Sexually Transmitted Infections

STI overview

True Statements about STIs:

Prevention and detection

If you are sexually active, talk to your doctor about STI screening. Screening tests can help find STIs early, so they can be treated. Treatment can cure some STIs, and help manage those that can't be cured. Of course, the best course of action is to prevent infection in the first place by practicing safer sex, which includes the use of a condom—every time.

Safer sex isn't just about preventing HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. There are other infections you can get that are less well known.

Bacterial STIs

The good news is that most STIs like chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis and trichomonas are completely treatable with appropriate medication. People who are being treated for a bacterial STI should not have sex until the infection has been eliminated from them and their sexual partners. Therefore, sex partners need to be tested and treated at the same time.

Viral STIs

Viral STIs such as the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), human papilloma virus (HPV) and herpes simplex virus (HSV) usually persist for life. Most viral STIs can’t be cured, but treatment can help relieve the symptoms.


  • Symptoms: Most people with chlamydia have no symptoms, though they can easily spread the infection to others
  • Treatment: Antibiotics are used to treat chlamydia

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  • Symptoms: There may be no symptoms at first. Later, gonorrhea can cause burning when urinating, yellowish vaginal discharge, redness and swelling of the genitals, and burning or itching of the vaginal area
  • Treatment: Although antibiotics can cure gonorrhea, they can't reverse the damage caused by the infection

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  • Symptoms: Each stage of syphilis has different symptoms. During the first stage, a painless ulcer can appear where the infection entered. Syphilis is highly contagious when an ulcer is present. In the second stage, which occurs weeks to months after the first stage, a rash typically develops on the hands and feet. In the third or latent stage, which can last many years, there are no symptoms. It is during this late stage that the disease can cause severe damage to the nerves and central nervous system, and affect the internal organs. More than two thirds of people infected with syphilis will not proceed to the late stage of the disease.1
  • Treatment: Antibiotics. Syphilis is curable if treatment is started early enough

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Genital herpes

  • Symptoms: Typically, there are no symptoms for the first 3 to 7 days after exposure. An outbreak usually begins as an itching or tingling sensation, followed by redness of the skin, and finally by a blister. Blisters are usually very painful to the touch and last from 1 to 2 weeks. Outbreaks typically recur
  • Treatment: There is currently no cure, but antiviral drugs can shorten, lessen the severity of, and possibly prevent outbreaks

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Human papilloma virus (HPV)

  • Symptoms: Sexually transmitted strains of HPV can infect the genital area of men and women, including the skin of the penis, vulva or anus, and the linings of the vagina, cervix or rectum. Some people infected with HPV will have no symptoms and the infection will clear
  • Some studies suggest that long-term use of the Pill may increase a woman's risk of developing cervical cancer. However, it is not clear to what extent sexual behavior or other factors, such as HPV, increase this risk
  • Treatment: A Pap smear can detect changes on the cervix caused by HPV, and there are treatments available for the changes HPV causes. Although there currently are no treatments to eliminate HPV, a vaccine against HPV infection is now available in many countries around the world

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Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)

  • Symptoms: Without treatment, it usually takes several years from initial HIV infection to manifestation of AIDS. Early AIDS symptoms are non-specific; later, severe diseases affecting major organs can develop, including tuberculosis, pneumonia, and cancers
  • Treatment: While there is currently no cure, HIV medicines (including anti-retrovirals, or ARVs) enable people to live longer, healthier lives

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With all STDs, it's critical that both the person who is infected and her or his sexual partner(s) receive prompt medical attention. If you suspect that you or a partner have contracted an STD, call your doctor right away.


Getting treatment