Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), also called sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), are some of the most widespread infections in the United States. STIs affect both men and women, and almost half of all STIs occur in people younger than 25 years old. Exposure to an STI can occur any time you have sexual contact with someone that involves the genitals, the mouth (oral), or the rectum (anal). Exposure is more likely if you have more than one sex partner or do not use condoms. Some STIs can be passed by nonsexual contact, such as by sharing needles, during the delivery of a baby or during breastfeeding.
In addition, some STIs have also been linked to an increased risk of certain cancers and infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Many people may not have symptoms of an STI, but are still able to spread an infection. STI testing can help identify an infection early on so that treatment can begin, if necessary. It is important to practice safe sex with all partners, especially if you or they have high-risk sexual behaviors.
How to Reduce Your Risk of Getting a STI:
The only way to avoid STIs is to not have vaginal, anal or oral sex. If you are sexually active, you can do the following things to lower your chances:
- Being in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested for STIs
- Limiting the number of sexual partners
- Using latex condoms correctly and every time you have sex
- Getting tested for HIV
- Not sharing needles
- Getting recommended vaccinations such as Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HPV
Where to go for STI Screening and Treatment:
If you have symptoms of a STI, or have been exposed to someone who has a STI, contact your health care provider to get tested. Many local and county health departments also have clinics where you can get tested and treated for STIs. Some clinics are free, while you may have to pay to get STI testing and treatment at others. The STD Clinics in New York State page contains links to contact information for STD clinics organized by county. You can also call the National STD hotline (1-800-232-4636) to find a clinic near you.
Chlamydia is a common STI that can infect both men and women. It can cause serious, permanent damage to a woman's reproductive system and can make it difficult or impossible to get pregnant later.
Genital herpes is common in the United States. It is caused by two types of viruses, herpes simplex type 1 (virus usually responsible for cold sores) and herpes simplex type 2 (typically affects genital area). However, both types can cause either oral or genital infections. About one out of every six people ages 14 to 49 years in the United States has genital herpes.
Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that can infect both men and women. It can cause infections in the genitals, rectum, and throat. It is a very common infection, especially among young people ages 15-24 years.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
HIV is a virus spread through certain bodily fluids that attacks the body’s immune system, specifically the CD4 cells, often called T cells. Over time, HIV can destroy so many of these cells that the body can’t fight off infections and disease.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) or Genital Warts
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). You can get HPV by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the virus. It is most commonly spread during vaginal or anal sex. HPV can be passed even when an infected person has no signs or symptoms.
Hepatitis A, B & C
Hepatitis is a disease that affects the liver. Symptoms and treatments differ depending on the type hepatitis virus a person is infected with.
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection that can cause serious health problems if it is not treated. Syphilis is divided into stages (primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary), and there are different signs and symptoms associated with each stage.
Trichomoniasis is a very common STI that is caused by infection with a protozoan parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. The parasite passes from an infected person to an uninfected person during sex.
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