Today marks the beginning of STD Awareness Month. Half of all new Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) are found in people under 25, which means it is particularly important for young people to learn about STD prevention! This April we are reminding you to follow three steps to prevent STDs: Talk, Test and Treat!
Step 1 -- TALK
There are many people you can talk to about STDs – your partner, your family or other trusted adult, and your doctor. Talking to your partner is an important step in protecting yourself from STDs. Ask them if they have been tested for an STD, when it happened and what they got tested for. Be sure to talk to your partner about using a condom to protect against STDs if you choose to have sex.
If you are social distancing from your partner, which is the current recommendation unless you live together, you can decide if you are more comfortable starting a conversation about STDs over Facetime or video call or if you would rather wait until you are in person. Make a plan to get tested together when the safer at home orders are lifted.
It may feel uncomfortable to talk to your parents, guardian, or another trusted adult, but once you break the ice, you might find out that they are more helpful (and less judgmental) then you expect. You can use this time when you’re all at home to start the conversation using some of our tips.
You should also talk to your doctor about STD testing. Right now, doctors and clinics are moving to more virtual or phone appointments due to Coronavirus and may be overloaded with patients. If you are experiencing any symptoms or have a partner who tested positive, call a clinic near you or get in touch with your doctor to find out if they are seeing patients and what options are available for you.
If you are not experiencing any symptoms, it is best to wait until the stay home orders are lifted. Find the clinic you want to go to and make a plan to get tested when the safer at home orders are lifted and providers are back to normal. Once you do go in, remember that health professionals are there to help and not judge you. Tell them you are interested in getting tested for STDs and be honest in answering any questions they may ask you.
Step 2 – TEST
After talking to your doctor or health care provider about getting tested, they will decide which tests are right for you. If you have any questions, be sure to speak up! STD testing may involve a urine test (peeing in a cup), a blood test, or a swab, but they’re all pretty easy.
You will likely get your results back in a few days. The health care provider will let you know when to expect them. If you do not hear back, you should call to get the results. Due to labs focusing on Coronavirus tests, if you are able to get tested, the results might take longer to come back than usual.
Remember, there is not a test for every STD, so it is important to still prevent STDs with condoms, communication with your partner, and getting the HPV vaccine (which will protect you against HPV, or human papilloma virus, in the future).
Remember- STDs often don’t have any symptoms so the only way to know if someone has it is to get tested.
Step 3 – TREAT
If you or your partner test positive for an STD, getting treated is important. Some STDs, like chlamydia and gonorrhea, are curable and others, like HIV and Herpes, are not curable but there are medications to help with symptoms and reduce the chance of spreading them to others. It is important to follow the instructions given by your doctor and to take all of your medication. You may also have to abstain from sex for a period of time. If you have had more than one sexual partner, make sure to let everyone know that they need to get tested and treated. You can also ask your doctor or health care provider about treatment for your partner.
Prevention is Key
While talking about, testing for, and treating STDs are important for to protecting your health and the health of your partner, there are other ways to prevent the spread of STDs. Abstinence is the best method to prevent STDs. If you choose to have sex, using a condom will help prevent STDs and TeenSource has information on where you can find free condoms near you! The HPV vaccine is also a great way to protect yourself from HPV which can cause cancer. Ask your doctor about the vaccine if you have not already received it!
Throughout the month of April, we will be sharing more about STDs in our blogs and on Instagram! Follow us at @teensourceorg for more information and chances to get your STD questions answered!