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13.1: What are STDs?

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    The following information about STDs is published by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion on the website Healthy, 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

    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

    This page titled 13.1: What are STDs? is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Flynn et al. (GALILEO Open Learning Materials) .

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