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Teen Health

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Teens and STDs: Common Myths


You can only get the same STD once.

For the viral STDs like HIV and herpes, once you're infected you're infected for life. But we do know that you can get other strains of the same virus if you're continuing to have unprotected sex.

It’s very important for people to know, once they've had chlamydia, gonorrhea, or syphilis and they have been treated and cured, they are now susceptible again. Especially in young girls, the second time you have chlamydia there's more damage to your reproductive tract. Once they've been treated they need to practice safe sex so that they don't get infected again.

You can only catch herpes when the other person is having an outbreak.

We used to say, it's only when you have that sore that you need to worry about transferring the herpes virus. We now have a number of studies that have shown that people still are shedding the herpes virus after the sore clears, so they can still transmit it to a partner. We also know that there are people who have never had symptoms of herpes that carry herpes. They can be shedding virus and transmitting it to a partner.

If I have an STD, I'll just take antibiotics and it will go away.

For the bacterial STDs, it is true that antibiotics are highly effective. About 95% or 98% of the time when you take the antibiotic your infection will go away. But sometimes damage has already been done if you've already had the infection for a while before you got treated.

Viral STDs are harder to treat. We use antiviral medication…but they don't cure the infections. They just make the symptoms less and make the virus less transmissible. Once you are off your medication for herpes and sometimes for HIV, your virus can increase and you can be more likely to transmit it to a partner.

We've seen declines in both mortality [death] and the complications of AIDS because we have much better treatments now. But the AIDS drugs do have a lot of side effects. For many people, they need to be taken for long periods of time. AIDS is complicated and we still believe that the best treatment for HIV is to prevent becoming infected to begin with.

To learn more about STD testing, visit

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Reviewed on June 25, 2012

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