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Many women assume that they possess strong “common knowledge” about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and, as a result, have an innate belief that they are at less risk of infection. But women in America continue to bare the consequences of STDs like no other group, emphasizing the need to never overestimate just how vigilant you are when it comes to issues relating to your sex life.

There are a number of ways for you to maintain a level of alertness in regard to sexually transmitted diseases, beginning with informing yourself about their prevalence in your locality or country. Local, state or federal health services can provide you with a range of useful material in this regard. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention is always a good place to start any research.

It is equally important to recognize the symptoms of an infection by using reliable information from your library, clinic or from online sources linked to credible health services. Be aware that there is a range of misinformation on the Internet that can be confusing and dangerous (especially for those hypochondriacs out there!)

However, if only one thing were certain, it’s that taking complete measures to minimize the risk of exposure is and will always be the best advice to take on board. Some STDs can jeopardize your entire future and have long lasting consequences on your family.

Many STDs, like HIV, are passed from mother to baby during pregnancy and breast feeding. Others, such as syphilis, can lead to long term mental illness and death.

While the prevalence of some STDs has declined in the past few decades, some have become more common and dynamic, producing new varieties, strands or trends against which the human body and modern medicine have been unable to fully fight.

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The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimated in 2004 that HIV infection was the leading cause of death of black women aged 25-34, highlighting a number of risk factors to consider:

1. Lack of Recognition of Partner’s Risk Factors

You should never underestimate the sexual past of the people with whom you engage in sexual activity. Some women assume that HIV is confined to the gay male population but this is not the case. The Center for Disease Control & Prevention claims that as many as one third of gay black men have reported having sex with straight women.

HIV and other STDs are also confined to the straight community in may cases and continue to spread because of the isolated sexual activity of straight sexual partners.

2. High-Risk Heterosexual Risk Factors

Some men have a particularly strong dislike of condoms. This form of gender inequality in the bedroom can place a women in the uncomfortable position of having to negotiate the use of her body by forcing the man to use a condom against his demands. In an ideal situation a woman should develop a strong relationship with a future sex partner so as to be able to discuss safe sex practices and avoid any conflict relating to the use of protection.

3. Biologic Vulnerability and Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Sexual intercourse between a man and a women places the female participant in more danger than the male because of the sharing of bodily fluids. There is obviously no way to reverse the vulnerability of a women in this case, making other methods of protection even more crucial.

4. Substance Use

Issues relating to STDs may go well beyond sexual activity. The sharing of needles in the straight and gay community renders sexual orientation irrelevant for some sexually active people, as the HIV virus can easily pass through the blood stream via a syringe.

You should attempt to inform yourself of any past encounters your partner may have had with illicit drugs.

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Finally, it is important to emphasize once again that the best way to avoid being exposed to sexually transmitted diseases is to never let your guard down or lessen the control you have of your own body and mind.

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As a woman you are particularly vulnerable to exposure and the long term consequences of STDs so it crucial that you remain alert for any risk factors in your partner or your current situation that may place your health at risk.

If you do think you have been exposed to any STD you should immediately contact your health care provider to ensure early detection or, in the case your suspicions are wrong, peace of mind.