Some people in the U.S. are more at risk for having sex with sexually transmitted diseases than others. If you’re in a monogamous, monogamous relationship, you’re probably safe, but single people may not be. There’s also a link between age and age of first sexual encounter.
People who enter into a relationship and have sex earlier are more likely to contract STDs. Those who have sex between the ages of 25 and 34 are four times more likely to get an STD than those who have sex between the ages of 18 and 24.
If a person has a condom break on their first unprotected sex encounter, that person is also more likely to have a STD that can cause long-term health problems. People who have herpes, chlamydia, syphilis and gonorrhea are at greater risk. It’s a part of being human. The chances increase when the same person is exposed to the virus in multiple sites, when the person is on drugs, or if they’re pregnant.
One of the main risks of STDs is that the virus can stay in the body for quite some time. Syphilis can stay there for three to eight years, and chlamydia can last for up to 10 years. It’s important for people to get tested for STDs, and then treatment should be provided if necessary. Once treated, they can re-enter society and live normal lives.
You should receive a routine STD test once every year. HIV is cured completely within three months; those who test positive will likely get a triple-drug treatment and may be at some risk for treatment-related side effects. Chlamydia is often treatable with antibiotics, but in the vast majority of cases, it’s curable with treatment.
Syphilis can lead to cancer and can even be fatal. One in five people with syphilis will die. Anyone who has contracted the virus should get tested monthly by a doctor.
No matter what sex you had, or the age, most people who get an STD will do okay. Chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis can be treated with antibiotics and any of them should be diagnosed and treated if necessary.
John Lindsey is a resident physician at Weill Cornell Medicine.