Health A-Z

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What Is It?

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are infections that are spread from person to person through sexual contact, including oral sex, anal sex and the sharing of sex toys. These diseases can be passed through any contact between the genitals of one person and the genitals, anus, mouth or eyes of another person.

There are many different STDs, but the most common ones in the United States are herpes simplex virus type II (genital herpes), human papilloma virus, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV and genital warts. Some infections that can be spread by sex, such as the hepatitis B virus, are not traditionally referred to as STDs because they are spread primarily by other means.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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