What you need to know about STIs/STDs
Updated: Feb 22
What are STIs/STDs?
STD stands for "Sexually Transmitted Disease," while STI stands for "Sexually Transmitted Infection." The difference between these is the difference between an infection and a disease. Infection happens when the bacteria or virus enters the body and starts multiplying. Once the bacteria or viruses have entered the body, the infection may progress to disease. You can contract an STI/STD through any sexual activity.
What are the most common STIs/STDs?
The most common STIs/STDs include:
Human papilloma virus (HPV)
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
The Hope Clinic provides free testing for chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV, & hepatitis C.
What are some symptoms of STIs/STDs?
General symptoms can include:
unusual discharge from the penis or vagina
burning or pain when urinating
growths, sores, or itching in the genital area
lower abdominal pain
skin rashes or sores
enlarged lymph nodes
Many STIs/STDs have no apparent symptoms. However, they can still hurt you. Therefore, it is crucial to find and treat them early to lower the risk of lasting effects.
What are the long-term effects of STIs/STDs?
STIs/STDs can lead to:
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which can lead to infertility
Chronic pelvic pain
Tubal (ectopic) pregnancy
Damage to major body organs
How are STIs/STDs treated?
Antibiotics can typically cure bacterial STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. However, even if a Medical Professional treats you for them, the damage is permanent. Treatments are available for viral STDs such as herpes, HIV, and human papillomavirus (HPV), even though they are considered incurable. Therefore, it is essential to seek treatment immediately.
The Hope Clinic can provide free treatment for chlamydia and gonorrhea and referrals to low-cost and no-cost HIV, syphilis, and hepatitis C treatments.
How can I protect myself from STIs/STDs?
Using a condom correctly every time you have sex still puts you at risk for many STIs/STDs, including HPV and herpes, both of which are incurable.
Oral sex does not prevent STIs/STDs; in fact, many can spread through oral sex, including syphilis, gonorrhea, and genital herpes.
Birth control pills do not protect you from STIs/STDs.
There are only two ways to protect yourself from sexually transmitted infections and diseases completely. One is to abstain from sex; the other is to only have sex within a faithful, lifelong commitment (i.e., marriage) to a partner who is STI/STD-free.
"When you have sex with someone, you are having sex with everyone they had sex with for the last 10 years." -C. Everett Koop, M.D., former U.S. Surgeon General
What if I am pregnant and have an STD?
STIs/STDs can have many of the same consequences for pregnant women as those who are not pregnant with additional complications during labor and delivery and the baby.
A pregnant woman with an STI/STD may begin labor early, rupture membranes surrounding the baby in the uterus too early, and get a uterine infection after delivery. STIs/STDs can pass from a pregnant woman to the baby before, during, or after birth.
If you are pregnant, having an untreated STI/STD can cause many complications for your baby, including:
stillbirth (a baby that is born dead)
low birth weight (less than 5lbs)
conjunctivitis (eye infection)
neonatal sepsis (infection of the bloodstream)
cirrhosis (scarring of the liver)
If you are pregnant and considering an abortion, there are risks involved if you have an untreated STI/STD. Any abortion procedure (including medical abortion or the abortion pill) opens the risk of transmitting bacteria from outside your body or vagina into your cervix, causing an infection. If you have an untreated STI/STD, you are up to 23% more likely to develop Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) following an abortion procedure.
What about my partners?
It is important to remember that you did not create this infection. It happened to someone else before it happened to you.
You will need to inform anyone you've had sex with recently. Your health provider can help you figure out how long "recently" is.
People can have many different emotions when they find out they may have an STI/STD. Try to use language that is thoughtful and kind. Blam and guilt will not help you communicate.
Whatever happens, remember two important points:
You can't control your partner's response, but you can manage your behavior. You can stay calm even if they don't.
Think before you begin. If you think this will be too hard, your public health provider has trained professionals who can inform your partner for you without letting the partner know anything about you.
Focus on the medical facts about the disease. With most STIs/STDs, it is difficult - if not impossible - to tell who had it first. The important thing is that anyone exposed may be infected and should get tested and treated right away.
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