Stay safe from STDs
February 15, 2017 | by Amy Treakle MD

What is an STD?

A sexually transmitted disease (STD) is an infection caused by bacteria or a virus. An STD is also known as a sexually transmitted infection (STI) because you can have the infections without disease symptoms. Overall, young people and gay and bisexual men face the greatest risk of getting an STD, according to new reports. Half of the nearly 20 million new STD cases are among 15- to 24-year-olds.

How are STDs spread?

STDs are spread by oral, genital, or anal sex. Some examples of STDs are chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhea and HPV.

Did you know?

  • Rates of gonorrhea and syphilis among men are at an all-time high.
  • Rates of gonorrhea and chlamydia among heterosexuals is rising.
  • Rates of drug-resistant gonorrhea are rising.

Source: King County Health Department - 2015 Sexually Transmitted Diseases Epidemiology Report

How are STDs prevented?

There are several methods for protecting yourself against STDs including:

  • Abstinence. The most obvious and effective is avoiding all sexual contact, or abstinence.
  • Condoms also provide a barrier against disease. You can get an STD (syphilis, HPV, HSV) from skin to skin contact or other mucous membrane contact. Condoms and dental dams can help prevent these STDs. Condoms should be used for oral sex.
  • Regular STD testing is important, especially for people with multiple sexual partners.

Why is early detection important?

STDs are largely preventable but can cause harmful, often irreversible and costly complications including:

  • Reproductive health problems and infertility
  • Fetal and perinatal health problems
  • Cancer
  • Easier sexual transmission of HIV infection

What tests are available?

The types of tests and the screening frequency you may need depend on your age, sexual behaviors, and other risk factors.

Don't assume that you're receiving STD testing every time you have a gynecologic exam or Pap test. If you think you need STD testing, request it from your doctor. Talk to your doctor about your concerns and what tests you'd like or need.

How do you get tested?

Ask your health care provider about getting tested for STD. Your provider can help you decide if there are any tests you need and if so, which ones.

Is it a test generally covered by insurance?

The only way to know whether your insurance company covers STD testing is to verify with your insurance company. Your insurance company will confirm which tests are paid for under your coverage plan and whether any exclusions may apply. It will also help you find a doctor within your network who can complete the test for you.

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Written By: Amy Treakle MD