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How to Reduce Your Risk of Getting an STD and When to Seek Care

Rates of STD/STIs in America are soaring. Even though we know the best practices for preventing them, the CDC estimates that 20 million Americans are diagnosed with one each year.

That’s an extremely high number. It’s also one that can be reduced with safe sex practices that are both simple and realistic. This year, from February 14-21, it’s National Condom Week. As such, it’s the perfect time to take a look at some safe sex tips to prevent STDs.

We’ll also cover the signs and symptoms of some of the most common STIs, the risk of getting an STD, and when you should seek care if you think you’re dealing with one.

Types of STDs

There are many types of STDs out there, each with their own symptoms and primary methods of spreading. However, many of them share symptoms and start the same way when they first appear.

With that in mind, knowing the difference between the most common STDs is a good first step to determining if you need treatment.

The most common STD is HPV. This virus is spread through sexual contact as well as general skin-to-skin contact. It’s estimated that nearly all sexually active people will get exposed to HPV at some point. Fortunately, most of those who are infected don’t have symptoms. Others can experience genital warts or sores on the mouth and throat.

Chlamydia is another extremely common STD. It most often presents itself as burning when you urinate. However, not everyone gets symptoms. Since chlamydia is a bacterial infection, it needs to be treated with antibiotics. As such, you need to visit the doctor if you suspect you have chlamydia.

Herpes is also quite common and easy to spread. Most people who are infected experience a blistery rash that may be painful. Unfortunately, since herpes is a virus, it can’t be cured. Medication can help manage the symptoms, however.

The deadliest STD is HIV/AIDS. An HIV infection comes through contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person. Symptoms may resemble those of the flu, including things like muscle aches, fatigue, and fever. Over time, HIV infections that aren’t treated progress to AIDS, a life threatening and chronic condition that cripples the immune system’s ability to fight off infections.

How to Prevent STDs

Although STDs are incredibly prevalent, preventing them is fairly straightforward. Abstaining from sex is the only way to guarantee that you won’t get an STD. However, that simply isn’t realistic for most people.

For those who choose to have sex, especially with multiple partners, safe sex practices are crucial for preventing STIs.

That being said, one of the easiest things you can do is wear a condom (or have your partner wear one). This provides a physical barrier that decreases exposure to bodily fluids and the STDs that can spread through them. Although condoms aren’t perfect, they do significantly decrease your risk of getting an STD. They also double as a form of birth control (though they aren’t 100 percent effective).

Another way to reduce your risk of getting an STD is by reducing your number of partners. Of course, this only works if they are doing the same. By reducing the number of people you have sex with, you are less likely to be exposed to an STD.

As noted, HPV is the most common STI. Fortunately, there is a vaccine that can help prevent infections and ward off serious cases. Those who are sexually active should consider getting the vaccine to decrease their risk.

Can I Get Tested for an STD at Urgent Care?

If you’re having symptoms of an STD, getting tested is the first step towards getting healthy. Although not all STIs are curable, most respond well to treatment if it is started soon after you are infected. As such, if you’re experiencing symptoms like burning with urination, warts or sores on your genitals, or foul-smelling discharge, it’s a good idea to go get tested.

Getting tested is typically as simple as providing a urine sample and allowing your healthcare provider to swab any sores or warts. Some STD tests also involve a blood draw.

Regardless, the process is quick and discreet. Getting tested for an STD at urgent care is a great option since you don’t need an appointment. You can also get treatment for an STD as soon as the results come back.

Velocity Urgent Care is Here to Help

If you think you’re dealing with an STD, or just need some peace of mind, Velocity Urgent Care has your back. We offer quick, discreet STD/STI testing that fits around your schedule.

Our team of friendly, board-certified providers will perform a thorough review of your symptoms and sexual history and order any necessary tests. From there, they can prescribe medications to help treat your symptoms and manage your STI. If you need more intense treatment or follow-up care, we can also refer you to a specialist within the Sentara Health network.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are taking serious safety precautions to ensure that our locations are as clean as possible. We’ve put strict sterilization protocols into place and are carefully handling patients who may be contagious to ensure that each one of our clinics is safe for those who need urgent medical care or occupational health services.

Velocity Urgent Care offers convenient online registration that helps you limit your contact with others during a visit. You can sign up for an appointment online ahead of time and arrive when it’s time to be seen to skip the waiting room. We even offer text message updates so you can wait in the car (if you prefer) until it’s time for your appointment.

Velocity Urgent Care is an in-network provider for most major insurance plans, meaning you can be seen for the cost of your co-pay and deductible. All of our locations also accept Medicare, Medicaid, and Tricare. Veterans Administration beneficiaries are also welcome. To find out more about our services, locations, hours, and more, visit www.velocityuc.com.