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Medicine LibreTexts

13.1: What are STDs?

  • Page ID
    11198
  • The following information about STDs is published by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion on the website Healthy People.gov., and is found on the page “Sexually Transmitted Diseases”:

    STDs refer to more than 25 infectious organisms that are transmitted primarily through sexual activity. STD prevention is an essential primary care strategy for improving reproductive health.1

    Despite their burdens, costs, and complications, and the fact that they are largely preventable, STDs remain a significant public health problem in the United States. This problem is largely unrecognized by the public, policymakers, and health care professionals. STDs cause many harmful, often irreversible, and costly clinical complications, such as:

    • Reproductive health problems

    • Fetal and perinatal health problems

    • Cancer

    • Facilitation of the sexual transmission of HIV infection2

    How are STDs Transmitted?

    Ejaculation does not have to occur for an STD/STI to be passed from person to person. Sharing contaminated needles used to inject drugs or using contaminated body piercing and tattooing equipment also can transmit some infections, such as HIV or hepatitis B and C.

    Below you will find additional information about the transmission of STDs. This information is published by the US Department of Health and Human Services and found on the website of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on the page “How many people are affected by or at risk for a sexually transmitted disease or sexually transmitted infection (STD/STI)?”:

    Anyone who has had or is having sexual intercourse or oral sex, or who has participated or is participating in sex play, is at risk for acquiring an STD/STI

    Fortunately, it is possible for a person to decrease his or her risk by having protected sex and knowing his or her STD/STI status and that of his or her partner.

    Still, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates nearly 20 million new cases of these reportable STDs/STIs (gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis) occur each year in the United States— almost half of them among young people 15 to 24 years of age.1

    While not the most common STD/STI, HIV/AIDS is one of the most devastating and most well known. Recent data from the CDC indicate that 1.1 million Americans haveHIV2:

    • One in five is unaware that they have the virus.

    • Approximately 50,000 Americans become infected with HIV each year.

    • 15,529 people with AIDS died in 2010.

    Click on the following link to learn more about reported STDs in the United States:

    CDC Fact Sheet