Affinity Health Plan

  • Health Awareness Series: April 2016 -STDs

    April 20, 2016
    Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), also called Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), are diseases that are passed from one person to another through sexual contact. They can affect people of all ages, from all backgrounds and from all walks of life.

    These infections include chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital herpes, human papillomavirus (HPV), syphilis, and HIV. Many of these STDs do not show symptoms for a long time, but they can still be harmful and passed on during sex.

    How common are STDs?
    • More than half of all people will have an STD/STI at some point in their lifetime.
    • Each year, one in four teens contracts an STD/STI.
    • One in two sexually active persons will contract an STD/STI by age 25.
    • It is estimated that as many as one in five Americans have genital herpes, a lifelong (but manageable) infection. Unfortunately, up to 90 percent of those with herpes don’t know they have it.
    • By age 50, at least 80 percent of women will have acquired a genital HPV infection.
    How are STDs spread?
    Anyone who is sexually active can get an STD by having sex (oral, vaginal or anal) with someone who has an STD. Regular condom use provides significant protection against getting many STDs. Some STDs—like herpes and HPV (the virus that causes genital warts and can also cause cervical cancer)—are spread by skin-to-skin contact. The surest way to not get an STD is to not have sex. Remember, you CAN say no!

    How do I know if I have an STD?
    The only way to know for sure whether you have an STD is to get tested by a medical professional. Many STDs may not cause any symptoms at all, and neither you nor your partner may know that you may have an STD.

    See your doctor if you notice the following signs or symptoms:
    For a man:
    • unusual discharge from the penis
    • burning sensation when urinating
    • sore(s) on or around the penis or anus
    For a woman:
    • unusual vaginal discharge
    • intense itching
    • stomach cramps, but not related to menstrual cycle
    • sore(s) on or around the vagina or anus
    What happens if I don’t treat an STD?
    Some curable STDs can be dangerous if they aren’t treated and can make it difficult—or even impossible—for a woman to get pregnant. Some STDs, like HPV, can cause cancer of the cervix, the anus or the penis. Others, like untreated HIV, can cause damage to your immune system and lead to serious illness and even death.

    Take Charge—Protect Yourself!
    • It’s okay to say no! There are many things to consider before having sex and the surest way to protect yourself from getting an STD is to not have sex. Remember, if you do not want to have sex, no one has the right to force you, try to talk you into it, or make you feel guilty for saying no.
    • If you decide to have sex:
      • you and your partner should get tested beforehand.
      • talk openly and honestly with your partner about how you will prevent STDs and pregnancy.
      • talk to your partner ahead of time about what you will and will not do sexually.
      • make sure you use a condom every time you have sex, from start to finish.
      • know where to get condoms and how to use them correctly.
      • contraceptive pills (“the pill”) will not protect you against STDs.
    • It is not safe to stop using condoms unless you’ve both been tested, know your status, and are in a “mutually monogamous” relationship.
      • A mutually monogamous relationship is one where you and your partner both agree to only have sexual contact with each other. This can help protect against STDs, as long as you’ve both been tested and know that you’re STD-free.
    • Talk to your doctor. Make sure you get STD testing, and ask about the vaccines that can protect you, like the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine and the hepatitis B vaccine.
    • Avoid using alcohol and drugs. Alcohol and drugs can lead you to take risks, like not using a condom or having sex with someone you normally wouldn’t have sex with.
    • If you DO test positive for an STD, your doctor will prescribe medicines. Some prescriptions will cure chlamydia and gonorrhea. Other STDs, like herpes, cannot be cured, but you can take medications to help control the symptoms.
    To find places near you that offer free or low-cost confidential STD testing:
    • Visit
    • Text your ZIP code to KNOW IT (566948)
    • Call 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636)
    • Call 311
    A word from Dr. Sharon Deans, Chief Medical Officer at Affinity Health Plan:

    The good news? STDs are preventable! Talk openly and honestly with your partner and doctor about the steps you can take to protect yourself and your partner.

    To learn more:

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

    American Sexual Health Association

    New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

    Source: American Sexual Health Association (ASHA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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