What are sexually transmitted diseases and infections?
Contracting a sexually transmitted disease or infection (STD/STI) is possible through any type of sex (oral, anal and vaginal sex). The infection can live in the body without showing symptoms.
For information on how to receive STD/STI and HIV testing, contact your local health department.
What should I do if I need help?
What kinds of STDs/STIs are there?
Those that can be cured:
Bacterial STDs/STIs can be cured with medicine, but permanent damage to your body can happen if the problem isn’t addressed quickly. These include:
- pubic lice
These infections can show symptoms, though many people may not experience them. Common symptoms include:
- rashes, bumps or sores around the genital area
- pelvic, abdominal or back pain
- unusual discharge from the penis or vagina
Those that can’t be cured yet:
Viral STD/STIs cannot be cured with medication. Although there are treatments to help the symptoms, there’s nothing doctors can do to get rid of them. These include:
- Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
- Hep B
What else do I need to know about STD/STIs?
STDs/STIs can affect anyone, of any race, class, age or sexual orientation.
- Of the 20 million new cases every year, half are in the 15 – 24 age group.
- About one in four sexually active young people are carriers of an STD/STI; many of them have no idea they are infected.
- Although the U.S. has the highest rate of STDs/STIs in the world, 46% of teens reported they did not use protection during their last sexual experience.
- The best way for someone to protect themselves against an STD/STI is to not have sex.
- If a person engages in sexual activity, he or she should stay as safe as possible by using protection.
For more information, read about contraception.
What are the consequences of contracting an STD/STI?
Contracting an STD/STI can be a life-changing event, causing problems far into the future. When someone expose themselves to an STD/STI, they can potentially be exposing themselves to infertility, life-long relationship issues and even death.
Frequently asked questions
How do I know if I have a STD/STI?
The common symptoms of STD/STIs are things like rashes, bumps, or sores around the genital area, pelvic, abdominal, or back pain and an unusual discharge from the penis or vagina. However, lots of people with STD/STIs have no symptoms at all. The only way to know if you have an STD/STI is to get tested by a doctor.
How do I know if someone else has an STD/STI?
You can’t. Although some STD/STIs cause observable symptoms in some affected people, many people with STD/STIs show no symptoms at all. Before you engage in sexual activity with someone, ask them to get tested by a doctor so can both be as safe as possible.
How do I get tested for STDs/STIs?
Family planning clinics offer reduced or no-cost STD/STI testing. Your county health department is also an excellent resource for finding affordable STD/STI testing.
If I get an STD/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 STD/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.
How do I avoid getting an STD/STI?
The only 100% effective way to protect yourself against a STD/STI is to not have 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 STDs/STIs.
If I’m not gay, do I still need to worry about HIV?
Everyone who engages in sexual activity is at risk for contracting HIV, regardless of sexual orientation. The idea that HIV is a “gay disease” is a common misconception.
I heard that there’s a vaccine that protects you against STD/STI’s. Is this true?
There are two vaccines that offer protection against certain strains of HPV. HPV is a viral STD/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.