- What's in the name? There's a difference between an STI and an STD. You've got a sexually transmitted infection (STI) when you've been infected through having unprotected sex. If the infection then causes symptoms, such as unusual discharge from your penis or vagina, you've got a sexually transmitted disease (STD). So in general, the only difference between an STI and an STD is whether you've got symptoms. Either way, you still have an infection that you can pass on to someone else.
- Protection STDs can range from having only a small effect on your health to being deadly. But there is a very simple way to protect yourself and your sex partners from getting infected or passing on the infection – using condoms! You may have heard that peeing and washing your genitals after sex can protect you, but that's not true. Condoms are the only effective prevention method against STDs. The other option you have is abstinence, which means not having sex at all. Girls can also get vaccinated against the HP-virus, which causes genital warts, an STD that can cause cervical cancer.
- The causes and treatment STDs can be caused by either bacteria, viruses or parasites. They don't come from witches, supernatural powers, curses or taboos. Which means that to treat the disease, medication against the bacteria, virus or parasite should be used. There are lots of other beliefs about treating STDs though. Having unprotected sex with a virgin, fasting, praying over your genitals and soaking them in soda or religious blessings will not cure your STD!
- Get tested! The problem with STDs is that you might not have any symptoms, but you can still pass on the infection. Or it takes a really long time for the symptoms to show up. With HIV for example, you can be infected for up to 10 years without any major symptoms! So even if you or your partner looks healthy, that may not mean that you actually are healthy. That's why it's important to get tested regularly if you have unprotected sex or you think you may have an STD. Because treatment will also lower your risk of getting another infection, like HIV.
- We've come a long way...You can be lucky that science has come up with very effective medications against many STDs. Before antibiotics, infections like syphilis were often treated with mercury, arsenic and silver nitrate. And while this may have cured it, you were left with severe poisoning or sores that needed to be burned off your skin. But remember that not all STDs have a cure. HIV/AIDS is still fatal, for example. So it's important to protect yourself and have safe sex, then you won't have to worry about a cure.
This article was first published on March 9, 2013.