More than Half of All People...
More than half of all people will have an STD at some point in their lifetime (some curable, some not). The estimated total number of people living in the U.S. with a viral STD (like HPV) is more than 65 million. That's about equal to the population of France - and growing. Every year, there are at least 19 million new cases of STDs, and many experts think that number is probably much higher. Of the STDs that are diagnosed, only a few - gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, and hepatitis A and B - are required to be reported to state health departments or the CDC. My case is an excellent example of the immense under-reporting that occurs. I was diagnosed with genital herpes by sight by my family doctor 14 years ago, but neither genital herpes nor diagnosis by sight are included in the number of new STD infections recorded each year. I was never included among new herpes cases, and I'll bet I'm far from the only one.
In fact, it's been estimated that as many as one in five Americans has genital herpes, a lifelong (but manageable) infection. Ninety percent of them have no idea; they have no symptoms. Unfortunately, they can still transmit the virus. Some experts take it even further, estimating that more than 50 million adults in the U.S. are living with genital herpes, a number that's growing by a rate of 1.6 million new infections each year. Based on those numbers, up to 40 percent of all men and half of all women could be infected by 2025.
My point isn't to scare you, but the numbers are scary. So, what can you do to avoid getting infected?
Your best bet is to amp up your sexual health knowledge (you’re already reading Kinkly, so, you’re halfway there) and get smart about how to have safer sex. This includes:
- Talking to all your partners about safer sex before getting busy
- Getting full STD screenings and sexual health exams at least once a year and more often if you have new or multiple partners
- Using barriers consistently and correctly
- Making safer lifestyle choices to reduce risk
Sex is inherently risky, both for our hearts and our health. You must understand the risks you're taking in your sex life, what level of risk you're willing to accept, and keeping any all risk as low as possible. (To learn more, check out The Ultimate Guide to Safer Sex.)
If You’re Like Me ...
I have herpes. And if all these statistics about STDs didn't shock you, this might: Having an STD does not have to define your life or your sexual health. Having an STD has not limited my relationships or narrowed my potential. When you begin to realize the vast number of sexually transmitted infections occurring annually - let alone the ones that can't be cured - it's easier to understand how I and many other like me can continue to date, love, and have healthy sexual relationships, despite living with an STD.
The statistics about STDs can be scary, but the worst thing you can do is ignore them. When it comes to your sex life, savvy is sexy.