of transmission.
Examples of Viral STDs are:
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
Bacterial STDs like chlamydia or gonorrhea are usually easily treated using antibiotics.
The most common parasitic STD is trichomoniasis. It is also easily treated with medication.
Why Is It Important to Get Tested?
STDs can sometimes be asymptomatic, meaning they don’t always have symptoms. You could have an STD and not know for years before you have symptoms. Even when there are no symptoms, an STD can still be spread to your partner.
If you test positive for an STD, it is crucial that your partner also be tested for their health and to prevent passing the STD back to you after you are treated. Treatment for STDs does not offer immunity against future exposure.
Complications of STDs can develop due to untreated STDs with or without symptoms. These complications can include the following:
- Pelvic pain
- Pregnancy complications
- Eye inflammation
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Heart disease
- Certain cancers, such as HPV-associated cervical and rectal cancers