For the third consecutive year, the CDC reported that sexually transmitted diseases reached an all-time high in the United States in 2016. They offer abstinence as the number one way to combat and prevent STDs, and while that’s technically true, the advice isn’t realistically deterring people from sex—with or without protection. Two million new cases of STDs were discovered in 2016. That’s nearly 5,480 new cases a day. And with the continual cutting of sexual education programs across the country, the gross allocation of funds to abstinence-only education, and the attack on healthcare from our current administration, one can comfortably assume that 2017 is probably going to set a new STD mark by the end of the year.
While the lack of education about the actual diseases themselves is unfortunate, the reality is we’re taught even less about how to discuss STDs with current, former, and future partners. If many parents bypass the sex talk, barely any broker the STD chat. Still, the CDC continues to offer abstinence as the only way to 100 percent prevent STDs, ignoring the troubling data that shows that 15 to 24-year-olds are the group most affected by STDs in this country.
Should you find yourself even a little bit concerned about potentially contracting a sexually transmitted disease, it’s best to play it safer than you did in the bedroom and get tested ASAP. Since symptoms frequently don’t appear for a period of time, you’ll definitely want to make a habit out of getting tested once a year. Don’t let fear keep you from getting to the doctor—many of these diseases can be cured with antibiotics.
Once tested, if you find out you do have something, no matter how awkward it seems, you need to contact the people you’ve had sex with, protected or unprotected, and let them know what you have and how you are handling it. If you are comfortable enough putting your mouth on someone’s penis or vagina, you shouldn’t be too shook to discuss sex with them, be it for safety or pleasure.
If a partner of yours contacts you to say they’ve contracted an STD, it’s best to act like an adult, recognize that you both participated in unsafe sex with each other and reasonably decide how you should take action.
With all of this in mind, here’s what you need to know about each major STD if you ever plan to have sex again.