Safe Sex: STDs and STIs

What are they anyway?

Sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs (sometimes called sexually transmitted infections, or STIs) affect people of all ages, backgrounds, and from all walks of life. In the U.S. alone there are approximately 20 million new cases each year, about half of which occur among youth ages 15-24 years.

Getting the facts about STDs/STIs and sexual health is increasingly important. We invite you to explore our website and learn more about specific STDs/STIs, tips for reducing risk, and ways to talk with health care providers and partners.

Diseases that are spread through sexual contact are usually referred to as sexually transmitted diseases or STDs for short. In recent years, however, many experts in this area of public health have suggested replacing STD with a new term—sexually transmitted infection, or STI.

Why the change? The concept of “disease,” as in STD, suggests a clear medical problem, usually some obvious signs or symptoms. But several of the most common STDs have no signs or symptoms in the majority of persons infected. Or they have mild signs and symptoms that can be easily overlooked. So the sexually transmitted virus or bacteria can be described as creating “infection,” which may or may not result in “disease.” This is true of chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, and human papillomavirus (HPV), to name a few.


  • One in two sexually active persons will contract an STI by age 25.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that nearly 20 million new STIs occur every year in this country, half of those among young people aged 15–24.

  • Even though young people account for half of new STI cases, a recent survey showed only about 12% were tested for STIs in the last year.

  • CDC estimates that undiagnosed STIs cause 24,000 women to become infertile each year.

  • Researchers estimate that at least 80% of sexually active people will have an HPV infection at some point in their lifetime.

  • CDC data shows that about 42% of men and 40% of women aged 18-59 had genital HPV at that time.

  • Herpes infection is common. About 1 in 8 people aged 14-49 in the U.S. has genital herpes.

  • Symptoms of genital herpes often go unnoticed. Most people with genital herpes—close to 90%—don’t know they have the infection.

  • According to CDC, 1.1 million people in the US are living with HIV, and 1 in 7 of them don’t know it.

Reduce Your Risk

Being sexual with someone carries risks—risk of rejection, of unwanted pregnancy, of contracting a sexually transmitted disease/infection (STD/STI) or even a simple cold. Being sexual also can provide many physical, emotional and spiritual benefits, including physical fitness, emotional bonding, and a feeling of spiritual connection. Here we will examine some of the things you can do to assess your own risks and benefits so that you can enjoy the benefits important to you while decreasing your risk of contracting an STD/STI, having an unwanted pregnancy, or being coerced into sexual activity.

Decide on Your Boundaries

When deciding on their boundaries, people may consider such things as religious beliefs, cultural standards, personal desires and comfort levels, the type of relationship in which one is involved, the level of trust, communication and commitment within a relationship, the physical, emotional, spiritual benefits of sexual choices, the physical, emotional and spiritual risks of particular sexual choices, and the emotional perceptions of actual physical risks.

A few things to consider:

What are your reasons for choosing to have sex? What are the “benefits” you are hoping to enjoy? (Physical health benefits? Pleasure? Emotional connection? Fun? Spiritual connection?)

  • When and how often will you be tested for sexually transmitted disease/infection (STD/STIs)?

  • When and how often do you want your partners to be tested for STD/STIs?

  • What barriers do you want to use? Under which circumstances?

  • What barriers and other precautions do you want your partner(s) to use when being sexual with others, if you are in a sexually non-monogamous relationship?

  • Are you willing to risk a possible pregnancy? If not, what method of birth control will you use?

  • Do you have a plan of action that you intend to follow if, in spite of precautions, you are faced with an unwanted pregnancy, or an STD/STI?

Myths and Facts about STDs/STIs

MYTH: You can get herpes from a toilet seat: Herpes simplex virus (HSV) is spread by direct skin to skin contact. So unless you and another person are sharing a toilet seat at the same time, the toilet is not likely the source of the infection.

MYTH: You can’t get HIV from getting a tattoo or body piercing: There can be a risk for HIV or another blood-borne infection (like hepatitis B or C) if the instruments used for piercing or tattooing either are not sterilized or disinfected between clients. Any instrument used to pierce or cut the skin should be used once and thrown away. Ask the staff at the parlor about their equipment. They should show you what precautions they use, or don’t get pierced or tattooed there.

MYTH: A Pap test is a STD test: Pap tests are not specific tests for any sexually transmitted disease or infection (STD/STI). While some women think (or assume) that they are being tested for STDs/STIs when they have a Pap test, this is not the case. Talk to your healthcare provider about STD/STI testing and see if she or he recommends any tests for you.

MYTH: You can get HIV from a mosquito bite: HIV is not transmitted by mosquitoes. Studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and elsewhere have shown no evidence of HIV transmission from mosquitoes or any other insects—even in areas where there are many cases of AIDS and large populations of mosquitoes.

MYTH: You can’t get an STI just through oral sex: During oral sex, you can give your partner your STI and you can get theirs. Not all STIs are transmitted through oral sex, but some are.

MYTH: You can tell when someone has an STD/STI: Despite the gross pictures they showed you in health class, the majority of people with an STI have no symptoms of visible sores.

MYTH: I’ve been tested, I’m fine: The claim of having “been tested” isn’t always what it seems. Men and women can be tested for chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and HIV. There is a blood test for herpes; however, it is always ordered by doctors and many people with herpes have no symptoms, so they never get tested.

There is currently not test to determine if a man has HPV, and while there is a test for women to see if they have the cervical-cancer-causing strains of HPV, there is no test for the other strains of HPV (including the kind that cause genital warts.)

So - just because someone claims they’ve been tested, doesn’t mean they’ve been tested for everything, and definitely doesn’t mean there’s no need to use a condom.

MYTH: I already had unprotected sex with my partner and I didn’t catch anything, so I don’t need to use a condom. You won’t always catch an STI the first time you have sex with an infected partner, but you’ll catch it eventually if you keep having unprotected sex with that person. That’s why it’s important, even if you’ve had unprotected sex in the past, to use a condom every time.

MYTH: I used a condom, so I can’t have an STI. A few STIs, like herpes and genital warts, can be spread just by naked skin-to-skin contact. But condoms are still the best protection we have against most STIs, including the potentially lethal ones like HIV, so it’s important to use one every time you have sex. 

Forms of Abuse

Dating abuse is a pattern of behaviors one person uses to gain and maintain power and control over their partner. Many people assume abuse means that physical violence is happening, but that’s not always the case! Abuse comes in many forms—it’s not just physical. Explore the tabs below to learn a few of the common types of abuse so you can better identify them. Experiencing even one or two of these warning signs in a relationship is a red flag that abuse may be present. Remember, each type of abuse is serious and no one deserves to experience abuse of any kind.

If you recognize any of these warning signs in your own relationship, you can always text LOVEIS to 22522.

Adopting from Foster Care in West Virginia

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In West Virginia, there are nearly 7,000 children in foster care and approximately 1,000 of these children are legally eligible for adoption. These children were removed from their biological families due to abuse, neglect or abandonment. Their parent’s parental rights have been legally severed and reunification with them is no longer the goal. These children are in need of loving forever families who will provide them with the love and support they will need to succeed throughout childhood and into adulthood.

Where are these children living while they wait for their forever family?

Most children waiting for adoptive families live in temporary foster homes; others reside in group homes or residential facilities. Sometimes, because they have a need for treatment and sometimes because there is not a foster family available for them.

Why are waiting children profiled online and in Sunday’s Child?

The Sunday’s Child column creates a way to feature children who are waiting for a forever family. Through this column, it is our hope to touch the hearts of families and give a voice to children who need and deserve the love of an adoptive family.  

What is the process toward adoption when a certified family inquires, when a non-certified family inquires?

If you are interested in adopting a child who is in foster care, you will first need to be certified as a foster/adoptive family. You will select an agency, complete a training course and have an approved homestudy. After you have completed the certification process, you can register on the state’s adoption site and make inquiries about children who are listed with their profile and photo. Your agency worker will also assist you in finding children who are a good match for your family.  Another way to adopt through foster care is if children you are fostering become legally eligible for adoption.  Generally the foster family is given priority over adopting children in their care.   

What is the adoption matching process?

If you have inquired about a child on the DHHR’s website, the child(ren)’s workers and team members will review the inquiries and interview families who seem like they might be a good fit. After the team has reviewed the families and spoken with the child, they will arrange for visitation to orient the child and family with each other (unless the child is already living in the home). Some of these visits may be overnight or over a weekend. Pre-adoptive placement begins when the child moves in and actually lives with the chosen family. This phase lasts for a minimum of six months. The time it takes to adopt a child is different for every family and depends on individual circumstance.

How is a child(ren) transitioned into your home?

If a child is already living with you when they become legally eligible for adoption, their worker will speak with you about the option of adoption. If the child is on the state’s website or a worker contacts you because they think your family would be a good fit for the child(ren), they will set up a visitation date. Some parents and children have had their first meeting at a restaurant or a park, a time that is casual and not too long but long enough to get a sense for how things might work out. If the match seems like a good fit for both you and the child(ren), the child(ren) will either start with day visits or might even do an overnight stay. Depending on the child(ren) and how the visits are going, the visits will increase until the child can permanently move into your home.  Again, this phase lasts a minimum of 6 months and varies depending on the family and individual circumstances.

How are adoptions finalized?

All adoptions are finalized through the court system. A child or children will live with you for a minimum of 6 months before the adoption begins to be finalized. After this 6 month period, adoption paperwork is completed and filed with the courts. The family selects their own attorney and most costs associated with adoption finalization are eligible for reimbursement.  The final step of adoption is in front of a judge when you become the legal parent(s).

Cyberbullying and Online Gaming

Playing videogames is an extremely popular activity among teens, with approximately 72% of teens gaming online. Some video games – console, phone, or computer-based – allow the gamer to play online with other gamers (both friends and random players). While gaming can have positive benefits like making new friends, socializing, and learning problem solving skills, it is also a place for cyberbullying to take place. 

Players can remain unknown and use avatars, allowing them to create a fictional version of themselves. While this is part of the fun of gaming, it also allows users to harass, bully, and gang up on other players, sending or posting negative or hurtful messages and using the game as a tool of harassment. If someone is not performing well in the game, other gamers (both children and adults) may curse or make negative remarks, or they might exclude the person from playing altogether.

Because players are anonymous, they may not be held accountable for their behavior, and their harassment can cause some players to leave games. Some anonymous players use the game as a means to harass strangers or to get their personal information, like user names and passwords. 

Parents may not be aware of the apps that their children use regularly or may not be aware of the risks involved in using them. There are many ways that cyberbullying can be hidden in apps and sites, such as texts, videos, and web calls that disappear or do not appear on the device’s call or text message logs.

Many apps also make it easy for users to access, view or participate in adult or harmful content. Privacy and location settings may make them more vulnerable to stalking, cyberbullying, exposure to adult content, or other dangers. 

There are things adults can do to prevent cyberbullying of children who are gaming:

  • Play the game or observe when the gaming happens to understand how it works and what a child is exposed to in the game.

  • Check in periodically with your child about who is online, playing the game with them.

  • Teach your children about safe online behavior, including not clicking on links from strangers, not sharing personal information, not participating in bullying behavior of other players, and what to do if they observe or experience bullying.

  • Establish rules about how much time a child can spend playing video games.

Warning Signs of Dating Abuse

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Dating abuse is a pattern of destructive behaviors used to exert power and control over a dating partner. While we define dating violence as a pattern, that doesn’t mean the first instance of abuse is not dating violence. It just recognizes that dating violence usually involves a series of abusive behaviors over a course of time.

Being able to tell the difference between healthy, unhealthy, and abusive relationships can be more difficult than you think. No two relationships are the same, so what’s unhealthy in one relationship may be abusive in another. Although there are many signs to pay attention to, look for these common warning signs of dating abuse in a relationship:

  • Checking your cell phone or email without permission

  • Constantly putting you down

  • Extreme jealousy or insecurity

  • Explosive temper

  • Isolating you from family or friends

  • Making false accusations

  • Mood swings

  • Physically hurting you in any way

  • Possessiveness

  • Telling you what to do

  • Pressuring or forcing you to have sex

If you or someone you know sees the warning signs in their relationship, text loveis to 22522.

West Virginia Foster Closets

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Foster Closets are free resources for caregivers of children in foster care. To support the foster care community, churches and organizations throughout West Virginia provide basic supplies and clothing for children when they are placed in care.  Items often include car seats, diapers, clothes and shoes, hygiene items and clothing in various sizes. If you are a foster parent, we hope you will visit a foster closet near you. This is also a great opportunity to provide support to foster families throughout West Virginia by making a donation to one of the following foster closet locations:

The Foster Closet: A Ministry of Bible Center Church Charleston, WV.  Phone: 304-346-0431 (located in Cross Lanes, WV)

Foster Closet at First Baptist Church of Kenova, Contact: Call or text Tricia Ball at (724)880-8759 email: triciaball(at)

26th St. Church of Christ, Huntington, WV Phone: 304-522-0717

Kelly's Closet,  914 Market St. Parkersburg Email: kellysclosetwv(at)                                           

Winfield Baptist Church (12902 Winfield Rd. Winfield, WV 25213) Phone: 304-586-3198                                  

Savannah's Closet serving the 5th Judicial Circut, Ravenswood WV

I Heart Church in Beckley, Operated by Save Haven WV

Crossroads Foster Closet, Morgantown Email: crossroadsfostercloset(at)

Do you know of more in your community? Please share them with us and we will include them on this list! Thank you!

5th Annual SMART5.29K Run/Walk


The 5th annual SMART5.29K Run/Walk will take place on Saturday, May 18, 2019. The race start/finish takes place at the Appalachian Power Park (3rd base entrance on Smith Street). Check-In/Registration will begin at 8 a.m. A Kids Fun Run will take place at 8:45 a.m. for children 12 and under, and the 5.29K run/walk begins at 9 a.m. with the presentation of awards to follow.

Before, during and after the race, the partner organizations will have display tables, giveaways, and children’s activities to make this a true family friendly event in downtown Charleston. In advance of the race, families are invited to attend the packet pickup and ice cream social from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday, May 17, 2019 at center court of the Capitol Market on Smith Street. 

The SMART5.29K raises money to establish SMART529 College Savings Plans for children recently adopted out of the foster care system in West Virginia. All proceeds from the 5.29K registration, minus a $3.00 race fee, will be deposited into SMART529 College Savings Accounts. The accounts will be awarded through a selection process administered by Frameworks and Mission West Virginia.

17 and under--FREE
Early Bird (Ends April 7)--$25
Regular (Ends May 16)--$30
Packet pickup and race day--$35

Register now:

Open Your Life to Adoption. Open Your Life to Damen.

Damen is a loving 14 year old boy that wants to learn as much as he can about topics that interest him. He enjoys being around animals and growing vegetable gardens. Damen is very in tune with the feelings of those around him. He will pick a flower bouquet or give multiple hugs to ensure that you are feeling better. Damen enjoys building with Legos and playing with his Nintendo DS.

Damen is a child that has experienced very little consistency in his short life. It is extremely important to Damen that his forever family never give up on him and be a consistent place where he can feel wanted. He is incredibly smart in subjects that interest him but needs some patience and understanding with topics that don't make sense to him. Damen needs forever parents who will advocate for his educational needs to make sure they are being met.

Ready to take the next step?  Are you already certified in WV and want to learn more about Damen

Email Karissa Loring at

Want to learn more about becoming certified to foster and/or adopt? 

Request information by clicking here. 

Deadline for room accomodations for the THINK Conference is February 23rd!

Are you attending the 2019 THINK Conference?

Room blocks for this year's conference have been secured at Glade Springs Resort in Daniels, WV. The deadline to ensure room discounted rates is February 23rd. Accommodations are discounted to $99/room and can be made by calling Glade Springs at (877) 814-7316. Be sure to mention Mission WV - THINK Conference to get the discounted room rate.

More about the conference

The theme is BREAKING THE CYCLE. At the conference, you will have the opportunity to network, connect and learn strategies to improve the lives of youth in West Virginia. You will obtain the resources and skills to prevent high-risk behaviors that influence rates of teen pregnancy. Registration fee: $75.00.

Breakout sessions

  • Human Trafficking in WV

  • Addressing Substance Abuse Stigma

  • Tobacco, Juuling, Marijuana

  • Drug Trends

  • Dangers of Pornography

  • STI Education

  • Cyber Security

  • Hidden in Plain Sight

  • And much more!

Who should attend?

Health professionals, social workers, counselors, teachers, nurses, youth-serving professionals, and students studying related fields.

CEUS provided for Social Workers, School Counselors, and Nurses.

Help Us Share Sunday's Child

Our goal at Mission West Virginia is to recruit both foster and adoptive parents.  With nearly 7,000 children in foster care in WV, there is constant need for parents to care for children in temporary foster care.  Children are removed from their parents and placed into foster due to abuse and neglect.  The drug epidemic especially is having a strong impact on the rising numbers of children in care.  

When families cannot safely be reunified, parents’ rights are terminated and children become eligible for adoption.  One of our jobs is to find loving adoptive families for these children.  We believe there is a family out there for every waiting child and could use your help finding them.  Once a month,  we feature a child who is eligible for adoption in Sunday’s Child, a column that features a photo and narrative description of a waiting child.   We are asking you to share Sunday’s Child with your congregation, either through PowerPoint, inserted in the bulletin or by putting the child on your church's prayer list.                                       

If you are interested in sharing Sunday’s Child column at your church, please email Kylee Hassan or call 304-562-0273.   We are also available to speak to your congregation or to any smaller groups within the church.  There are many ways to help children in foster care in West Virginia and we are eager to speak with you about ways we can work together.