Approximately 19 million sexually transmitted diseases occur each year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Almost half are in young people ages 15 to 24. One in two young people will get a sexually transmitted disease by age 25, and many won't know it.

Untreated STDs can cause serious medical complications like chronic pelvic pain, infertility, or passing an infection to an infant during child birth. Individuals infected with STDs are at a much greater risk for HIV infection.

The only way to "know for sure" if you or anyone else has an STD is to get tested. Testing is faster and easier than ever before. You can't assume that your healthcare provider will bring it up. You might feel embarrassed to bring it up, but it's absolutely essential.

You and your health care provider will decide what STD tests make the most sense for you. If you do have an STD, it's important to get treated as soon as possible. Here are some tips for having a talk with your heatlhcare provider:

Before Your Appointment
Aca,!Ac Think of problems or questions you have. Even if you only have one or two, write them down.
Aca,!Ac When you make your appointment, tell the receptionist that you'd like to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases.

The Appointment
It's the day of your appointment. Take a deep breath! Be prepared to ask lots of questions, be honest, and, if you don't understand a question or answer, ask for an explanation.

The Talk
A good sexual health exam begins with a good sexual health history. Here are some common questions that healthcare providers need to ask in order to help you:
Aca,!Ac How many sexual partners have you had recently'
Aca,!Ac How many sexual partners have you had in your lifetime'
Aca,!Ac Do you have sex with women, men or both'
Aca,!Ac Do you have oral sex'
Aca,!Ac Do you have anal sex'
Aca,!Ac Do you use condoms'
Aca,!Ac Do you have symptoms now'
Aca,!Ac Have you had symptoms in the past'
Aca,!Ac Have you ever had a sexually transmitted disease'
Aca,!Ac Have you used over-the-counter medications to treat your symptoms'
Aca,!Ac Do your partner(s) have any STDs or symptoms of STDs'
Aca,!Ac Do you have any drug allergies'
Aca,!Ac When was your last menstrual period'

These questions might seem really personal, but it's important to be honest with your healthcare provider. Your provider will help you make important decisions about what test(s) and treatment you may need. Finally, be sure to ask about when you'll get the results.

For more information on preventing sexually transmitted diseases:

It's Your Sex Life,

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16