You've heard all the umbrella terms: venereal disease (VD), sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). All refer to viral, bacterial or parasitic infections primarily spread through sexual contact and activity.

While abstinence from sexual activity is the only method to completely protect yourself from STDs, this rigidity isn't realistic for most people. Even monogamous couples aren't completely safe, given one or both partners could have a dormant condition such as human papillomavirus (HPV) they were unaware of. A lifetime of safe sex—and good health—comes from education about how STDs are spread and how to avoid them.

STDs and STIs

STDs primarily spread through an activity involving the mouth, vagina, penis and/or anus. STDs are serious and require treatment to protect yourself and your partner(s). Some are easily treatable with a course of antibiotics. Others can lead to lifelong chronic conditions, including damage to your vision, heart or reproductive system. Some infections lead to infertility or weakened immune systems and in some cases, death. It is possible to pass some infections in