Knowledge is the first step.
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are infections passed from one person to another during sexual contact. There are many kinds of STIs and more than half of all of us will get one at some point in our lives. The good news is that many can be treated and practicing safer sex can reduce your risk.
The most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States.
Most people — about 75% of women and 50% of men — have no symptoms. When there are symptoms, they often appear 5 to 10 days after having sex and can be different for men and women.
Chlamydia can be easily treated with antibiotics. Both you and your partner should be treated before you have sex again. (Treatment does not protect against future infections.) If left untreated, it can cause infertility.
A bacterial infection passed through sexual contact. It is sometimes called “the clap” or “the drip”.
Many people — about 80% of women and 10% of men — have no symptoms. If you do have symptoms, they appear 1 to 14 days after sexual contact. There may be an abnormal discharge, burning when you pee, or a need to pee more often.
Gonorrhea can be easily treated with antibiotics. Both you and your partner should be treated before you have sex again. (Treatment does not protect against future infections.) If left untreated, gonorrhea can cause infertility.
A very common infection that stays in the body for life, is easy to catch, and symptoms can come and go. There are two types of herpes; oral and genital. Herpes is spread through skin-to-skin contact (contact with a herpes sore or outbreak) through kissing or during oral, vaginal, or anal sex. The virus spreads more if an outbreak is present, but you can give herpes to your partner even when you have no symptoms.
You may have no symptoms at all, and signs of the virus may appear years after you get it. However, an outbreak may appear 2 to 20 days after exposure, in the form of painful blisters on the mouth, genitals, or anus. There may also be some itching, burning, or pain before the blisters appear.
Medication can be taken to help with symptoms, prevent outbreaks, and lower the risk of infecting your partner. Although the blisters will go away, they can come back because there is no cure for herpes. Outbreaks can happen less often and become less severe over time.
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that is transmitted through blood, semen, pre-semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk, or by sharing needles. It breaks down the immune system — our body’s protection against disease — and causes people to become sick with infections that normally wouldn’t harm them. AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) is the most advanced stage of HIV.
Some people get HIV symptoms shortly after being infected. But symptoms may not show up for more than 10 years after exposure. The first HIV symptoms may include swollen glands in the throat, armpit, or groin. Other early HIV symptoms include flu-like symptoms, such as slight fever, headaches, fatigue, and muscle aches. There is no cure for HIV, but it can be treated with medicines that strengthen the immune system to keep HIV from developing into AIDS or to relieve AIDS symptoms.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
A very common infection caused by skin-to-skin contact. There are more than 100 types of HPV — about 40 of them can infect the genital area and nearly all sexually active men and women will get it at some point in their lives. Some types of HPV cause warts, while others can lead to genital and throat infections and cancers.
The cancer-causing strains have no symptoms, but may infect the cervix and cause abnormal pap tests in women. The wart-causing types may cause small bumps or cauliflower-like growths, which can appear anywhere on the genitals — the vulva, vagina, cervix, and anus in women; the shaft and head of the penis, scrotum, and anus in men. HPV and pap tests are part of a well-woman exam and are very important tests for finding any abnormal cells.
You can get a shot (vaccine) to protect against 70% of HPV infections. Although there is no cure for HPV, it can be treated and watched by your doctor.
A bacterial infection passed through oral, vaginal, or anal sex.
There are often no symptoms, but some people can get painless open sores. If left untreated, the infection can lead to rashes, as well as heart, bone, brain, and nerve damage, and even death.
When found early, syphilis can be treated with antibiotics. Both you and your partner should be treated before you have sex again. (Treatment does not protect against future infection.) Keep in mind that any damage caused by syphilis in the later stages cannot be undone.
STI tests are a normal part of health care. You should be tested for STIs every year and any time you have a new partner. Using a condom can lower your risk of getting or spreading STIs. If you think you or your partner(s) may have been exposed to an STI, talk with a health care provider about testing.
Many sexually transmitted infections have no symptoms. The only way to be sure is to get yourself tested.
To schedule an appointment, please call:
Have a question?
Get your sexual/reproductive health questions answered by a certified Health Educator.
Call toll-free: 877.4ME.2ASK
Chat online: PlannedParenthoodChat.org
Text: 53634 (Messaging and data rates may apply)