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October 28, 2020
 

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Weekend doctor: Protecting yourself

From sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

By Malary McBride, APRN-CNP
Certifed Nurse Practitioner
Blanchard Valley Obstetrics & Gynecology

September is Sexual Health Awareness Month. 

Did you know that one in two sexually active persons will contract a sexually transmitted infection (STI) by age 25? However, this is not the only age group affected by STIs. STIs affect people of all ages and backgrounds. 

There are nearly 20 million new cases each year in the U.S. alone. Protecting yourself from STIs and getting screened for STIs is important. The only way to know if you have an STI is to be tested!

STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) was the term we used to refer to diseases spread through sexual contact. You may start to hear healthcare providers use the term sexually transmitted infections instead. When we hear “disease,” most people would think that sounds like a medical problem. However, the most common STDs are asymptomatic (there are no signs/symptoms).  Furthermore, the sexually transmitted bacteria or virus can be referred to as an “infection.” 

While you may not be able to eliminate the risk of STIs completely, there are many ways to reduce the risk of contracting STIs. This includes abstinence, mutual monogamy (only having intercourse with your partner) or limiting partners, barrier methods (such as male or female condoms), and avoiding alcohol and recreational drug use (which reduces our ability to make safe sex decisions).  Communication with your sexual partner(s) is imperative, and remember you have the right to say “No.” Having sex is a decision both partners should be comfortable with.

Talking to a healthcare provider about sexual health can be embarrassing or intimidating for some patients. However, understanding your body and talking about safe sex with ways to protect yourself is very important. That’s what we are here for! Be smart and get tested.