Sheba Feminine

What are sexually transmitted diseases and how can they be prevented?

Nov 10, 2021 | Education, Reproductive Health, Sex, Sexual Health | 0 comments

The amount of stigma attached to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) is shocking, especially when considering just how common they are. STDs, also known as sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are caused by viruses, bacteria and parasites that are mostly spread through sexual activity. They can be spread through unprotected sex (or any sexual activity) with a penis, vagina, anus or with hands. This also includes oral sex.

The bacteria, virus or parasite spreads through bodily fluids like semen, blood, discharge or other fluids. It’s also possible for STDs to spread through non-sexual activity like blood transfusions, shared needles and even from mother to child. Sometimes, non-sexual skin-to-skin contact can also spread STDs like herpes and syphilis because of tiny tears on the skin. STDs can be very sneaky because a lot of the time there won’t be any recognisable or tangible symptoms. This is also how they spread so rapidly because people don’t know they’re infected.

Sexuality or gender doesn’t determine whether you’re more or less at risk of contracting an STD, if you’re sexually active you can get it! The most common STDs include gonorrhea, herpes, HIV/AIDS, syphilis, chlamydia and bacterial vaginosis. Some STDs are curable, but others like genital herpes aren’t, however medication is available to treat it. Typical symptoms of an STD include sores, bumps or rashes on the genital area, pain or a burning sensation when urinating, penis discharge, unusually potent vaginal odor, unusual vaginal bleeding, pain during sex, lower abdominal pain and swollen or painful lymph nodes around the groin. These symptoms are quite general and can vary from person to person and also depends on how much the STD has progressed. If you’re experiencing any of these, especially more than one it’s best to seek medical assistance as soon as possible.

A lot of the research on STDs say that the best way to prevent contracting them is to abstain from sex or any form of sexual activity. In theory, yes this could work. But, the reality is that people are having sex all the time and abstaining is just not realistic for most. Another  widely recommended suggestion is only having one sexual partner, and if you’re in a relationship to ensure that it’s monogamous. However, people can have as many casual sexual partners as they want, and just because you’re in a relationship doesn’t mean it has to be a monogamous one. So instead of getting caught up in what’s ‘normalised’, it makes more sense to firstly communicate with your sexual partner/s about STDs and any concerns or expectations you may have. As long as there’s consent, you’re on the same page, and you feel safe you should be good to go!

If you know you’re going to be sexually active with someone new, ask them to get tested before you engage in sexual activity. This will help put your mind at ease too. It’s recommended to get tested whenever your sexual partner changes. Getting tested is the best way to prevent the spread of STDs. In terms of birth control, there are no contraceptive options which can prevent STD infection. Condoms are the most effective, but still don’t guarantee 100% protection.


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