Assessing your risk for STDs

 Assessing your risk for STDs

By Bailey Brown

Some of the most common STDs in the US include chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV/AIDS. When assessing your risk for Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) it is important to ask yourself a few questions surrounding your use of protection, sexual partners, your behavior, health history, and frequency of testing. Beyond that, it is crucial to understand what can cause an STD. It is also important to note that curable STDs include chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis.

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Alt text: Naked man and woman embrace in black and white
Pixabay, Public Domain

How Many Partners Do You Have, and How Often Do You Use Protection? Although monogamous couples can still contract an STD, your risk increases with your number of partners. One of the top five ways to prevent an STD, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is reducing your number of partners, along with knowing how to use a condom. That said, it is important to note that penetration is not the only way to contract something, and that you can also get an STD from oral sex, or skin-to-skin contact.
How Frequently Should You Be Tested?Everyone who is sexually active should be tested for STDs regardless of their relationship status. However, those with only one partner may need to be tested less frequently. Anyone considering or currently participating in unprotected sex should be tested prior to and after the encounter.
Of the STDs most commonly tested for, gonorrhea and chlamydia can each be detected two weeks after initial exposure. Syphilis can be detected anywhere from one week to three months after exposure, and HIV/AIDS as well as hepatitis C and B can be detected six weeks to three months after exposure. Although herpes can also be transmitted via skin-to-skin contact, you likely do not need to be tested unless you notice sores developing.
Talk to your health care provider about your sexual history to better understand when, why, and how often you should be tested.
How Does Your Health History Affect Your Risk?Gender, age, and preexisting STDs (like HIV/AIDS, which can be transmitted genetically) could affect your risk of infection. For example, young women are more likely to contract certain diseases than their male counterparts due to their anatomical makeup. Talk to your health care provider regarding the specific biological factors which might affect your risk levels.
Are You Engaging in Risky Behaviors?There are multiple ways to spread STDs other than sex. Infected needles, from both substance use and tattoos/piercings, can spread diseases when they are not properly dealt with. Furthermore, your sexual environment, including with whom and how often you engage in sexual encounters, can affect your risk.
Being cognizant of these factors is one of the biggest ways you can prevent the further spreading of STDs. To find out what your risk levels are, be sure to talk to a health care professional. You can also take an online risk assessment test which will tell you if you need to be screened, and what for.


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