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.

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

Warning signs of dating abuse.png

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.

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.

Juuling has exploded in popularity

A Centers for Disease Control study found a 78 percent increase in e-cigarette use by teens in just one year. The increase was so startling that the Food and Drug Administration announced a series of actions aimed at cutting underage access to vape products.

One new vape pen in particular, the JUUL, has exploded in popularity – making up more than half of all e-cigarette sales in the US. Although JUULs are thought to provide a healthier alternative to cigarette smoking, they are still harmful to the body, especially when used by adolescents.

The JUUL device is made up of two parts: the actual e-cigarette and the pod. A JUUL pod typically contains flavoring (such as cool mint or creme brûlée) and roughly the same amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes. The high nicotine content in a JUUL pod can deliver a “head high” when the device is used.

Nicotine is notoriously one of the most addictive substances in existence, and its large dose within a JUUL pod can cause harm to the body. Short-term side-effects of vaping include mouth dryness, dizziness, cough, dry eyes, increased airway resistance, chest pain, nosebleeds, vomiting, nausea, increased blood pressure, and increased heart rate. And if the use of nicotine is continued, its short-lived effects can develop into serious complications.

As with most addictive substances, nicotine activates the brain’s reward circuit and releases dopamine. The “head high” that occurs while JUULing is not only because of the dopamine release in the brain, but also to the secretion of epinephrine. You may be wondering what dopamine and epinephrine are (or do). Put simply, dopamine is the feel good chemical released by our bodies – it makes you happy. Where epinephrine acts as a form of adrenaline.

Many parents don't realize their teens are Juuling. The JUUL is shaped like a USB flash drive and can fit in the palm of your hand. News outlets and social media sites report widespread use of JUULs by students in schools, including classrooms and bathrooms.

What to say to your teens:

  • Ask your teens what they know about “Juuling.”

  • Be clear that you’re learning about this issue together, but mention that vaping is not in your child’s best interest. Stress that e-cigarettes are not good for them and neither is becoming addicted to nicotine.

  • Emphasize that “Juuling” still means using nicotine, even with “only flavoring” options.


THINK Conference - April 10-11

Save the date for the 2019 THINK Conference!

This year's conference will be held at Glade Springs Resort in Daniels, WV. 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.