If you grew up in the 80s or 90s, you probably remember hearing a lot about genital warts, pubic lice, and hepatitis B. All three are sexually transmitted diseases, but thankfully, they’re not as threatening as they once were.
Full disclaimer: This is not a green light to have unprotected sex. These do still exist, and there’s a host of other STDs out there that youneed to protect yourself against (see: gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis).
“HPV is a virus that can cause two things: genital warts and abnormal Pap smears,” says Gil Weiss, M.D., an assistant professor of clinical medicine at Northwestern Medical.
Roughly 90 percent of genital warts are caused by HPV.
Some good news! Though unsightly, genital warts aren’t cancerous. And we’re seeing a lot less of them thanks to the HPV vaccine Gardasil, which was first introduced in 2006. The vaccine targets the types of HPV that cause cancer and genital warts. Read more about HPV here.
“I’ve seen maybe two cases of pubic lice in about 10 years,” Weiss says. “I think it’s just not as common as it used to be.”
Pubic lice, a.k.a. crabs, are actual lice that attach to hair in the pubic area (yep, just like head lice, but in a more unfortunate spot). In a 2009 study of U.S. college students, only 35 out of 817 students had an experience with pubic lice (that means 782 did not).
It’s still considered a common STD throughout much of the world (some estimate that anywhere between 2 and 10 percent of the global population has it), but records on the parasite in the U.S. are incomplete, making it tough to track. Even if you are unlucky enough to get it, it’s easy to treat and usually doesn’t cause any permanent damage.
Hep B is a liver infection that’s transmitted via blood, semen, and other bodily fluids. It can be passed sexually and, if not treated, can lead to serious health problems like cirrhosis or liver cancer. But since 1991, there’s been a major effort to eliminate hep B in the U.S. through the hepatitis vaccine. And it’s working: In 2014, a mere 2,953 cases were reported to the CDC (compare that to the 1.5 million cases of chlamydia reported in 2015).
Chances are, you got this vaccine as a kid. But even if you didn’t, there’s probably still time to get it now.
The number of people infected with three major STDs is at an all-time high (yikes!). We’re tackling common misconceptions about STIs and STDs to help #ShattertheSTIgma. Because getting tested should be NBD.