Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are one of the most critical health concerns facing the United States today. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates as many as 20 million new STI cases each year. Being informed about STIs and STDs can help you minimize your risk and let you know when you need to get tested.
What’s the difference between an STD and an STI?
Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) are diseases that are spread through any kind of sexual contact. However, since many of the most common STDs do not show any obvious signs or symptoms at first, many health care experts now more accurately call them Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). The bacteria or virus spread by sexual contact can cause an infection that has no signs or symptoms. This infection can later turn into a disease when the signs or symptoms appear.
Am I at risk for an STI?
If you have had sex with more than one person, you are at risk. If you have only had sex with your partner but your partner has had sex with someone else, you are still at risk.
What should I do if I’m at risk?
Since many STIs don’t have any symptoms at first, the CDC recommends that sexually active men and women get tested at least once per year to see if they unknowingly have contracted an STI. The longer you wait to get tested, the greater the risk for lasting and more damaging complications.
Are STIs curable?
Bacterial STIs can be treated if they are diagnosed early enough. However, oftentimes the medication cannot correct the damage done by Bacterial STIs prior to treatment. Viral STIs cannot be cured but their symptoms can be treated and managed.
The most common Bacterial STIs are:
- Trichomoniasis (a protozoa parasite – not a bacteria)
The most common Viral STIs are:
- HPV (Human Papillomavirus)
- Hepatitis B
What are some symptoms and effects of STIs?
Symptoms can include uncomfortable or painful genital bumps, warts, or sores, as well as painful urination, unusual discharge, and more. Longer lasting consequences include infertility, increased risk for certain types of cancer, increased risk of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, increased risk for miscarriage and passing the infection to your baby during birth, and an increased risk for a shorter lifespan.
Knowing the risks of STIs and how they’re contracted can help you make thoughtful and wise decisions regarding your sexual health. If you’re at risk and want to get tested, find where you can do so.