Guiding youth to lead healthy and safe lives.

What are STDs?

Knowledge Leads to Prevention

“STD” stands for sexually transmitted disease, and is also sometimes referred to as “STI,” for sexually transmitted infection. These diseases can cause serious health problems, especially if left untreated. Abstaining from sexual activity not only prevents teen pregnancy, but also prevents teens from contracting STDs.

The only way to fully protect against STDs is to avoid close, sexual contact.


It’s important to note that, while the symptoms and effects can be managed, some STDs caused by viruses cannot be cured.

  • HIV – HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is the virus that can lead to AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). HIV affects specific cells of the immune system and, over time, destroys so many of these cells that the body cannot fight infections or disease, which can lead to death.
  • Genital Herpes – There are two kinds of herpes, simplex type 1 and simplex type 2. Cold sores, which most commonly appear on a person’s lips or inside the mouth, are typically caused by herpes simplex type 1. Genital herpes is caused by simplex type 2. About one in six people have genital herpes. Common symptoms include blisters or sores, but even if no symptoms are present, genital herpes can be spread to sexual partners.
  • HPV – Also known as genital warts, HPV (human papillomavirus) is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the U.S. There are many types of HPV that can cause health problems ranging from genital warts to cervical cancer. HPV vaccinations are available, beginning at age 11.


  • Chlamydia – Chlamydia is the most commonly reported STD in America. Unlike the STDs listed above, chlamydia can be cured; however, if left untreated, it can make it difficult for a woman to get pregnant. Symptoms include an abnormal discharge, burning sensation when urinating, bleeding, pain, and swelling.
  • Gonorrhea – Most women (and some men) with gonorrhea may not develop any symptoms of the disease. Women often mistake gonorrhea for a bladder or vaginal infection. Symptoms include painful or burning sensation when urinating, discharge, or vaginal bleeding between periods. With the right treatment, gonorrhea can be cured.
  • Syphilis – Syphilis is divided into stages; primary, secondary, latent, and late syphilis and has a variety of possible symptoms, including sores and body rashes. Many symptoms of syphilis tend to look like other diseases. If left untreated, syphilis can lead to paralysis, blindness, dementia, and even death. With the right antibiotics, this disease can be cured, but treatment will not undo any damage already caused by the infection.


  • Trichomoniasis – Often known as “trich,” trichomoniasis is caused by infection with a protozoan parasite. Most people who test positive for the parasite cannot tell they are infected. When there are symptoms, they can include genital itching or irritation. Trich is the most common curable STD.
Visit these online resources for more information:

About Sexually Transmitted Diseases (TeensHealth)
Information about Sexually Transmitted Diseases (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
HIV Basics (

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