No lesson would be complete without critical data from relevant studies. In this section, we’ve gathered the best available research, statistics, and basic information on those topics we believe to be most important to sexuality educators.
Condoms are a barrier method of contraception that, when used consistently and correctly, can prevent pregnancy by blocking the passage of semen into the vaginal canal. Condoms can also prevent the exchange of blood, semen, and vaginal secretions, which are the primary routes of STD transmission.
In recent years, as a result of misinformation and insufficient research, the efficacy of condoms, especially in terms of STD prevention, has been debated in many forums. Research continues to show that condoms are one of the best methods of preventing unintended pregnancy and are one of the only methods for sexually active individuals to protect themselves against STDs, including HIV.
This page includes information on both the male and female condom; on their effectiveness in protecting against unplanned pregnancies and STDs, including HIV; and on condom breakage and slippage, regulations and tests, and consistent and correct use. It is designed to provide the most recent information about condoms and to clear up confusion and misunderstandings.
Many of the studies on this page apply to more than one of these topic categories. Those studies have been listed under multiple topic headings so that all relevant data can be easily found.
There are more than 25 diseases spread primarily by sexual activity. Together these infections — called sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) — have created a significant public health challenge in the United States. While many STDs are curable, others are not. Even those that are curable often have no symptoms and go unrecognized for long periods of time. If left untreated, even curable STDs can result in long-term health problems for both men and women.
In the United States, there are an estimated 19 million new STD cases each year.[i]
- Half of these cases occur among young people ages 15–24.
- In addition, an estimated 65 million people live with an incurable STD.
- Still, less than half of adults ages 18–44 have ever been tested for an STD other than HIV/AIDS.
STDs are often divided into two categories—viral and bacterial— based on the type of microorganism that causes the specific disease. In general, bacterial infections can be cured with antibiotics and viral infections can be treated but not cured
This page focuses on eight of the most common STDs and contains information on how they are spread, how prevalent they are, what signs and symptoms individuals should look for, and what treatment options are available. Wherever possible it provides links to the original sources of data and information as well as additional websites that provide more information. This page also provides additional information on research focused on adolescents and STDs.
Note: Some professionals use the term sexually transmitted infection (STI) instead of sexually transmitted disease (STD).
ADOLESCENT SEXUAL BEHAVIOR
Information about young people’s sexual behavior—from the attitudes they have to the decisions they make and actions they take—can help parents communicate with children, policymakers support sound public health policy, and educators craft sexual health programs. Unfortunately, there is a limited amount of scientific data on adolescent sexual behavior. Further, much of the available research on this subject is controversial, as some adults seem to feel that asking adolescents about sex is tantamount to giving them ideas and encouragement. Finally, much of the available research is focused solely on sexual intercourse or is limited to heterosexual behaviors.