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Sexually Transmitted Infections

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are infections caused by bacteria, viruses, yeasts, or parasites and are spread through intimate sexual contact involving the penis, vagina, mouth, or anus. STDs are also called venereal disease (VD) or sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

The term "infection" is often used rather than "disease" because it is possible for a person to have no symptoms but still carry the infection and require treatment

Most STIs affect both men and women, but the medical problems are often more severe for women. An STI during pregnancy, it can cause serious problems for the baby.

Correct usage of latex condoms greatly reduces, but does not completely eliminate, the risk of catching or spreading sexually transmitted infections.

Different Types of STIs

There are more than 20 different kinds of sexually transmited infections, which can fall into two main groups:

Sexually transmitted diseases caused by bacteria

These diseases can be treated and often cured with antibiotics. Some bacterial infections include:

Sexually transmitted diseases caused by viruses

These diseases can be controlled, but not cured. If you get a viral STI, you will always have it. Some viral STIs include:

Symptoms of Sexually Transmitted Infections

The symptoms vary among the different types of STIs. Some examples of common symptoms include:

In some cases, people with STIs may not feel ill, and over time the symptoms can improve on their own. However, it is common for individuals to have an STI and pass it on to others without knowing it.

If you are concerned that you or your sexual partner may have an STI, talk to your health care provider. Even if you do not have symptoms, it is possible you may have an STI that needs to be treated to ensure your and your partner's sexual health.

Prevention of STIs

The most reliable ways to avoid STIs are to abstain from sexual contact or to be in a long-term monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and is uninfected.1 In addition, you can take the following measures to avoid STIs:

Another important way to avoid getting an STI is to use latex condoms correctly for vaginal, oral, and anal intercourse EVERY TIME. Remember, however, that while condoms greatly reduce the chance of getting certain STIs, such as genital herpes, condoms cannot fully protect against infection because viruses and some bacteria can be passed from person to person by skin-to-skin contact in the genital area not covered by a condom.

Treatments for STIs

STIs caused by bacteria, yeast, or parasites can be treated with antibiotics. These antibiotics are most often given by mouth (orally). However, sometimes they are injected or applied directly to the affected area. Whatever the infection, and regardless of how quickly the symptoms resolve after beginning treatment, the infected person must take all of the medicine prescribed by the health care provider to ensure that the STI is completely treated.

Viruses such as HIV, genital herpes, HPV, hepatitis, and cytomegalovirus cause STIs that cannot be cured. People with an STI caused by a virus will be infected for life and will always be at risk of infecting their sexual partners, although for many viruses treatment significantly reduces this risk.

Although treatments, complications, and outcomes vary among viral STIs depending on the particular virus (HIV, genital herpes, HPV, hepatitis, or cytomegalovirus), health care providers can provide treatments to reduce the symptoms and the progression of most of these illnesses. For example, medications are available to limit the frequency and severity of genital herpes outbreaks while reducing the risk that the virus will be passed on to other people.

What to do if diagnosed with an STI

You should see your health care provider for treatment as soon as possible after receiving a diagnosis of an STI. You also should notify, either yourself or with the help of the local health department, all recent sex partners and advise them to see their health care providers and be treated. These steps will reduce your risk of becoming re-infected, help avoid spreading the STI to other people, and decrease the risk that your previous sexual partners will develop serious complications from the STI. You and all of your sex partners must avoid sex until treatment is complete and all symptoms have disappeared.

In the case of STIs caused by viruses with no cure (for example, HIV, genital herpes, or hepatitis), special care and preventive measures can help control the infection, limit symptoms, and help maximize health.

Reference: National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development