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Sexually Transmitted Infections

STIs and Stigma

50% of sexually active individuals will contract at least one STI before they are 25. However, despite the commonality of STIs, there is still a significant stigma surrounding them. While you should take measures to prevent contracting one, such as frequent testing and the consistent use of barrier methods, there should be no shame carried with sexually transmitted infections. STIs can affect anyone who has engaged in sexual activity (regarless of age, gender, sex, race, sexual orientation, etc).

Sexually Transmitted Infections Overview

There are over 20 kind of STIs - there are 2 main types of STIs: bacterial and viral - bacterial STIs are generally curable and you can get them multiple times - viral STIs cannot be cured


Chlamydia is a bacterial infection, meaning that it is easily curable and won’t have any long-term implications if caught early.


antibiotics course of 1 day-1 week

Symptoms in people with vaginas:

increase in vaginal discharge, pain/burning when urinating, pain during sex/bleeding during/after sex, pain in the lower stomach (especially during sex), bleeding between periods/heavier periods

Symptoms in people with penises:

white/cloudy/watery discharge, pain/burning when urinating, pain/swelling of the sesticles

If left untreated:

in AFABs, can cause PID (pelvic inflammatory disease) - PID can cause pelvic pain, infertility, and ectopic pregnancy - PID is life threatening and can be treated with antibiotics -- in men, rare cases can cause infertility. In both cases it can cause reactive arthritis.

Genital Herpes

Genital herpes is a viral infection. This means that it cannot be cured, however, the symptoms can be treated.


there is no cure, however some medication can treat the symptoms

Symptoms in people with vaginas:

unusual vaginal discharge, pain when urinating, tingling/burning around genitals, feeling unwell (aches pains, flu-like symptoms) - main symptom is small blisters that burst to leave red open sores

Symptoms in people with penises:

pain when urinating, tingling/burning around genitals, feeling unwell (aches pains, flu-like symptoms) - main symptom is small blisters that burst to leave red open sores.

Genital warts or HPV (Human Papillomavirus)

While there are almost 200 different types of HPV, there are only about 40 that affect genitalia and your mouth/throat. HPV is incredibly common. It’s so common that most people, who have had sex, will get HPV at some point in their lives and never know because their asymptomatic / feel entirely fine! However, HPV can cause health problems like cervical cancer and genital warts, so it is important to be on top of your sexual health.


While there is no treatment, there is an HPV vaccine for preteens to prevent infection. In addition to the vaccine, pap smears can help determine any abnormal cell changes and therefore identify pre-cancerous cells. Also, get screened regularly for cervical cancer (21-65 years of age)


Most people are asymptomatic, however warts on the genitals is the most common symptom.


Gonorrhea is a common bacterial infection. Most people with Gonorrhea are asymptomatic, so frequent testing is the best way to identify and take care of the infection. It is spread through anal, oral and vaginal sex.


Gonorrhea is incredibly simple to treat! There are two possible treatments that your doctor will decide between. One is a 7 day antibiotic and another is a shot and an antibiotic. Consult your doctor about which one you should pursue. You can get gonorrhea again so frequent testing is still very important!

Symptoms in people with vaginas:

While most people are asymptomatic, there are some clear symptoms of gonorrhea that you should be aware of. These include:

While most people are asymptomatic, there are some clear symptoms of gonorrhea that you should be aware of. These include:

Symptoms in the anus:

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a viral infection transmitted through sexual activities. If untreated, it can eventually lead to liver disease. The best way to prevent Hepatitis B is to use protection during sexual activity, get tested frequently and get the Hepatitis B vaccine.


Hepatitis B cannot be cured, however it usually goes away on its own and some medications can treat the symptoms. In fact, 90% of adults who get Hepatitis B fully recover. Talk to your doctor about what kind of Hepatitis B you have (chronic or not chronic) and how to best treat it.


While most people are asymptomatic, there are some key symptoms of Hepatitis B that you should be aware of:


Syphilis is a sexually transmitted bacterial infection. It can infect your penis, scrotum, vagina and anus. It is easily treated however it can cause long term health issues if not treated.


The typical treatment for syphilis are antibiotics..


Syphilis presents itself as sores on genitalia. Most people don’t notice the sores so it is important that you get tested frequently for STIs.

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

HIV is a sexually transmitted disease that breaks down your immune system and can lead to AIDS. There is no cure for HIV however there are a number of treatments that help manage or lessen the effects. On average, it takes 10 years for someone to develop AIDS if they are HIV positive and do not have any treatment. However, when treated, HIV progresses much slower. You can get HIV from shared needles and sexual activities.


While some people might be asymptomatic at the start of the virus, many will experience a fever and flu-like symptoms 2-4 weeks after infection. These symptoms usually last for a couple of weeks and then go away for years.


While there is no cure for HIV, antiretroviral therapy has proven to be an effective treatment. The treatment lessens your viral load and slowers the progression of the virus.


Scabies is a sexually transmitted infection that is not dangerous and easily cured. Scabies is the transmission of parasites through skin to skin contact.


Scabies is actually small mites that burrow underneath your skin and cause itching and irritation.


Treatment either comes in the form of medication or creams.

Pubic Lice

Pubic lice are small parasites that attach to the hair or skin near your genitals. They are not dangerous and they are easy to treat. It is a very common infection.


The most common symptom of pubic lice is itching or irritation of genitals. You might also notice darker spots where the parasites have bitten the skin and you might feel run down.


Unlike other STIs, you usually don’t need a prescription for public lice treatment and just get over the counter pubic lice treatment at your drug store.

Sources: Planned Parenthood