The Importance of Good Sexual Health

When you are sexually active, your greatest worry may be, “What if I get pregnant?” You may worry what others will think, how your parents or boyfriend will react, or whether you will be able to finish school and pursue a career, if you become pregnant. This is a legitimate concern.

An even greater concern, however, is your overall sexual health. You can get pregnant only about 3 days every month, but every time you have sexual contact with another person, you put yourself at risk to contract a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or a sexually transmitted disease (STD).

What ARE Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)?

STIs and STDs are infections and diseases that are passed from one person to another through sexual contact.1 They include chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital herpes, human papillomavirus (HPV), syphilis, and HIV.2

These diseases can be present in your body for a long time before they show any symptoms. When that happens they are called “STIs.” STIs can still be harmful to you,3 and it is possible to spread an STI to your sexual partner even before you know you have it. (And, your sexual partner can transmit an unknown STI to you.) Once the infection shows symptoms, it is called an STD.

Here is detailed information about the signs, symptoms and treatment of particular STDs:

















Dating, Sex and STDs

You can get an STI/STD by having sexual contact with someone who already has an STI/STD.4 Anyone who is sexually active can get an STD – even if you do not “go all the way.” Some STDs are spread simply by skin-to-skin sexual contact.5

This means that you should be very careful about who you choose to have as your sexual partner(s). In any relationship, it is your choice whether or not to have sexual contact with another person. The best way to avoid getting an STI or STD is abstinence – choosing not to have sexual contact with another person.6 There are many things to consider before having sex, and it is always OK to say “no” if you don’t want to have sex.

Within a relationship, the best way to prevent STIs and STDs is mutual monogamy; that is, you and your partner both agree to only have sexual contact with each other.7 If you both know that you are STI- and STD-free, then practicing mutual monogamy will protect you both from STIs and STDs.

Another way to prevent STIs and STDs is to always use a condom anytime you have sex (whether oral, anal, or vaginal). Condoms do not completely eliminate the risk of contracting an STI or STD, but they do lower the risk, if you use them consistently.8

Is It Really Okay to Say No?

The decisions to date, to be in a committed relationship, and to have sex involve a lot of emotional, physical and spiritual factors. You should never feel pressured to have sex, whether in or out of a relationship. It is always okay to say “no.”

If you have questions about sex, you have the right to get answers to those questions before you do anything that can permanently affect your sexual health. At the WCC, our staff are trained to provide accurate answers to your questions, in an atmosphere that allows you to feel safe and comfortable.

What If I Might Already Have an STI or STD?

If you have been sexually active at all, there is a risk you might have an STI or an STD. The important thing now is to find out for sure by getting tested. Visit FindSTDTest.org to find an STD testing location near you.

If you find out you do have an STI or an STD, talk to your doctor about treating it. Some STDs cannot be cured, but most can be treated. Your doctor will help you know what to do.

Some STDs, even the ones that can be cured, are dangerous if you do not get them treated. For example, chlamydia and gonorrhea, if left untreated, can make it difficult or impossible for a woman to get pregnant when she wants to. And some STDs, like HIV, can be fatal if they are not treated.9 Don’t be embarrassed or scared to get help. Your health is important, and there are people available to help you.