Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are diseases that are spread from one person to another during some type of sexual activity. There are many different types of STDs. Some of the more common STDs are chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, crab lice, syphilis, condylomata (genital warts), trichomonas, HIV (the virus that causes AIDS), and hepatitis B (a liver disease). Some of these diseases are more dangerous than others. Some STDs can be cured with antibiotic medicines. However some STDs, such as herpes, HIV, and genital warts, are caused by viruses. There is no cure for these STDs. Some can be deadly or make you very sick.
Many times a person can have one of these diseases (especially chlamydia) and not know it because they don't have any symptoms and don't feel sick. The person can then unknowingly spread the disease to sexual partners. Sometimes a person suspects or knows that they have an STD but is too embarrassed to talk about it with a sexual partner. If safe sex isn't practiced every time, then sexual partners are at risk for also getting the disease.
Having sex can be a very loving and special experience between two people. However, you should think about several important issues before you decide to have sex. Not only might sex cause a pregnancy or give you a sexually transmitted disease, but you also can get hurt emotionally because of the strong feelings involved.
Decide ahead of time what is right for you. Find an adult with whom you can discuss your feelings and opinions, and ask questions. Although it is sometimes awkward to start the conversation, you can talk with your parents. You might also speak with your healthcare provider, school counselors, teachers, or adult relatives. You can usually discuss issues with these adults confidentially.
In terms of sex and sexual diseases, the only absolutely risk-free activity is to be abstinent and not have sex. Many teens decide to delay having sex until they are older, married, or feel more comfortable. There are also many intimate activities that are almost always safe without taking any special precautions. These activities include holding hands, hugging, touching, and kissing. Intimate touching and mutual masturbation are far less risky than intercourse, though some STDs such as warts, can be spread this way.
Other sexual activities, especially sexual intercourse, can be risky if precautions aren't taken. Think things through and talk with your sexual partner. If you have vaginal or anal intercourse, you can help protect yourself by using condoms each time. During oral sex, flavored condoms can be used on males. A dental dam, or simply placing plastic wrap (saran wrap, for example) over the external genitals can be used during oral sex on females. Hormonal birth control methods, such as birth control pills or Depo-Provera shots don't prevent you from getting an STD. Condoms must absolutely be used to help prevent sexually transmitted infections.
There is a female condom, one that lines a woman's vagina, but it is more difficult to use. Talk with a healthcare provider or other adult who knows how to use it before you try it.