What Do You Know About STIs?
Did you know that April is STI Awareness Month? It is estimated that there are over 20 million new STI cases yearly in the US alone, making STIs a major health crisis in the US.
Sexually Transmitted Infections, more commonly known as STIs, are diseases that are spread through sexual activity, which is defined as vaginal, anal, or oral sex. When left untreated, STIs can spread like wildfire and, for certain STIs, can have detrimental consequences including pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility.
STIs are much more common than you may think. Anyone who is sexually active may be at risk for contracting an STI. So, what can you do to stay safe from STIs? And what do you do if you think you have been exposed? Here are 3 ways that you can protect yourself and others from the spread of STIs.
Lowering Your Risk
Even though STIs are very common in the U.S., there are ways that you can lower your risk of contracting an STI. Here are some methods to help protect yourself:
- Protection: Whether you have one sexual partner or multiple, it is always a good idea to use protective barriers such as a male condom to help prevent the spread of STIs.
- HPV Vaccination: The HPV vaccination is recommended by the CDC for preteens and young adults ranging from 11-26 years old. The HPV vaccine has been shown to be protective against HPV, a sexually transmitted infection, and reduce women’s risk of HPV-related cervical cancers.
- Abstinence/Mutual Monogamy: It may go without saying, but the most reliable way to avoid an STI is by abstaining from sexual activity. If you are sexually active, another way which can limit your risk of being exposed to an STI is through reducing your number of sexual partners or by having a mutually monogamous relationship in which you and your partner are only sexually active with one another.
Whether you believe you were exposed to an STI or not, if you are sexually active it is always beneficial to get tested for STIs regularly. One of the main reasons that STIs are so prevalent in the US is that many of these infections are asymptomatic. This means that those who are infected and do not regularly get tested for STIs will continue to spread the infection to each of their sexual partners without knowing. To protect yourself and others, get tested for STIs regularly, whether you have symptoms or not.
Know About Your Local Resources
For many people in the U.S., the idea of using protection and getting tested for STIs regularly may seem financially unattainable. However, thanks to both government funding and the help of thousands of organizations nationwide, it is highly likely that there is a free or low-cost facility that provides sexual health resources in your community. Many of these facilities will have a wealth of information, resources, and services including:
- STI Testing
- STI Treatment/Support
- Free Condoms/Contraception
- Sexual Health Education
- HIV post-exposure prophylaxis
Knowing about these organizations within your community can provide you with the ability to practice safe sex and reduce the spread of STIs. Here in Lynchburg, Community Access Network provides all of the previously mentioned benefits to anyone regardless of age or insurance status.
Community Access Network is also Central Virginia’s Ryan White Care Clinic. The Ryan White Program is an HIV program designed to aid those who are HIV positive with coverage of costs of medical care and support services. Head to our sexual health services page to find out more about our sexual health services and the Ryan White Program: https://www.communityaccessnetwork.org/sexual-health-services/