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The ABCs of STDs
The ABCs of STDs
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The ABCs of STDs

Youth

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are more common than most people think and are spread through sexual behaviors with someone who already has an STI through semen, vaginal fluid and some front skin-to-skin contact during sexual activity.

To avoid STIs it’s important to use barrier methods like condoms and dental dams to prevent the spread of infections.

Getting tested regularly is super important if a person is having oral, anal or vaginal sex or engaging in genital-to-genital rubbing with a partner. Lots of STIs do not have symptoms but can cause serious health problems if they aren’t treated. Testing involves a simple blood test, urine test, swab or pap smear and be done at most doctors offices and clinics.

FAQs

Can I get an STI from kissing?

Herpes is the only STI that can be passed through kissing. This usually happens when one person has a sore on or around the mouth and then kisses another person. It can also happen during a select number of days throughout the year when the virus is more active in a person’s body and when they may have no symptoms at all.

How can you avoid getting an STI?

Using a barrier method like a male or female (internal) condom and/or dental dam every time you have any type of sex can prevent the spread of STIs.

Since many STIs can be spread not only through bodily fluids but also through skin to skin contact of the genitals, it’s important to have regular screenings for STIs, even for those who always use condoms.

Later in life STIs can lead to serious health problems, including forms of cancer, if they are left untreated, so once people are sexually active they should have regular tests for STIs including pap smears, even if they don’t have any symptoms.

What’s a condom?

A condom is a thin piece of latex, polyisoprene or polyurethane that is worn over the penis during oral, anal or vaginal intercourse to prevent pre-ejaculatory (pre-come) fluid or semen from entering a partner’s mouth, anus or vagina. Condoms can be made of latex, polyisoprene, polyurethane and natural skin, but only latex, polyisoprene and polyurethane condoms prevent the transmission of HIV and STIs.

In South Africa, young people are entitled to access contraception, including condoms, from the age of 12 without the consent of their parents. They are available for sale at chemists or free at places like local clinics, doctors offices and sometimes in public toilets.

Related Videos

Parents

STIs are infections that can be spread from one person to another through sexual contact—from sexual touching (genital-to-genital contact) to any kind of sexual intercourse (oral, anal or penile-vaginal).

There are many different STIs.  Many people also believe that they will know when they have an STD, when in reality most people who have an STI do not experience any symptoms.

It is common for young people to hear many myths about STIs, so educating them about this topic is very important. There is also a lot of stigma around having an STI, even though it is quite common to have one at some point in one’s life.

Talking to your children about STI transmission and prevention should start hopefully before young people begin engaging in sexual behaviors with a partner. While it is good to help young people understand that STIs are relatively common, it is also important to be clear with young people about how STIs can affect them and why it is important to practice safe sex and to be tested regularly.

Before young people begin engaging in sexual behaviors, they should know how they can reduce the risk of contracting an STI by decreasing their number of sexual partners, getting tested before sexual activity, and properly and consistently using latex barriers, like condoms, female (internal) condoms and dental dams.

It’s also very helpful for young people to know how to get tested, if they think they might have an STI. STI testing and treatment is offered by most GPs and at many clinics and community health centres. STI testing can involve either a urine test, a simple blood test or a swab taken vis a pap smear. Young people should also understand that many STIs can be treated with medicines provided by a doctor, but there are some STIs that cannot be cured.

Talking about STIs with the young people in your life lets them know that they are not alone and that they can come to their parents or guardians when they have questions or need support.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

If you start essential conversations about topics like STIs with your children, then they will know they can come to you with questions. The easiest way to start these conversations is to talk about issues as they arise in everyday life while you are doing things like watching TV together. Symptoms, testing and condoms may not just come up in conversation, but it is important to talk about these issues. Below are some ways to start these conversations:

Try broaching these topics while doing something related to them

For example, while at the doctor’s office for your child’s checkup, you can talk to your child about the Gardasil vaccine, which protects people from certain types of HPV—a sexually transmitted disease.

Talk to your child when a sex scene comes up on TV

If a sex scene comes up on TV, there is an opportunity to talk about whether the partners talked about safer sex or used a latex barrier, like a condom or dental dam. While you may be nervous about having these conversations, a simple, “Wow, do you think they’re worried about STDs?” is one way to start the conversation.

While at the drugstore, you can ask your child if they know what condoms are

If you are shopping in the market or a drugstore together, walk up the aisle where the condoms are hanging and ask your child if they know what condoms are and how they are used. Purchase a pack to take home and open so your child can see what they look like and how they are used.

Educators

STIs are infections that can be spread from one person to another through sexual contact—from sexual touching (genital-to-genital contact) to any kind of sexual intercourse (oral, anal or penile-vaginal).

There are many different STIs.  Many people also believe that they will know when they have an STD, when in reality most people who have an STI do not experience any symptoms.

It is common for young people to hear many myths about STIs, so educating them about this topic is very important. There is also a lot of stigma around having an STI, even though it is quite common to have one at some point in one’s life.

Education about STI transmission and prevention should start hopefully before young people begin engaging in sexual behaviors with a partner. While it is good to help young people understand that STIs are relatively common, it is also important to be clear with young people about how STIs can affect them and why it is important to practice safe sex and to be tested regularly.

Before young people begin engaging in sexual behaviors, they should know how they can reduce the risk of contracting an STI by decreasing their number of sexual partners, getting tested before sexual activity, and properly and consistently using latex barriers, like condoms, female (internal) condoms and dental dams.

It’s also very helpful for young people to know how to get tested, if they think they might have an STI. STI testing and treatment is offered by most GPs and at many clinics and community health centres. STI testing can involve either a urine test, a simple blood test or a swab taken vis a pap smear. Young people should also understand that many STIs can be treated with medicines provided by a doctor, but there are some STIs that cannot be cured.

Educating young people about STIs lets them know that they are not alone and that they can ask questions or seek help when they need it.

 

Discussion Questions

After watching the video with your class, process it using the following discussion questions:
  • What new information did you learn about HIV and STIs from the video?
  • Did any of this information surprise you?
  • What would you say is the key message about HIV and STIs?
  • What might you do in the future now that you have this information?