What Are STDs and How Do You Get Them?

What Are STDs and How Do You Get Them

What Are STDs and How Do You Get Them?

According to statistics published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on April 13, 2021, the number of instances of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) — now more frequently known as sexually transmitted infections (STIs) — in the United States reached an all-time high in 2019. (CDC). According to the CDC’s surveillance report, almost 2.5 million new cases of gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydia were recorded that year.


Chlamydia maintained the most frequent disease reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with almost 1.8 million cases recorded, an increase of 19 percent from 2015. 

The number of gonorrhea cases reached 616,392, an increase of 56 percent from 2015. In addition, the number of primary and secondary syphilis diagnoses reached 129,813, an increase of 74 percent from 2015.

An especially concerning trend is that between 2015 and 2019, the number of instances of congenital syphilis (syphilis in infants) more than doubled, reaching 1,870 cases. During the year 2018, the number of stillbirths caused by syphilis grew from 79 to 94, and the number of infant fatalities due by congenital syphilis climbed from 15 to 34 deaths.

What Are STDs and How Do You Get Them?

While the STD figures for 2019 represent numbers before to the COVID-19 epidemic, early data from 2020 indicates that many of the same patterns persisted throughout the pandemic. Experts believe that the pandemic’s impact on STD testing and treatment programs will account for part of the increase in STDs in 2020.



While 2.5 million instances of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis may seem like a large number, it is likely an underestimate since many individuals with these and other STDs — previously known as venereal diseases — go undetected and untreated. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 20 million new sexually transmitted diseases occur every year, resulting in nearly $16 billion in yearly healthcare expenditures.



Inequalities in STD Burdens

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) rose in all age categories and across all racial and ethnic groupings in 2019. Some populations, however, had greater incidence of STDs than others:



Individuals between the ages of 15 and 24 accounted for 61 percent of chlamydia infections and 42 percent of gonorrhea cases.
Gay and bisexual males accounted for almost half of all primary and secondary syphilis cases.

STD rates among African-Americans were from 5 to 8 times higher than those among non-Hispanic white individuals.
The rates of STDs among American Indian or Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, or other Pacific Islander individuals were three to five times higher than those among non-Hispanic white people.


The incidence of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among Latinos were one to two times higher than those among non-Hispanic whites.
It is essential to highlight in the CDC’s surveillance report that “variations in sexual behavior are unlikely to explain these inequalities, but rather reflect unequal access to high-quality sexual healthcare, as well as differences in features of the sexual network.” For example, in areas with a higher frequency of STDs, individuals have a larger risk of meeting an infected partner with each sexual encounter than they do in places with a lower prevalence of STDs, independent of their sexual activity patterns.”

Here’s everything you need to know about spotting, treating, and preventing sexually transmitted diseases.

What Is the Definition of a Sexually Transmitted Disease?

“STDs are illnesses that are spread from one person to another via sexual contact,” a spokesperson from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains.



What Are the Most Common Sexually Transmitted Diseases?



herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2),

 human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), 

human papillomavirus (HPV),

 and syphilis are among the most prevalent sexually transmitted diseases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Many of these STDs may not manifest symptoms for a lengthy period of time,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “but they can still be dangerous and spread during sex.”


What Are the Different Ways in Which I Can Contract an STD? –

Intercourse may be transferred via anal, vaginal, or oral sex in almost all cases. Apart from that, close skin-to-skin contact may also be a source of transmission for certain STDs, even in the absence of sexual interaction.



Skin-to-skin contact, for example, may transmit viruses like HPV. Scabies, a scratchy skin ailment caused by a mite infestation, and Molluscum contagiosum, a viral skin disease, may also be transmitted via sexual or casual contact, according to the CDC. According to Edward W. Hook III, MD, a professor of infectious disease translational research in the departments of medicine, epidemiology, and microbiology at the University of Alabama in Birmingham who collaborates with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “it is also possible to contract scabies from a sleeping bag or bed that has been infected.”



According to Dr. Hook, sexually transmitted diseases (STIs) don’t only impact the vaginal areas. “Oral herpes virus may be spread via oral as well as genital contact,” he explains.

When Do I Know If I Might Have a Sexually Transmitted Disease?
The fact that certain STDs may not manifest any symptoms is essential to keep in mind.. New vaginal or urethral discharge or a new rash after sexual contact, on the other hand, should be examined by a healthcare provider.



These are some of the signs and symptoms that may manifest themselves when they do arise.


Chlamydia symptoms may include vaginal discharge in women, penile discharge in males, and burning during urination in both men and women.

Gonorrhea Symptoms of gonorrhea include painful or burning while urinating, as well as discharge that is thick, opaque, or crimson. Agonorrhea in the anus may cause itching in and around the anus, discharge from the anus, and discomfort while defecating if it is not treated. A painful throat may result from gonorrhea in the throat.




Hepatitis B is a virus that infects the liver and causes inflammation. Flu-like symptoms such as fever, tiredness, lack of appetite, nausea or vomiting, stomach discomfort, dark urine, clay-colored feces, joint pain, and jaundice are common in those who have acute hepatitis B. (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes). In the six weeks to six months after infection with the hepatitis B virus, symptoms may manifest themselves. In some cases, chronic hepatitis B manifests itself with symptoms that are identical to those of an acute infection.



Herpes genitalis is a viral infection that affects the genital area. Gender-specific herpes simplex virus (genital herpes) signs and symptoms include red lumps that grow into blister-like sores in and around your genital region, as well as your buttocks and thighs on occasion. Fever, headache, fatigue, and aches and pains, as well as swollen glands, are all possible signs of a new HSV-2 infection — the virus that is responsible for the majority of new cases of genital herpes.



Herpes simplex virus type 1 (oral herpes virus type 1) In addition to itching of the mouth and lips, sores and blisters on the lips and within the mouth, and flulike symptoms such as fever, headache, body pains and swollen glands, oral herpes may cause a fever and flulike symptoms.



HIV Early signs of HIV infection may be similar to those of the flu, including fever, headache, muscular pains, and a sore throat, among other symptoms. Swollen lymph nodes, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting, a fungal infection of the mouth, and a rash on the belly, arms, legs, or face are all possible symptoms. The following symptoms may occur if HIV is not treated: tiredness, weight loss, night sweats, joint discomfort, short-term memory loss, and recurrence of infection.


HPV The majority of HPV strains are asymptomatic and are only identified via a Pap test when aberrant cells are found. Some forms of HPV, on the other hand, are known to produce genital warts, which are skin-colored or white growths on the genitals or anus.



M. Contagiosum is a kind of mollusk. Pink or flesh-colored pimples with a dimple (indentation) in the middle are often the sole symptom of this skin condition. Skin-to-skin contact or sharing towels or other similar objects are the most frequent routes of transmission for youngsters. Sexual transmission is a possibility in adults.

Cockroaches in Public Irritation in the vaginal region, small bugs in your pubic hair, and visible nits (eggs) on your hair shafts are all signs of pubic lice infestation. Hair on legs, armpits, eyebrows, eyelashes, and other facial hair such as mustaches or beards may be infested with pubic lice, as well as the hair on the head and neck.

Scabies This skin infection produces severe itching, which is usually worst at night. It is contagious. It may also produce tiny red lumps or a rash on the skin, as well as elevated lines where the mites have burrowed into the skin.




When syphilis is in its initial stage, a painless sore, or ulcer, develops at the site where the germs entered the body, which is usually in the vaginal region. If you have syphilis in its secondary stage, you may notice a rash on your chest or anywhere else on your body.

Trichomoniasis Trichomoniasis, another frequent sexually transmitted disease, is a parasite illness that may cause burning and itching in the vaginal region in both men and women, as well as painful intercourse with a sexual partner. Trich may also result in a foul-smelling discharge as well as painful or frequent urination.




Is it possible to have an STD and not know it?

Yes. Many sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) may not manifest themselves with symptoms, particularly in the early stages, thus the only way to know for certain whether you have one is to be tested. Keep in mind that you may acquire an STD by having sexual contact with someone who does not exhibit any symptoms and may not even be aware that they have an STD.




What is the prevalence of this problem among adolescents?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that half of newly reported instances of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) occur in individuals between the ages of 15 and 24, adding that young women’s bodies are naturally more vulnerable to STDs.

“Chlamydia and HPV are very prevalent as soon as you begin to engage in sexual activity,” Hook explains. “Gonorrhea and genital herpes are most common in people in their late twenties to early thirties.”



All sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, may and do develop at any age.


When and how often should I get my blood tested?
“Chlamydia testing should be performed on a regular basis in women. According to Hook, some gynecologists do an automated test for it, but not all do.”

Collection of a urine sample and/or a swab from the vaginal or penile area are required for testing for Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and Trichomoniasis, respectively.

Blood testing is the most reliable method of diagnosing other STDs, such as HIV, syphilis, and genital herpes.



A sample of cervical or anal cells must be obtained in order to conduct an HPV test.

The frequency with which a person should be tested for STDs is determined by their degree of risk of infection.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following tests for chlamydia:



Female sexually active women aged 25 and under, as well as older women who are at higher risk for infection as a result of a new sexual relationship or many sexual partners, should be screened annually.
Males who have had intercourse with other men should be screened once a year depending on their exposure history, with more regular screening in those who are at the greatest risk.


Prenatal screening should be performed on all pregnant women at their initial prenatal appointment.
HIV testing should be done on a yearly basis in sexually active HIV positive individuals.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for gonorrhea testing include the following:

Women aged 25 and younger who are sexually active and at risk for infection should be screened once a year, according to the guidelines.
Males who have had intercourse with other men should be screened once a year depending on their exposure history, with more regular screening in those who are at the greatest risk.


Screening should be performed in all pregnant women under the age of 25 as well as older women who are at higher risk.
HIV testing should be done on a yearly basis in sexually active HIV positive individuals.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations for syphilis screening include the following suggestions:



All pregnant women should be screened during their first prenatal appointment, and all males who have sex with other men should be screened on an annual basis.
HIV testing should be done on a yearly basis in sexually active HIV positive individuals.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides further guidelines for various STDs.



Individuals with specific risk factors, such as sexual activity and the prevalence of a certain illness in their region, may benefit from more regular screening or screening for other STDs, which may be indicated in all instances.

Where Can I Go to Get Tested for Sexually Transmitted Diseases?
STD testing should be performed by your primary care physician or ob-gyn. Other alternatives include specialist STD or sexual health clinics, which are available in certain regions.



Using the CDC’s Get Tested service, you may locate sites in your region that provide quick, free, and confidential HIV testing and screening.




What Can I Do to Reduce My Chances of Contracting an STD?

The only method to completely eliminate your chance of contracting STDs is to abstain from all sexual interaction. However, the following methods may also be beneficial:

Being monogamous with just one sexual partner, and ensuring that person is also monogamous, reduces your chance of contracting STDs.
Proper condom usage every time you have sex significantly lowers your chance of contracting any STDs.


Getting vaccinated against hepatitis B is the most effective method to prevent contracting this viral illness. The hepatitis B vaccination is safe to provide to individuals of any age group.

It is possible to get the HPV vaccination to protect yourself against certain strains of the virus that may cause genital warts as well as cervical and other types of cancer. The HPV vaccination is regularly offered to individuals between the ages of nine and twenty-six. It is also authorized for people between the ages of 27 and 45, but it is not regularly prescribed for them.


 Adults over the age of 27 who think they might benefit from HPV vaccination should speak with their physicians about the procedure.



What Are the Treatment Options for Common Sexually Transmitted Diseases?

Several sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) may be cured with medical intervention, while others can be treated to minimize symptoms and limit the risk of transmission.

Antibiotics may be used to treat the following STDs:


Trichomoniasis STDs that may be treated with insecticides include those that are listed below:

Lice in public places


Minor surgical techniques such as cryosurgery (freezing) or laser surgery may be used to cure some sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

HPV-induced warts on the genital area
Molluscum contagiosum is a kind of mollusk.
The following illnesses are among the STDs that may be treated with antiviral medication:

Chronic hepatitis B is a virus that infects the liver.
HIV and genital herpes

Depending on the location of the precancerous cells produced by HPV on the cervix, therapy may involve either careful waiting or surgical removal of the problematic tissue.

Is it true that having one STD increases your chances of getting another?
According to H. Hunter Handsfield, MD, a professor emeritus of medicine at the University of Washington Center for AIDS and STD in Seattle who also served on the board of the American Sexual Health Association, “having one STD does not predispose you to others, aside from the behavioral risks shared by all STDs.”



In contrast, Dr. Handsfield notes, “having genital herpes owing to HSV-2 — but not HSV-1 — increases the risk of HIV by about double when one is sexually exposed to the virus.”

The Consequences of Not Treating Sexually Transmitted Diseases
As Hook explains, “the longer something is left untreated, the more probable it is to result in problems.” According to the National Institutes of Health, infections caused by gonorrhea and chlamydia may spread from the woman’s cervix to her uterus and fallopian tubes, potentially resulting in infertility.


In the absence of treatment, untreated syphilis may progress to neurosyphilis, which can result in neurological illness, according to Suzanne Fenske, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive science at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine in New York City. Aortic aneurysms and other cardiovascular issues are among the late-stage consequences of syphilis that may occur.



In the absence of treatment, HIV may damage the immune system’s capacity to fight infections and illnesses, resulting in the development of so-called opportunistic infections, neurological problems, and, in rare cases, cancer.

Chronic hepatitis B, if left untreated, may result in liver failure, cirrhosis, liver cancer, and even death.



It is possible that failing to treat STDs may have consequences for future generations. A woman who has herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea, or syphilis during pregnancy has a higher risk of transmitting the illness to her unborn child. This is why testing for STDs and following safer sexual practices guidelines are so essential throughout pregnancy.

When a woman is taking antiretroviral drugs during her pregnancy and the infant is receiving HIV medications for many weeks after birth, the chance of transmission is decreased. HIV may also be transmitted from mother to child during labor and delivery.

Is it true that the number of sexual partners I have has an impact on my chances of contracting an STD?


“As a general rule, having more partners implies taking on greater risk,” Handsfield explains. “However, there are many exceptions to this rule. Some individuals have 100 or more sexual partners each year and stay clear of the majority, if not all, sexually transmitted diseases. Others had one or two partners and numerous infections over the course of a long period of time.”



If you are sexually active, the best course of action is to wear condoms or dental dams (small sheets of rubber) to reduce your chance of contracting an STD and to discuss STD testing with your medical practitioner.




Do Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) recur?

However, it is possible to acquire the same STD more than once after having a curable STD that has been treated properly the first time. In fact, it’s a pretty frequent occurrence. Your sexual partner — or partners — must also be treated if you want to prevent contracting the same STD again. Practice safer sexual behavior following treatment to prevent re-infection with the same or other STDs. This may include wearing condoms every time you have sex.

However, the good news is that being infected more than once is not seem to result in any additional long-term consequences.

Women who have a second or third chlamydia infection are more likely to have problems such as pelvic inflammatory disease, according to Handsfield. People who have had repeated bouts of STDs, on the other hand, do not fare any worse than they did after the initial infection, according to the study.

Chlamydia is a disease that is often overlooked.
Many individuals are unaware that they have chlamydia since they do not exhibit any signs of the infection. As a result, the disease is often referred to as a quiet infection. Untreated chlamydia, on the other hand, may lead to severe problems in both men and women, including ectopic pregnancy in females and cervical cancer in males. Young women and men at high risk of chlamydia are recommended to be tested for the infection at least once a year in order to avoid such problems.

What You Need to Know About Chlamydia

Genital Herpes is a chronic infection that lasts a lifetime.
Genital herpes is a contagious illness that may be spread easily and is caused by a virus that remains in the body for a long period of time. When infected, it is possible for painful sores on the genital area as well as on the thighs and buttocks; however, the intensity of symptoms may vary from no symptoms at all to frequent sores on the same area as well as painful urination and flulike symptoms. Medication may help to prevent or shorten outbreaks, as well as reduce the likelihood of the virus being transmitted to a sexual partner.



Obtain Additional Information About Genital Herpes

Gonorrhea is still curable, although antibiotic resistance is becoming a problem in the United States.
In contrast to chlamydia, gonorrhea is extremely infectious and may manifest itself in a moderate or non-existent manner. Untreated pelvic inflammatory disease in women and epididymitis in men are severe consequences that may occur if the condition isn’t addressed. In spite of the fact that gonorrhea is treatable, certain strains of the bacterium that causes it have developed resistance to the majority of medications.

As of December 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a single intramuscular 500-milligram (mg) dosage of the antibiotic Rocephin (ceftriaxone) for uncomplicated gonorrhea. When chlamydial infection has not been ruled out, oral doxycycline (100 mg twice day for seven days) should be given to treat the coinfection with the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis.




Hepatitis B is a liver disease that affects the immune system.

Inflammation of the liver, known as hepatitis, is caused by the hepatitis B virus, which is one of many viruses that may cause hepatitis. There are other nonviral causes of the disease. It has been regularly administered to newborns in the United States since 1991 to protect them against hepatitis B, and the incidence of acute hepatitis B infection in the country has decreased dramatically since then. Chronic hepatitis B infection, on the other hand, is widespread across the world.



Hepatitis B

HIV is incurable, but it may be prevented.
HIV is a virus that affects the body’s immune system, reducing the body’s capacity to fight infections and illnesses over a prolonged period of time. HIV infection progresses to the ultimate stage of the disease known as acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, often known as AIDS. AIDS is a disease that may take one’s life. By wearing condoms properly and regularly, you may lower your chance of contracting HIV via sexual transmission.


Find Out More About HIV/AIDS

HPV: A Virus That Is Increasingly Responsible for Cancer
HPV is a virus that affects almost everyone who is or has been sexually active at some time in their lives. However, depending on which strain of the virus you are infected with, the virus may cause genital warts as well as a number of malignancies, depending on the kind of cancer you have. Gardasil 9 (HPV 9-valent vaccination) is a vaccine that protects against both warts and cancer. It is licensed for use in adolescents and young adults and is available in the United States.

Find Out More About HPV.


Molluscum Contagiosum: It is possible that it will clear on its own.
Viral infections such as this one may be transferred sexually or disseminated via contact with diseased skin or contaminated items such as towels and toys. It may also be transmitted from one part of the body to another by contacting a lesion and then another part of the body that is not afflicted. However, if this is not the case, there are therapies available to help you overcome the problem.




Syphilis is a disease that may be fatal if left untreated.
Syphilis is a bacterial illness that is becoming more prevalent in the United States, especially among males who have sex with other men, and is spread via sexual contact. Penicillin or, in the event of a penicillin allergy, alternative antibiotics may be used to treat the infection. Syphilis may be life-threatening if left untreated because it can damage the heart and brain. Congenital syphilis, which occurs when syphilis is transmitted from mother to child, is a serious and sometimes life-threatening disease.

Find Out More About Syphilis.

Trichomoniasis is a parasitic infection that affects the gastrointestinal tract.
Women, especially young women, are more likely than males to develop trichomoniasis, which is a bacterial infection. Infection with the parasite that causes trichomoniasis is only possible in the penis or vaginal area; it cannot infect the mouth, anus, or any other areas of the body. While the signs of trichomoniasis may arouse the concerns of a medical practitioner, a laboratory test is required to make a definite diagnosis.

Learn More About Trichomoniasis by clicking here.



Resources We Find Valuable
If you have a sexually active lifestyle, it is critical that you educate yourself about sexually transmitted illnesses (STDs).

In addition to the resources mentioned below, many municipal and state agencies, as well as colleges and universities, provide programs that give information about sexually transmitted diseases and treatment. The majority of them are free or low-cost.

Most of these organizations offer information and resources on sexual health, including information on sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) particularly.



Youth Advocacy Organizations
The American Sexual Health Association is a non-profit organization that promotes sexual health (ASHA)
Sick Building Syndrome (SBS): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (STDs)
Planned Parenthood (800-230-PLAN) is a member of the National Coalition for Sexual Health.


The Office on Women’s Health of the United States Department of Health and Human Services may be reached at 800-994-9662.
World Health Organization (WHO): Coping with and advocating for one’s sexual health.
If you have a sexually transmitted illness, it may be beneficial to connect with people who are experiencing the same health and, in many cases, social difficulties.

ASHA stands for the American Society of Hygiene and Public Health. STI Support Group and Discussion Community DailyStrength: Sexually Transmitted Diseases — Female Support Group Dating With Herpes.org DailyStrength: Sexually Transmitted Diseases — Male Support Group


Statistics and Facts about STI Support Groups from the STI Project
These organizations keep track of STD data, and some of them also keep track of federal and state laws pertaining to sex education, birth control, and STD prevention and treatment, among other things.




The Guttmacher Institute reports that the United States has an HIV and sexually transmitted infection (STI) epidemic.
HIVinfo is a service of the United States Department of Health and Human Services.
Data and statistics on sexually transmitted diseases from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating people about sexuality.
Resources for Leading a Healthy Lifestyle
Sexual emotions and inclinations persist throughout one’s life, but they may change over time and are likely to manifest themselves in various ways at different periods of one’s life, as described below. These sites provide information about sexuality at different ages and in various situations.