Sexually transmitted infection preventions
What are STIs?
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are infections that are spread by sexual contact. STIs are very common and easily spread. Some STIs can be treated and cured, but others cannot be cured.
How are STIs spread?
Anyone who has sexual contact with another person is at risk of getting an STI. Some STIs cause symptoms and others do not. A person with an STI can pass it to others through contact with skin, genitals, mouth, rectum, or body fluids. This includes contact through vaginal sex, anal sex, or oral sex. Even if there are no symptoms, your health can be affected.
What are the symptoms of an STI?
Symptoms can range from vaginal discharge and mild irritation to severe pain. Often, symptoms occur only if the infection has gone on for a while. In most cases, long-term health problems can be avoided with early treatment.
What causes STIs?
STIs are caused by infections with bacteria or viruses. STIs caused by bacteria are treated with antibiotics. STIs caused by viruses cannot be cured, but symptoms can be treated. Even if there are no symptoms, tests can be done to diagnose infection. Testing will help you know if you have an STI so you can take steps to prevent passing it to others.
Who is at highest risk of STIs?
People are at high risk of getting STIs if they:
- Have or have had more than one sexual partner
- Have a partner who has or has had more than one sexual partner
- Have sex with someone who has an STI
- Have a history of STIs
- Use intravenous drugs (injected into a vein) or have a partner who uses intravenous drugs
How can I protect myself from STIs?
There are many ways you can reduce your risk of getting an STI:
- Know your sexual partners- The more partners you or your partners have, the higher your risk of getting an STI.
- Use a latex or polyurethane condom- Using a latex or polyurethane condom every time you have vaginal, oral, or anal sex reduces the risk of infection.
- Know that some sex practices increase the risk- Sexual acts that tear or break the skin carry a higher risk of STIs. Anal sex poses a high risk because tissues in the rectum break easily. Body fluids also can carry STIs. Having any unprotected sexual contact with an infected person poses a high risk of getting an STI.
- Get vaccines- Vaccines are available to help protect against hepatitis B and human papillomavirus (HPV).
What are some of the most common STIs?
- Genital herpes
- Hepatitis B
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection
- HPV infection (Human Papillomavirus )
What should I know about gonorrhea and chlamydia?
Gonorrhea and chlamydia are caused by bacteria. These infections often have no symptoms but still can have long-term effects on fertility. When symptoms occur, they may appear 2 to 21 days after contact with an infected person. These infections can occur at the same time.
Symptoms of gonorrhea and chlamydia may include the following:
- Discharge from the vagina or penis
- Painful urination or the need to go more often
- Pain in the pelvis or abdomen
- Burning or itching in the vaginal area
- Redness or swelling of the vulva
- Bleeding between menstrual periods
- Sore throat with or without fever
- Swollen or enlarged lymph nodes
What should I know about treatment for gonorrhea and chlamydia?
Gonorrhea typically is treated with an antibiotic shot followed by antibiotic pills. Doctors often recommend follow-up testing to make sure the infection is gone. Chlamydia is treated with antibiotic pills.
All of your sex partners within the last 60 days should be treated.
Untreated gonorrhea or chlamydia can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID is an infection of the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. Symptoms of PID are fever, nausea and vomiting, and pain in the abdomen. PID can lead to infertility and long-term pelvic pain.
What should I know about HPV?
HPV is one of the most common STIs in the United States. Some HPV types are spread through sexual contact. Certain types of HPV can cause abnormal changes in the cervix that may lead to cancer. HPV also is linked to cancer of the anus, vulva, vagina, penis, head, and neck.
HPV infection generally has no symptoms. But a few types of HPV can cause genital warts. Warts can appear anywhere in the genital area.
Sometimes warts go away on their own. If they do not, there are treatments available. Even after the warts have cleared up, HPV can remain in the body for weeks or years without symptoms.
Can HPV infection be prevented?
A vaccine is available that can significantly reduce the risk of getting cancer, precancer, and genital warts caused by HPV infection. The vaccine is safe and effective but does not protect against all types of HPV. This means that women should follow cervical cancer screening guidelines even if they were vaccinated.
How is the HPV vaccine given?
The HPV vaccine is given as a series of shots. The ideal age for HPV vaccination of girls and boys is 11 or 12, but it can be given starting at age 9 and through age 26. If you are older than 26. have not been vaccinated, and are at risk of a new HPV infection, you and your health care professional can talk about whether you need the HPV vaccine. The vaccine is approved for people through age 45.
What should I know about syphilis?
Syphilis is caused by bacteria. The bacteria that cause syphilis enter the body through a cut in the skin or through contact with a partner’s syphilis sore. Because this sore commonly occurs on the vulva, vagina, anus, or penis, syphilis most often is spread through sexual contact. If not treated, syphilis can cause long-term health problems.
What should I know about treatment for syphilis?
Syphilis is treated with antibiotics. The length of treatment depends on how long you have had the infection. You may have blood tests over time to see if the treatment is working. Avoid sexual contact during treatment. If you are diagnosed with syphilis, you also should be tested for HIV. Your sex partners should be treated for syphilis too.
Without treatment, the symptoms of syphilis may go away, but the disease will remain. Years later, it can return in its most severe form and cause heart problems, nervous system problems, paralysis, and blindness.
What should I know about genital herpes?
At least 50 million people in the United States—about 1 in 6 adults—are infected with the virus that causes genital herpes. Herpes infection can cause painful sores, but sometimes there are no sores. It is possible to have herpes and not know it.
When first infected, a person with herpes may have flu-like symptoms. Sores may appear as small, fluid-filled blisters on the genitals, buttocks, or other areas. The sores often are grouped in clusters, and the area where the sores appear may be swollen and tender. When a person has symptoms, they appear about 2 to 10 days after the virus enters the body.
What happens to the herpes virus in the body?
After a person is first infected, the virus travels to nerve cells near the spine and stays there. When there is a trigger the virus can become active again. Triggers can include illness, stress, and hormonal changes.
When the virus is active again, it travels along the nerves, back to where it first entered the body, and causes a new outbreak of sores and blisters. This is called a recurrence. The virus can be passed to others during a recurrence.
What is the treatment for genital herpes?
There is no cure for herpes, but the infection can be managed. Antiviral medications taken during outbreaks can make them shorter and less severe. When taken on a daily basis, antiviral medications can reduce the number of outbreaks.
What should I know about HIV?
HIV is the virus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). HIV is passed from person to person through contact with infected body fluids, such as semen, vaginal fluid, or blood.
Once HIV is in your body, it attacks the immune system. As the immune system weakens, it is less able to resist disease and infections. AIDS is diagnosed when a person with HIV develops diseases that the immune system normally would fight off, such as pneumonia, certain types of cancer, and infections.
What are the symptoms of HIV infection?
Some people may have flu-like symptoms within 2 to 4 weeks of getting the virus. But other people may not feel sick until the infection is more serious. The only way to know if you have HIV is to get tested.
What should I know about treatment for HIV?
There is no cure for HIV infection, but it can be treated. Drugs are available that can help people with HIV stay healthy for a long time.
What should I know about trichomoniasis?
Trichomoniasis is an infection caused by a microscopic parasite that is spread through sex. It can be cured with treatment. Many people have no symptoms of trichomoniasis. When symptoms do occur, they include discharge from the vagina and vaginal itching and redness.
What should I know about hepatitis?
Hepatitis is a serious infection of the liver caused by a virus. Two types of hepatitis, B and C, can be sexually transmitted. They can be spread by direct contact with the blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and saliva of an infected person. There is a vaccine to prevent infection with hepatitis B. There is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C infection.
Many people infected with hepatitis B or hepatitis C recover completely. However, some people develop chronic liver infections, which can lead to long-term health problems.