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Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

What are sexually transmitted infections?

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are infections spread by sexual or intimate contact between an infected person and others.

What are the signs and symptoms? 

The signs and symptoms of STIs vary depending on the infection. In some cases, the infected person may have no symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they may not show up until weeks after the initial infection. Some common symptoms include:

  • Abnormal vaginal discharge or a burning sensation when urinating. Infections that are not treated may spread to the uterus and fallopian tubes which can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • Discharge from the penis or a burning sensation when urinating. Pain and swelling in one or both testicles may occur, but this is less common.

How are STIs spread?

STIs are commonly spread through contact with infected body fluids such as blood, vaginal fluids, or semen. They can also be spread through direct contact with infected skin or mucous membranes, such as sores in the mouth. You may be exposed to infected body fluids and skin through vaginal, anal or oral sex. 

How do you prevent STIs?

Using condoms consistently and correctly can reduce the risk of acquiring or transmitting an STI. The surest way to avoid contracting STIs is to abstain from vaginal, anal, and oral sex or to be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and is known to be uninfected.

How do you diagnose and treat STIs?

STIs are diagnosed through lab tests using swabs of the vagina or a urine sample. STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis can be treated and cured with antibiotics. Viral STIs such as herpes and human papillomavirus (HPV) can be treated and managed but not cured. Persons being treated for chlamydia should abstain from having sex for seven days after single dose antibiotics, or until completion of a seven-day course of antibiotics, to prevent spreading the infection to partners.