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STIs / STDs

What are sexually transmitted infections?
Contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI) is possible through any type of sex (oral, anal and vaginal) with a person who carries the STI. The infection can live in the body most often without showing symptoms. Sometimes STI’s are referred to as STDs which means “Sexually Transmitted Disease.” They mean the same thing and the terms are sometimes used interchangeably.

Check out this video “STD Prevention Beyond Condoms” from Amaze.org

For information on how to receive STI and HIV testing, contact your local health department.
What kinds of STIs are there?
Curable:
Bacterial & parasitic STIs can be cured with antibiotics. However, if left untreated they can cause irreversible damage. These include:

  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea (also known as “the Clap”)
  • Syphilis
  • Pubic lice (also known as “Crabs”)
  • Trichomoniasis (also known as “Trich” or “Trick”)

These infections can show symptoms, though many people may not experience any symptoms at all. Common symptoms include:

  • rashes, bumps or sores around the genital area
  • pelvic, abdominal or back pain
  • unusual discharge from the penis or vagina
  • burning or frequent urination

Incurable:
Viral STIs cannot be cured with medication; however, these STIs are manageable through medication and treatment by a doctor. These include:

  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Herpes
  • Hepatitis B

 
What are the possible outcomes for an untreated STI?
STIs can affect anyone, of any race, class, age or sexual orientation.
According to the Center for Disease Control:

  • Of the 20 million newly diagnosed cases every year, half are found in youth ages 15-24. (2015)
  • The highest age-specific rates of reported cases of chlamydia in 2018 were among those aged 15–19 years (2018)
  • Young people aged 15-24 account for 70% of all gonorrhea infections and 63% of chlamydia infections. (2013)
  • 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. (Cuffe, 2016)

How can I protect myself?

  • The best way for someone to protect themselves against an STI is to avoid vaginal, anal, and oral sex.
  • If a person engages in sexual activity, they should stay as safe as possible by using protection. For more information about how to protect yourself, read about contraception and accessing healthcare.

The lowdown info graphic
Even STIs that have a cure can cause permanent damage to the body if left untreated. Some of this damage can include:

  • Infertility
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
  • Ectopic Pregnancy
  • Cancer of the cervix, vagina, penis, anus, or throat
  • Blindness, paralysis, liver damage, brain damage, or even death

 
Frequently asked questions
How do I know if I have an STI?
The only way to know if you have an STI is to get tested by a doctor. Most individuals will not experience any symptoms or symptoms so mild they go unnoticed. If someone does experience symptoms they may include rashes, bumps, or sores around the genital area, pelvic, abdominal, or back pain, burning or frequent urination, and an unusual discharge from the penis or vagina. For more information about getting tested click here.
 
How do I know if someone else has an STI?
You cannot tell just by looking at someone if they have an STI. While some STIs cause observable symptoms, many people with STIs show no symptoms at all. Before you engage in sexual activity with someone, ask them to get tested by a doctor so you can both be as safe as possible.
 
How do I get tested for STIs?
Family planning clinics often offer reduced or no-cost STI testing. Your county health department is also an excellent resource for finding affordable STI testing. Visit cdc.gov to find a testing location near you. The site allows you to filter your search results by what type of test you want/need. You can even filter results by free/low cost testing! Visit the Healthcare page to learn more about getting tested.
 
If I get an STI test, will my parents find out?
All states give minors some control over keeping their sexual health confidential, but the extent varies from state to state. Some states allow minors to confidentially access testing for all STIs except for HIV, and some leave confidentiality completely up to the discretion of the minor’s physician. Many offer access to confidential sexual health screening, while others restrict it by age. For specific information on policies in your area, contact your doctor or local health department. You can also visit Sexetc.org to look up what the laws on for your state. For more information about insurance and privacy please visit our Healthcare page.
 
How do I avoid getting an STI?
The only 100% effective way to protect yourself against an STI is to not have vaginal, anal, or oral sex. However, if you do engage in sexual activity, it is important to use a condom or dental dam during sex, as they can both provide protection  against certain STIs.
 
Does HIV only effect the LGBTQ  community?
No! HIV can effect anyone who participates in certain behaviors like unprotected sex or sharing needles for drugs and/or tattoos or piercings. Someone can even be born with HIV or contract HIV through breast milk if their birth mother has HIV. In the past, HIV was more commonly associated with MSM (men who have sex with men) but with our knowledge now, we know it can effect anyone! Visit the cdc.gov to learn more about this.
 
I heard that there’s a vaccine that protects you against STI’s. Is this true?
There are vaccines available for Hepatitis B and HPV. Most people are vaccinated for Hepatitis B when they are infants. There are two vaccines that offer protection against certain strains of HPV. HPV is a viral STI that has many different strains, some of which can cause cancer and genital warts. Cervarex protects against the two most common cancer causing strains, and Guardasil protects against both the cancer causing strains and the genital warts causing strains. Most doctors now recommend that their patients receive an HPV vaccine before becoming sexually active and many schools now require it.
If you’re unsure if you’ve been vaccinated for Hepatitis B or HPV, talk to your doctor about your medical history.
 
Additional Resources:
Want to learn in more detail about STIs? Click here!
Have questions about the where, when and how of STI testing? Click here!
Find a STI Testing center near you:
 
Resources

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance 2018. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2019
  • Cuffe, Kendra M. et al. Sexually Transmitted Infection Testing Among Adolescents and Young Adults in the United States Journal of Adolescent Health 2016, 58(5), 512-519
  • Saltz, Gail, et al. “STD Prevention Beyond Condoms.” Amaze.org.
  •  “The Lowdown on How to Prevent STDs.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov/std/prevention/lowdown/
  • “Get Tested.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gettested.cdc.gov.
  • Sex in the States, sexetc.org/action-center/sex-in-the-states.
  • “HIV and Gay and Bisexual Men.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12 Nov. 2019, www.cdc.gov/hiv/group/msm/index.html.

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