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Loving Safely: What You Should Know About STDs

Provided by The American Social Health Association
Play It Safe
Sex is better when you don't have to worry about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Unsafe sex can put you or your partner at risk for STDs. Protect yourself and your partner. Then you can relax and feel close.

If you decide to have sex, be sure to carry condoms (rubbers).

"I feel like, if a man won't use a condom, he doesn't care about the person he's with. HIV and other diseases are out there. You have to take care of each other."
--Roy, age 36
It Can Happen To You
If you have sex with someone who has an STD, you can get it, too. About 1 in 4 people in this country has an STD. The more people you have sex with, the greater the chance that you will get an STD.

"A few years ago I got gonorrhea. It made me feel dirty inside. My tubes got infected, and I had a terrible pain in my belly. I swore I'd never let that happen to me again. Since then, I use condoms every time. No excuses!"
--Robena, age 28

Most People Don't Know
Even someone you love can have an STD. Millions of people have STDs--even people who are kind, sexy, and loving. Most of them do not know they have a disease. But they can still give the STD to others.

"I never thought about STDs until I dated a man who had herpes. He was really honest and one of the nicest people I've ever met. That made me see that anyone who's had sex could have an STD. You can't tell by how someone looks."
--Chris, age 45

STDs Can Keep A Woman From Ever Having Children
STDs can infect a woman deep inside. They can damage a woman's body so she cannot have children. Many women don't know they have an STD until it's too late.

Last year I got tested and found out I had chlamydia. I was shocked--I had no idea anything was wrong. My doctor told me if I had not gotten treated, I might never have been able to have children."
--Angelica, age 21

It's Okay To Wait To Have Sex
The surest way to prevent any STD is don't have sex. There are many ways to show love besides sex. Kissing, talking, and touching feel good and are safe. You cannot spread an STD if there is no contact between the penis, vagina, mouth, or anus.

"Sex is not something you just go out and do. I mean, for one thing, there's your feelings--like how you feel about each other after sex. I feel like, when I do it, I want it to be right."
--Aaron, age 17

If You Do Have Sex, Use Condoms
Latex condoms help protect both people if you use them the right way every time. Use condoms for any kind of sex--vaginal, oral, or anal.

"It was pretty embarrassing the first time. Neither Jan or I knew the right way to use a condom. But we learned, and we made it fun."
--Jamal, 19

If You Have Had Sex, Get Tested For STDs
It's important to get tested once a year, even if you feel fine. Go to a doctor's office or clinic right away if you have any of these symptoms:

pain when you go to the bathroom
a strange fluid or drip from the penis or vagina
bleeding between periods (women)
To find out where you can get free treatment in your area, call the CDC National STD Hotline at 1-800-227-8922.

"I had to tell Kim I had gonorrhea. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done. But I didn't want her to get messed up from an STD."
--Michael, age 24
Most STDs can be Treated
If you have an STD:

Tell your partner they need to get tested too.
Take all of your medicine, even if you start to feel better.
Never take another person's medicine or give someone yours.
Don't have sex until you and your partner are treated.
"I used to think there was no use trying to prevent HIV or anything. I thought, 'It can't happen to me.' Now I've grown up some, and I see it differently. I have responsibilities."
--Lui, 18

The Right Way to Use a Condom

The Male Condom
Keep condoms cool and dry. Never use skin lotions, baby oil, Vaseline or cold cream with condoms. The oil in these products will cause the condom to break. You may use products made with water (like K-Y jelly or glycerin).

Put on a new condom before any kind of sex.
Hold the condom by the tip and squeeze out the air.
Unroll the condom all the way over the hard penis.
Have sex.
Hold the condom so it can't come off the penis.
Pull out.
The Female Condom
The female condom fits inside a woman's vagina. It has a soft ring on each end. The outer ring stays on the outside of the vagina and partly covers the labia (lips). The inner ring fits inside the vagina to hold the condom in place.

Put the condom in any time before sex.
Add water-based lubricant to the inside of the condom.
Squeeze the inner ring of the condom. Put the inner ring and pouch into the vagina.
With your finger, push the inner ring as far into the vagina as it will go.
Guide the penis into the condom.
After sex, remove the condom before standing up. Pull out gently.


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