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Am I At Risk For Stds?

Author: Fiyyaz Pirani
Published: Sep 30 2013

Anyone who is sexually active can potentially acquire a STD, but the level of risk for STDs varies from person to person. Here are a few questions to ask yourself in order to determine whether you are at risk for transmitting STDs:

1. Did you have unprotected sex with one or more partners within the last year?

If so, then your risk for STDs is doubled. Having sex sans condom with one casual partner is risky enough, but having multiple "hook-ups" without protection is like playing Russian Roulette - you never know which partner might be the one that "gets" you. The fact is, the more sexual partners you have the greater your chances are of contracting a STD, particularly if your partners are having sex with other people. That's why it's so important to use condoms consistently and correctly during each sexual encounter, including vaginal, anal and oral sex. People underestimate the risk of contracting STDs via fellatio or cunnilingus, but it is certainly possible to get one if the performing person has open sores or cuts in his or her mouth that would allow for the exchange of sexual fluids.

2. Have you had a recent sexual encounter that just didn't feel "right"?

Trust your intuition, but try not to panic. If you suspect that a person you recently slept with may have had one or more STDs, get tested as soon as possible. The earlier you do so, the sooner your doctor can treat you (if you happen to test positive for a STD). Also, keep in mind that it can be almost impossible to tell whether a person has a STD, unless they display obvious symptoms like open sores or genital discharge. However, most STD-infected people are more likely to show no symptoms, to the point where even those people with STDs may not be aware of their infections.

3. Did you have sex while under the influence of drugs or alcohol?

This isn't meant to criticize those activities or the people who engage in them - we're simply pointing out that it's harder to make good decisions while under the influence. Drugs and alcohol lower inhibitions, which may encourage you to take risks like not using a condom. In addition, people who share needles used to inject illegal intravenous drugs risk transmitting STDs from others.

4. Have you felt or noticed unusual symptoms that you can't account for?

Tell-tale signs of a STD infection include the following: rashes, bumps or sores in various parts of your body; uncommon genital discharge; painful or burning urination; and persistent flu symptoms such as fever, fatigue, headache and nausea. However, there's no real way of knowing whether you've been infected by a STD unless you get tested. As mentioned earlier, many people with STDs can also be asymptomatic, so if you sense that something isn't right with your body see a doctor as soon as possible.

5. Does your partner have a history of testing positive for STDs?

Before you start any sexual relationship, it is recommended that you have a honest conversation with your significant other about his or her sexual health, specifically the number of times they contracted STDs (if applicable). Obviously, you want to be respectful and not ask questions that are too invasive or make the other person uncomfortable. The goal isn't to upset your partner, but to make sure you have enough information to make an informed decision. Some STDs cannot be cured or treated so you need to know whether your mate has them. Don't assume you can just "tell" that your partner doesn't have a STD, particularly since any sexually active person can get infected under the right circumstances.

6. Are you a sexually active individual between the ages of 15-24?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this is the demographic that is most prone to STD transmission; the CDC estimates that half of all new STDs occur among young people within the 15-24 age range. The relatively high number of STD positives among people under the age of 24 can be attributed to a range of factors that may include lack of access to affordable health care, confidentiality concerns and lack of familiarity with STD testing services. In addition, women under the age of 25 are more susceptible to STD transmission - many younger women do not have fully developed cervixes, which makes it easier for them to be infected by STDs such as chlamydia and gonorrhea.

7. Did you previously test positive for one or more STDs?

If you had a STD in the past - even if it's been treated - you can potentially be re-infected with the same STD, or you can be vulnerable to transmitting other STDs. Some STDs, such as syphilis and HIV, are known as "co-existing infections," which make it possible to contract one STD and increase your risk for being infected with the other STD. Also, STD re-infection is common among those positive individuals who didn't receive the proper and necessary treatments for a particular condition, or who have a partner who wasn't tested and treated.

If you were able to answer "yes" to all or most of these questions, you should consider getting STD tested, and should get checked annually. If you do not want to visit a clinic, consider online STD testing. STDcheck.com offers test packages that conclusively determine whether or not you have a sexually transmitted disease. If you are not sure which STD test to order, consider using the STD Test Recommender to find the test or tests that are right for you. STDcheck also provides a 10-Test Panel that can detect all common diseases like HIV, syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis A, B & C, and herpes-1 & herpes-2.

Please remember to practice safe sex and get checked annually because STDs can be caught by anyone who is sexually active.

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