What You Need to Know About STIs and STDs

Preventing and Reducing the Risk of STIs and STDs

You can reduce the risk of developing a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or sexually transmitted disease (STD) by practicing safer sex. This includes:

  • Using a barrier method (like condoms!) for every sexual encounter 
  • Limiting the number of sexual partners
  • Knowing the history of your sexual partners
  • Never taking harmful risks, such as having sex with someone you don’t know
  • Getting vaccinated against Hepatitis B and HPV can lower your risks
  • Getting tested on a regular basis can provide peace of mind

Let's Bust Some Myths!

Myth 1: You can't get STIs/STDs from oral sex.

Though not all STIs/STDs are transmitted through oral sex, some definitely can be. One example is herpes, which could be transmitted through a cold sore.

Myth 2: You will be able to tell if your partner has an STI/STD.

Not necessarily. Since many infections do not cause a single symptom, your partner might not have any clue they have an STI/STD either.

Myth 3: Condoms will protect me from everything.

Though condoms can cut down on the risk of infection, they don’t eliminate it entirely. Abstinence is the only sure way to avoid an STI/STD, but talking to your partner and getting tested often can also minimize risk.

Myth 4: STIs/STDs are only a problem for those with a lot of partners.

The truth is that it takes only one sexual encounter to contract an infection, and sometimes it is impossible to tell who has an STD and who does not. Even partners in long term relationships may pass on an infection they didn’t know about.

Myth 5: The withdrawal method is good protection against STIs/STDs.

The withdrawal method isn’t good protection against anything, including STDs, pregnancy or HIV. It simply doesn’t work.

STIs and STDs

The risk of sexually transmitted diseases or infections might be higher than you think. According to Stanford University’s Sexual Health Peer Resource Center, one in four college students has an STD. If you believe you have been exposed – for instance, a condom broke during sex – get tested immediately. If you are sexually active, get tested on a regular basis. Here's the breakdown on STIs and STDs:

You can also watch these videos to learn more about some of these STIs and STDs!

 

 

Genital Warts (HPV- Human Papillomavirus)

How can you get it?

  • Transmitted through sex

Symptoms

  • Can have no symptoms

  • Small bumps/warts that look like cauliflower around genitals, anus and they may itch but usually not painful.

What to do if you think you have it:

Get tested and talk to primary care provider.

Treatment:

  • Low risk strain of genital warts removed by freezing/burning/creams.

  • High risk strains are cancerous. If your pap smear is positive you will have a cervical exam done by a doctor.

  • Vaccinations reduce risk of HPV and protect against certain strains.

  • Get pap smears regularly or normal checkups to lower risk.

 

Herpes (HSV 1 & 2)

How can you get it?

  • Spread by touching infected area of someone who has it
  • Sexual contact

Symptoms:

  • Painful blisters or sores on genitals, thighs, butt, mouth, face

What to do if you think you have it:

Get tested and talk to primary care provider.

Treatment: 

Get medication to control outbreaks

 

Chlamydia

How can you get it?

  • Anal or vaginal sex with someone who has chlamydia or transmission of bodily fluids

Symptoms:

  • 40% of men and 80% women are asymptomatic
  • Thick yellow discharge
  • Painful sex
  • Burning sensation when peeing
  • Unusual bleeding between periods or during/after intercourse

What to do if you think you have it:

Treatment:

One week of antibiotics and no sexual activity until treatment is done. 
 

Gonorrhea

How can you get it?

  • Anal or vaginal sex with someone who has gonorrhea
  • Transmission of bodily fluids

Symptoms:

  • Painful sensation when peeing
  • Sore throat
  • Pain in testes or abdomen
  • Yellow discharge

What to do if you think you have it:

Treatment:

One round of antibiotics and no sexual activity until treatment is done.

 

Yeast Infection

How can you get it?

  • Wearing tight underwear
  • Taking certain antibiotics
  • Douching
  • You are at a higher risk if you have diabetes or HIV

Symptoms:

  • White discharge – like cottage cheese
  • Itching in or around the vagina
  • Burning sensation while peeing

What to do if you think you have it:

Get tested and talk to primary care provider.

Treatment: 

Take medication prescribed from health care provider or apply over-the-counter gel or cream inside the vagina. Even though most drugstores sell over-the-counter creams, it's best to see your provider to make sure you know what's going on.

 

Vaginal Infection

How can you get it?

  • Having sex. Bacteria can transfer between partners during sex and cause too much bacteria to grow in vagina
  • Multiple sexual partners increase this risk
  • New partner and not knowing their sexual history
  • Douching

Symptoms:

  • Fishy odor or abnormal discharge from the vagina
  • Itching or burning around or in the vagina

What to do if you think you have it:

Get tested and talk to primary care provider.

Treatment: 

Take medication prescribed from health care provider or apply over-the-counter gel or cream inside the vagina. Even though most drugstores sell over-the-counter creams, it's best to see your provider to make sure you know what's going on.
 

Syphilis

How can you get it?

  • Any form of sex with someone who has it
  • Sometimes touching infected syphilis rash or sore

Symptoms:

  • Sometimes none
  • Painless canker sore
  • Rash, fever, sore throat, weight loss, joint pain, hair loss, headaches, fatigue

What to do if you think you have it:

  • Get tested and talk to primary care provider.  
  • Symptoms MAY go away if untreated, but the infection can still transmitted to others or it may cause many health problems like blindness, heart disease, brain damage, or death. 

Treatment: 

One or more shots of antibiotics and no sexual activity until treatment is over
 

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)

How can you get it?

Through transmission of blood, bodily fluids, or breast milk

Symptoms:

  • You may not feel symptoms for months to years, so continue getting tested
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Fever or night sweats
  • Pain in joints

What to do if you think you have it:

It cannot be cured, so you must get medication to control the virus to live longer.

Treatment:

HIV treatment reduces transmission, but it is not a cure.

 

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)

How can you get it?

An untreated STI that spreads to ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus

Symptoms:

  • Pain in lower abdomen
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Abnormal discharge
  • Painful sensation when peeing
  • Fever/chills

What to do if you think you have it:

  • Get tested and talk to primary care provider.
  • If left untreated, you may become sterile. You also have a higher chance of ectopic pregnancy, getting HIV, and death.

Treatment:

Antibiotics and shot to all partners involved, no sexual activity for two weeks.