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Teens and STDs: Get the Facts

How are STD tests done?

We have blood tests for HIV, syphilis, herpes, and hepatitis B. To be tested for chlamydia or gonorrhea, all the male needs to do is pee into a cup. A teenage girl can also pee into a cup. But if she has any kind of pelvic pain or discharge, then she needs to have a pelvic exam.

How are STDs treated?

There are different antibiotics for the treatable STDs, because the treatable STDs are all bacteria. Chlamydia is the most common STD. We typically use azithromycin (Zithromax), which can be given in a single dose [by mouth]. You can also take a drug called doxycycline for chlamydia. You have to take that twice a day for seven days. To treat gonorrhea, we recommend an injection of a drug called ceftriaxone. Syphilis is treated with an injection of penicillin.

Unfortunately for our viral STDs we don't have any treatments that cure them. If you become infected with herpes, that is a lifelong chronic viral infection. We can give people medication to decrease the symptoms, the severity of the symptoms, or the duration of the symptoms. The medication also decreases the amount of the virus that you shed, so it can make you less infectious.

How can I prevent STDs?

Abstinence is the first strategy for the best protection. Condoms are very effective for preventing chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV, and hepatitis B. Use condoms consistently and correctly at all sites of exposure: in the mouth, in the rectum, and in the vagina. Also get tested on a regular basis.

Being in a mutually monogamous long-term relationship is another way that you can avoid STDs. Mutual monogamy means that you agree to be sexually active with only one person who's agreed to be sexually active only with you.

If you or your partner has been diagnosed with an STD, you should both get tested and ask your doctor how long you need to refrain from having sex to allow you both to clear the infection. That way, you won’t pass it back and forth.

Vaccination is another way that you can prevent yourself from becoming infected. So far the only effective vaccines we have available are for hepatitis B and HPV. We're recommending that teenage girls be vaccinated against HPV, because certain strains are associated with cervical cancer. We do know HPV is very common in teenagers who are sexually active, especially if they've had more than a couple of partners.

Do all condoms work against STDs?

Viruses can get through some of the natural skin condoms, so they don't protect against all sexually transmitted infections. We recommend the latex or polyurethane, which tend to be more expensive but need to be used by people who have latex allergies.

It's important that teens recognize that the condom needs to be put on as soon as there’s an erection. Not waiting until there's been a little foreplay, because there's ejaculate that can be released that can cause both STDs and unplanned pregnancies.

Even though it's so important to use a condom consistently and correctly, many teens don't know how. Health care providers, teen clinics, and educational materials can provide information on how to use a condom properly.

To learn more about STD testing, visit

Reviewed on June 25, 2012

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