Perhaps as a child you heard the saying, “Boys are fancy on the outside and girls are fancy on the inside,” and that was the entirety of your understanding of sexual anatomy up until second or third grade. That catchy grade school concept is one of the main reasons men and women experience sexually transmitted diseases differently.
The warm, moist interior surface area of the vagina puts women at a higher risk for certain STDs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And it can make STDs harder to detect early, because their symptoms are more difficult for women to see.
Human Papilloma Virus, or HPV, causes cervical cancer in women. Men’s anatomy is not as vulnerable to cancer caused by HPV, but the risk is high enough that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved the HPV vaccine for men.
STDs can also put women at risk for reproductive complications. One of the most common STDs, chlamydia, can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, which can result in infertility, according to the CDC. Herpes and HIV can be passed from a mother to her new baby during delivery. STDs can cause complications in newborn babies like low birth weight, blindness and deafness.
Both men and women who choose to be sexually active have an important role in keeping each other healthy. Ask your doctor if he or she screens for STDs during regular exams. Screening is important for both men and women, because STDs do not always cause symptoms.
Men and women can be carriers of STDs, unknowingly spreading infections. Using a condom is the best way to prevent getting and spreading infections that cause STDs.
More information about STD screening, vaccination and prevention is available at www.findSTDtest.org and www.cdc.gov/std.