STD Prevention for Adolescents

While sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) affect individuals of all ages, STDs take a particularly heavy toll on young people. For example, a national study states, “one in four adolescent girls (ages 14-19) in the United States are infected with one of four common sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and African American girls had a 50% prevalence of any one of the assessed STIs. The CDC estimates that youth ages 15-24 is over one-quarter of the sexually active population but represent half of the 20 million new sexually transmitted infections in the United States each year.  In Georgia, adolescents ages 15-24 were 58% of all STD cases in 2019 with 54,726 STD cases (OASIS, 2020). Of those STD cases diagnosed among adolescents, 80% were Chlamydia cases. Each year, African Americans make up over 35% of Youth STD cases in Georgia (2015-2019).

Information For Adolescents and Teens

  • What are sexually transmitted diseases (STDS)?

    STDs (also called sexually transmitted infections) are infections that spread through sex (vaginal, oral, or anal). Some STDs can spread through close contact with the genitals or body fluids. These include chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital herpes, human papillomavirus (HPV), syphilis, and HIV. Many of these STDs do not show symptoms for a long time, but they can still be harmful and passed on during sex.

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  • How Are STDs Spread?

    You can get an STD by having sex (vaginal, anal, or oral) with someone who has an STD. Anyone sexually active can get an STD. You don’t even have to “go all the way” (have anal or vaginal sex) to get an STD since some STDs, like herpes and HPV, are spread by skin-to-skin contact.

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  • How Common Are STDs For Adolescents?

    STDs are common, especially among young people. There are about 20 million new cases of STDs each year in the United States, and almost half of these are in people between the ages of 15 and 24. Young people are at greater risk of getting an STD for several reasons:

    • Young women’s bodies are biologically more susceptible to STDs.
    • Some young people do not get the recommended STD tests.
    • Many young people hesitate to talk openly and honestly with a doctor or nurse about their sex lives.
    • Not having insurance or transportation can make it more difficult for young people to access STD testing.
    • Some young people have more than one sex partner.
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  • What Can I Do To Protect Myself?

    The surest way to protect yourself against STDs is not to have sex. That means not having any vaginal, anal, or oral sex (“abstinence”). There are many things to consider before having sex, and it’s okay to say “no” if you don’t want to have sex.

    If you decide to have sex, you and your partner should get tested beforehand and make sure that you and your partner use a condom—every time you have oral, anal, or vaginal sex, from start to finish. Know where to get condoms and how to use them correctly. It is not safe to stop using condoms unless you’ve both been tested, know your status, and are in a mutually monogamous relationship.

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  • If I Get An STD, How Will I Know?

    Many STDs don’t cause any symptoms that you would notice, so the only way to know if you have an STD is to get tested. You can get an STD from having sex with someone who has no symptoms. Just like you, that person might not even know he or she has an STD.

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  • Where Can I Get Tested?

    Locate STD testing near you by accessing using the provider locator Click Here

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  • Can STDs Be Treated?

    Your doctor can prescribe medicines to cure some STDs, like chlamydia and gonorrhea. Like herpes, other STDs can’t be cured, but you can take medication to help with the symptoms. If you are in treatment for an STD, be sure to finish all of your medicine, even if you feel better before you finish it all. Ask the doctor or nurse about testing and treatment for your partner, too. You and your partner should avoid having sex until you’ve both cured. Otherwise, you may continue to pass the STD back and forth. It is possible to get an STD again (after you’ve cured) if you have sex with someone who has an STD.

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  • What Happens If I Don’t Get Treated For An STD?

    Some curable STDs can be dangerous if they aren’t treated. For example, if left untreated, chlamydia and gonorrhea can make it difficult—or even impossible—for a woman to get pregnant. You also increase your chances of getting HIV if you have an untreated STD. Some STDs, like HIV, can be fatal if left untreated

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  • If I Have Questions, Who Can Answer Them?

    If you have questions, talk to a parent or other trusted adult. Don’t be afraid to be open and honest with them about your concerns. If you’re ever confused or need advice, they’re the first place to start. Remember, they were young once, too. Talking about sex with a parent or another adult doesn’t need to be a one-time conversation. It’s best to leave the door open for discussions in the future. It’s also important to talk honestly with a doctor or nurse. Ask which STD tests and vaccines they recommend for you.

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Information For Parents

  • Does Talking About Sex and STDs Make Teens More Likely to Have Sex?

    Talking to kids and teens about sex and STDs does not make it more likely that they'll have sex. But if they become sexually active, they will understand the risks and know how to protect themselves.

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  • When Should I Talk to My Kids About STDs?

    Talking about STDs and other personal subjects like sex and puberty shouldn't be one big talk at a particular age. Instead, start the conversation early, and slowly build on your child's understanding. By about 10–13 years old, most kids understand what sex is and are ready to learn about STDs.

    But even if your child is older and you haven't started talking about STDs, it's not too late to have the conversation. A late talk is better than no talk at all.

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  • How Do I Bring Up the Subject of STDs?

    Sometimes it can be hard to find the right time to talk about STDs. A good time to start the conversation might be:

    • if your child asks questions about sex
    • during a TV show or movie that shows a romantic relationship. You might ask, "What sorts of things do people in a relationship need to think about?"
    • when your child gets the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. You could say, "This shot protects you from a type of STD. Do you know what an STD is?"
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  • What Should I Talk About?

    Talk about these types of STDs (Click Here)

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  • What if I Have Trouble Talking to My Kids About STDs?

    If you don't feel comfortable talking with your kids about STDs, make sure they can turn to someone else for accurate information. This could be a doctor or nurse practitioner, counselor, school nurse, teacher, or a trusted family member. Kids and teens need to know about STDs. It's best if they get the facts from someone reliable.

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*This webpage was developed using the information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Oasis (2020). Georgia Department of Public Health, Office of Health Indicators for Planning (OHIP). https://oasis.state.ga.us/