Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are infections that are spread from one person to another by sexual contact. There are many different types of STDs. Some of the more common STDs are chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, crab lice, syphilis, condylomata (genital warts), trichomonas, HPV, HIV (the virus that causes AIDS), and hepatitis B (a liver disease). Some of these diseases are more dangerous than others. Some STDs can be cured with antibiotic medicines. However some STDs, such as herpes, HIV, HPV, and genital warts, are caused by viruses. There is no cure for these STDs. They can make you very sick. In severe cases, they can cause death.
Many times a person can have one of these diseases and not know it because they don't have any symptoms and don't feel sick. The person can then spread the disease to sexual partners. Sometimes a person thinks or knows that they have an STD but they are too embarrassed to talk about it with a sexual partner. Sexual partners are at risk for getting the disease if safe sex isn't practiced every time.
Having sex can be a very loving and special experience between two people. However, you should think about it before you decide to have sex. Sex can cause a pregnancy or give you a sexually transmitted disease. You can get a disease after only having sex once. You can also get hurt emotionally because of the strong feelings involved.
Decide ahead of time what is right for you. Find an adult with whom you can discuss your feelings and opinions, and ask questions. Although it is sometimes awkward to start the conversation, you can talk with your parents. You might also speak with your healthcare provider, school counselors, teachers, or adult relatives. You can usually discuss issues with these adults confidentially.
To protect yourself from sexual diseases, the only absolutely risk-free activity is to be abstinent and not have sex. Many people decide to wait to have sex until they are older, married, or feel more comfortable. There are also many intimate activities that are almost always safe without taking any special precautions. These activities include holding hands, hugging, touching, and kissing. Intimate touching and mutual masturbation may be less risky than intercourse, though some STDs can be spread this way.
If you have vaginal or anal intercourse, you can help protect yourself by using latex or polyurethane condoms each time. During oral sex, flavored condoms can be used on males. Hormonal birth control methods, such as birth control pills or Depo-Provera shots don't prevent you from getting an STD. Condoms must absolutely be used to help prevent sexually transmitted infections.
There is a female condom, one that lines a woman's vagina, but it is more difficult to use. Talk with a healthcare provider or other adult who knows how to use it before you try it.