The month of April is STI Awareness Month and is all about, well, raising awareness of STIs. Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) continue to be highly stigmatized in our society. Jokes and stereotypes about them make people feel anxious and embarrassed. Unfortunately, STI stigmatization can delay testing and treatment which can lead to long-term health problems and unknowingly spreading STIs to sexual partners. Hence, the need for more awareness.
According to the CDC:
- There are 20 million new cases of STIs each year
- Half of all new STI cases in the US occur in people ages 15-24
- Only 12% of young people say they’ve been tested in the past year
There are a few reasons teens and young adults are at higher risk of STI infections than older adults. First, many aren’t properly educated on how to protect themselves during sexual activity. Second, some are misinformed on how STIs spread. Third, some of the most common STIs don’t have symptoms. People who have the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and Herpes can all be asymptomatic, meaning, they show no symptoms. Fourth, if you’ve been led to believe all STIs have symptoms and you aren’t showing any, you may never get tested. Finally, many people are afraid to be tested.
The best way to protect yourself from STIs are:
- Using a condom each and every time you have vaginal or anal intercourse
- Using a condom or dental dam each time you have oral sex
- Properly clean and do not share sex toys with your partner(s)
- Avoid alcohol and drug use, which can lead to lowered inhibitions and poor decision making
- Limit your partners to those who share your sexual values (willingness to get tested and use condoms, monogamy, etc.)
It is also important to be responsible for your own health. Always carry condoms with you, do not rely on the other person to provide them. However, it is important to note that you should not carry a condom in your wallet or leave them anywhere they will be exposed to extreme temperature changes (like the glove box in your car). And always make sure to use them within the expiration date printed on the packaging.
Even if you are being super careful, it is still very important to get tested on a regular basis, especially if you have multiple partners. The only way to know if you have an STI is to get tested. You can’t tell by looking at someone whether or not they are carrying an STI, you may not show symptoms yourself, and ignoring getting tested will not make your risk go away. Get tested each time you have sexual contact with a new partner.
Important things to know about STI testing:
- Ask your health care provider for an STI screening, they may not give you one automatically at a routine visit
- There are different tests for different STIs
- They are quick and relatively painless
- You do not need parental permission
- Your results are confidential, your parents will not find out
Being sexually active should be a fun and satisfying experience for all partners involved, but it is also a responsibility that must be taken seriously. Practicing safe sex and being tested for STIs regularly are two of the best things you can do for your short- and long-term health. Please, don’t ever be afraid to reach out to The Annex for more information on STIs, to ask questions, or to be tested. We are always here to help you: (763) 533-1316.