If you are a pretty sexually active person, the chances of contracting a STD is definitely there. However, some individuals can be more prone to getting infected. This susceptibility can depend on gender and what age group a person is currently in as well as circumstances. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, young people at the age of 15 to 24 are even at greater risk of contracting STDs. Not only is this age group the most vulnerable to being exposed to STDs, a study further emphasizes that one in four sexually active adolescent females is suffering from an STD.
The risk of contracting a STD is especially higher in women due to several reasons:
Young women’s bodies are biologically more susceptible to STDs. Compared to male’s anatomy, the vaginal surface is larger and more vulnerable to sexual fluids or secretions, especially during sexual intercourse. The vagina is more vulnerable because its lining is thinner and softer than the skin on the penis. The skin that covers the penis serves as a protection against particular STDs. Furthermore, the volume of the male ejaculation is considerably higher than the volume of vaginal secretions – thus increasing the chances of women bring more exposed to infection compared to men.
Social and Economic Reasons.
In some parts of the world, women have lower social status and educational backgrounds compared to men. Women who are depending economically on men may find it hard to refuse or negotiate sex. Due to these limitations, it may also become harder for women to access enough knowledge on practicing safer sex or preventive methods so that they can avoid unsafe sex. Sometimes, gender roles also restrict women from insisting on the use of condoms because men are in power. Economic reasons may also force women to resort to the sex industry, making transmissions more rampant.
Not Getting Regular STD Screenings
The only way to be sure if we have an STD is to go for STD testing. One of the possible reasons why there is an emergence of STDs in young people may be due to lacking the access to healthcare because they are not financially independent and do not have insurance. Other factors that may contribute to young women not getting regularly tested are confidentiality concerns, societal stigma, the difficulties to open up to healthcare professionals regarding sexual history and the lack of knowledge about risks of untreated STDs.
STDs can Be Asymptomatic.
This condition can lead to untreated STDs which are detrimental to women’s overall health. For example, it is a known fact that having STDs increases the risks of getting HIV. If a woman has an STD that goes undiagnosed, this can result in more serious and severe health conditions such as pelvic inflammatory diseases, ectopic pregnancies, stillbirths, miscarriages and infertility.
Several STDs in which women are prone to are human papillomavirus (HPV), chlamydia and trichomoniasis.
The main reason why HPV is closely associated with women is the fact that 91% of cervical cancers are caused by HPV. It is known that more than 40 strains of HPV can be transmitted through sexual contact, but HPV-16 and HPV-18 are the culprits behind 70% of cervical cancers. Normally, HPV will clear up on their own within a specific period of time (typically within 2 years) and is often asymptomatic. However, in some cases, HPV can manifest in genital warts that require topical and oral medications. In women, low-risk HPVs may result in the presence of warts around the cervix. Although HPV is prevalent in women, the good news is, unlike in men where there are no reliable testing methods for the disease, diagnosing the disease in women is more conclusive thanks to PAP tests.
Chlamydia is one of the most common STIs to attack women. This sexual disease is caused by a bacterium called Chlamydia trachomatis. Spread through anal, oral and vaginal sex, this disease is prevalent in young women at the age of 15-24. Chlamydia usually infects a woman’s cervix, urethra and rectum. In women, especially, the damages of chlamydia when left untreated is severe since it can mess with their reproductive organs. What is more, chlamydia is also known to be a “silent” infection as it often shows no symptoms. However, chlamydia is curable with the help of antibiotics. When a person does suffer from symptoms, they usually experience pain during intercourse, burning sensations when urinating, occasional bleeding even when not on period, fever and abnormal vaginal discharge.
Unlike other STDs that are caused by viruses or bacteria, trichomoniasis is a sexual infection caused by a parasite. This sexual disease is more common in women compared to men. Despite being spread through sexual contact, the parasite can also attack other areas such as mouth, hands and anus. The CDC stated that 70% of trichomoniasis cases do not have signs or symptoms. But, when women have symptoms, they usually range from unusual and foul-smelling vaginal discharge (that may vary in color from yellow, gray to green), redness and itchiness around the genital area, and pain during sexual intercourse or while urinating.
Although being the more vulnerable group to catch STDs, there are still several preventive methods younger women can take to minimize the chances or risks of STDs.
Practice Safer Sex
The most important step is to use condoms and wear them correctly. Condoms are one protection method that can ward off several STDs despite not all. Up until you are sure you and your partner are free from STDs (by getting tested), do not stop using them.
Get Screened Regularly
Ideally, a sexually active person should get screened at least once a year. The only way to be certain that we are free from sexual diseases is to get tested. If a person has never been tested before, recently went through a breakup or divorce or has been cheated on or cheated on a partner, it would be wise to do STD testing.
Shim Clinic is a STD clinic in Singapore that provides STD testing, diagnosis and treatment. Not limited to these 3 things, Shim Clinic also offers preventive methods such as HIV PEP, HIV PrEP and HPV vaccination (Gardasil-9).