In terrifying sex news, a recent CDC report estimates that there are more than 19.7 million new sexually transmitted infections in the U.S. each year. While many of these infections are treatable and even curable, they commonly go undetected because they often have no signs or symptoms.
Case in point: The most common infection, HPV, often presents without any symptoms at all. Ã¢â‚¬Å“About 70% of all new infections are HPV infections,Ã¢â‚¬Â says study author Catherine Lindsey Satterwhite, Ph.D., epidemiologist with the CDC. Most of those cases will go away on their own, but few can lead to genital warts or even cervical cancer.
Before you swear off sex altogether, remember that there are plenty of preventative measures you canÃ¢â‚¬”and should!Ã¢â‚¬”take. Here, the tips you need to stay safe:
Be smart about condoms They may not be foolproof, but condoms are your best line of defense (other than abstinence) against STDs. Ã¢â‚¬Å“The big thing to remember with HPV is that itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, so even when using condoms youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re not going to have full protection, because there is plenty of genital skin that doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get covered,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Alyssa Dweck, M.D., author of V is for Vagina. The same goes for the herpes virus. But donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t let that deter you from using protection. It still offers significant protection against infections such as Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Syphilis, and others. RELATED: When Is It OK To Go Without a Condom?
Get tested regularly For women aged 21-30, doctors suggest getting a pap smear once every three years, as well as a screening for common STDs and HIV annually. Women over 30 should also expect an HPV test along with their pap smear every five years. Ã¢â‚¬Å“If youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re with a new partner, anticipating being with a partner, or if you have multiple partners, you should get tested,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Dweck. RELATED: Types of STDS: Trouble Down Below
Ask your doctor about any irregularities Even if your next screening isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t for two years, you should always see your doctor if symptoms pop up. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Any weird bumps, abnormal bleeding after sex, or signs of an infection may be concerning,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Dweck. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, call up your gyno. RELATED: 7 Surprising STD Facts
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