Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), once called venereal diseases, are among at an epidemic levels as infectious diseases in the United States today. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Institutes of Health, more than 20 STDs have now been identified, and they affect more than 19 million men and women in this country each year.

STDs affect men and women of all ages, backgrounds and economic levels. Nearly two-thirds of all STDs occur in people younger than 25 years of age.

The number of STD cases is rising. The reason—sexually active people today are more likely to have multiple sex partners during their lives and are at risk for developing STDs.

Many STDs initially cause no symptoms, particularly in women. Even when an STD causes no symptoms, a person who is infected may be able to pass the disease on to a sex partner. Doctors recommend periodic testing for people who have more than one sex partner.

Health problems caused by STDs tend to be more severe and more frequent for women than for men. The lack of symptoms means that many women do not seek care until serious problems have developed.

When diagnosed and treated early, almost all STDs can be treated effectively. However, some organisms, such as certain forms of gonococci, have become resistant to the drugs used to treat them and now require new types of antibiotics. The most serious STD with no known cure is acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Many experts believe that having other STDs increases one’s risk for becoming infected with the AIDS virus.

The only way to prevent the transmission of STDs is to avoid behaviors that put a person at risk of infection, such as sharing needles and having sex—vaginal, oral or anal.

The U.S.Center for Disease Control states in its 2015 Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines that “[t]he most reliable way to avoid transmission of STDs is to abstain from oral, vaginal, and anal sex or be in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship with a partner known to be uninfected.”

If you suspect you may have contracted an STD or if you or your partner have had multiple sex partners, call us at 1-888-LIFE AID. We’ll connect you with a counselor who can talk to you about your concerns or fears and provide information and referrals for confidential testing.