What better time to talk about sexually transmitted diseases and infections than in April, recognized as STD Awarness Month? We spoke with Dr. Kat Van Kirk, licensed marriage and sex therapist and resident sex expert for Adam and Eve, about the spreading of sexually transmitted diseases and infections between young people — approximately 19 million new STIs occur each year, and almost half are among those ages 15 to 24 (and if you're wondering about the difference between STIs and STDs, check out this piece from STD Check). Below are important facts you should know from the doc herself.
The rise in STDs may be attributed to a few factors, including poor sex education.
"I believe there has been a perfect storm brewing between inconsistent sex education standards across the US, the introduction of the HIV prevention drug PrEP, an increase in casual hookup sex of the youth culture, and an acceptance of STD risk by those that are sexually active."
Chlamydia and HPV have become increasingly common.
"Chlamydia and HPV diagnoses are at an all-time high since the CDC started tracking stats decades ago. Both of these STDs can be asymptomatic (in women and especially men), leading to a longer stretch of time with not having a diagnosis and therefore potentially infecting more partners with it."
Many infections lie dormant for years.
"Some people can have long dormant herpes or HPV infections that get stimulated years later, making identifying when/who you got exposed via almost impossible to figure out."
A couple more surprising facts . . .
- "Most STDs can be transmitted orally."
- "Syphilis is back on the rise." According to the CDC, the number of people diagnosed with syphilis has grown dramatically since 2000. In 2014, there were almost 20,000 reported cases of the disease (91 percent men, and 9 percent women).
Measures to take to protect yourself:
"Getting a sense of your partner's sexual history is important. Try not not make judgements — just because someone has slept with a lot of people doesn't mean he or she hasn't been safe about it. If you get the idea things are going to get sexual, broach the topic ahead of time. That way, you won't have to interrupt the play. Create an open atmosphere by your willingness to talk about your past, too. Numbers of partners, how you feel about monogamy, condom use, and more should all be in the docket. This is a great way to establish communication in general with a partner."
Last but certainly not least?
"Keeping yourself healthy overall with regular exams, STD testing, and maintaining your immune system can help you avoid having to deal with an STD."