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Posted By iamincontrol | June 27, 2013
Lots of teens ask, “Am I really at risk for an STI? I would know if I had one, right?” As a nurse, I find that many people underestimate their risk for infection. Sexually transmitted infections are not something people want to think about, let alone discuss with their friends, so it is very easy to assume they are not a reality…they only happen to “other people.” Also, most people infected with STIs do not have symptoms and are unaware they are infected.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that there are more than 19.7 million people with new STIs in the United States every year. More than half of all people will have an STI at some point in their life. Your lifestyle plays a big role in preventing STIs, so here are some things you can do to keep yourself safe:
- Avoid sex at an early age.
Every year, one in 4 teens gets an STI. Young people (ages 15-24) have the highest rates of STIs. Even though they represent only ¼ of the population that are having sex, they account for ½ of new infections. Also, because the cervix is not fully developed, it is easier for young women to get infected with an STI.
- Limit your partners.
Your risk of contracting an STI increases with each partner you have. Studies show that women with five or more sexual partners were eight times more likely to report having an STI than those with only one partner.
- Use condoms every time, for every kind of sex.
Although avoiding sexual contact all together is the only way to totally avoid STIs, condoms can reduce the risk for those who are sexually active. Condoms used correctly and consistently (every time) are thought to reduce the rate of HIV transmission by 80%.
- Get tested.
This can be done at by your family doctor, your local family planning clinic or health department. Getting tested for you and your partner before you even begin having sex can help reduce future transmission. However, keep in mind that some STIs can take up to 6 months before they can be detected with a test. (This is called a “window period”.) Some STIs, such as genital herpes and HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) can take even longer to show up.
- Be smart about your sexuality.
Know your limits and be comfortable saying no to sex. Talk to your partner before you become intimate. Has your partner ever been tested for STIs?
- Don’t confuse birth control with STI protection.
Condoms are the only form of birth control that may prevent STIs. However, condoms do not offer 100% protection from STIs or pregnancy.
- Be responsible for your own protection.
It doesn’t matter if you are male or female. If you think you are going to have sex with someone, have condoms available.
- Don’t drink or use drugs before you have sex.
It is more difficult to make responsible decisions when you are under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
For more information about where to get STI or HIV testing in your area, visit this site.
You are in control of protecting yourself against STIs.