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Table of Contents

All information sourced from the CDC website.

What are STIs/STDs?

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), also called sexually transmitted infections (STIs), are passed from one person to another through intimate physical contact – such as heavy petting –  and from sexual activity including vaginal, oral, and anal sex. STDs are very common. In fact, CDC estimates 20 million new infections occur every year in the United States.

You can lower your risk by using condoms and being in a sexual relationship with a partner who does not have an STD. STDs do not always cause symptoms, so it is possible to have an infection and not know it. That is why it is important to get tested if you are having sex. If you are diagnosed with an STD, know that all can be treated with medicine and some can be cured entirely.

Types of STIs/STDs


Chlamydia is a common STD that can infect both men and women. It can be easily cured, but if left untreated it can seriously damage a woman's reproductive system and make it hard to her to get pregnant in the future.

How is chlamydia spread?
  • You can get chlamydia by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has chlamydia.
  • If your sex partner is male you can still get chlamydia even if he does not ejaculate (cum).
  • If you’ve had chlamydia and were treated in the past, you can still get infected again.
  • If you are pregnant, you can give chlamydia to your baby during childbirth.
How does chlamydia affect my baby if I'm pregnant?

If you are pregnant and have chlamydia, you can pass the infection to your baby during delivery. This could cause an eye infection or pneumonia in your newborn. Having chlamydia may also make it more likely to deliver your baby too early.

If you are pregnant, you should get tested for chlamydia at your first prenatal visit. Testing and treatment are the best ways to prevent health problems.

How do I know if I have chlamydia?

Most people who have chlamydia have no symptoms. If you do have symptoms, they may not appear until several weeks after you have sex with an infected partner. Even when chlamydia causes no symptoms, it can damage your reproductive system.

Symptoms for both women and men may show up as:

  • Abnormal vaginal or penile discharge;
  • A burning sensation when urinating
  • In less common cases, men will experience swelling in one or both testicles

Men and women may also experience rectal symptoms:

  • Rectal pain;
  • Discharge;
  • Bleeding
What happens if I don’t get treated?

The initial damage that chlamydia causes often goes unnoticed. However, chlamydia can lead to serious health problems.

If you are a woman, untreated chlamydia can spread to your uterus and fallopian tubes (tubes that carry fertilized eggs from the ovaries to the uterus). This can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID can lead to long-term pelvic pain, inability to get pregnant, and potentially deadly ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy outside the uterus).

Men rarely have health problems linked to chlamydia. Infection sometimes spreads to the tube that carries sperm from the testicles, causing pain and fever. Rarely, chlamydia can prevent a man from being able to have children.


What is gonorrhea?

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.

How is gonorrhea spread?

You can get gonorrhea by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has gonorrhea. A pregnant woman with gonorrhea can give the infection to her baby during childbirth.

How do I know if I have gonorrhea?

Some men with gonorrhea may have no symptoms at all. However, men who do have symptoms, may have:

  • A burning sensation when urinating;
  • A white, yellow, or green discharge from the penis;
  • Painful or swollen testicles (although this is less common).

Most women with gonorrhea do not have any symptoms. Even when a woman has symptoms, they are often mild and can be mistaken for a bladder or vaginal infection.

Symptoms in women can include:

  • Painful or burning sensation when urinating;
  • Increased vaginal discharge;
  • Vaginal bleeding between periods.

Rectal infections may either cause no symptoms or cause symptoms in both men and women that may include:

  • Discharge;
  • Anal itching;
  • Soreness;
  • Bleeding;
  • Painful bowel movements.
How does gonorrhea affect my baby if I'm pregnant?

If you are pregnant and have gonorrhea, you can give the infection to your baby during delivery. This can cause serious health problems for your baby. If you are pregnant, it is important that you talk to your health care provider so that you get the correct examination, testing, and treatment, as necessary.

What happens if I don’t get treated?

Untreated gonorrhea can cause serious and permanent health problems in both women and men.
In women, untreated gonorrhea can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Some of the complications of PID are:

  • Formation of scar tissue that blocks fallopian tubes;
  • Ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy outside the womb);
  • Infertility (inability to get pregnant);
  • Long-term pelvic/abdominal pain.

In men, gonorrhea can cause a painful condition in the tubes attached to the testicles. In rare cases, this may cause a man to be sterile, or prevent him from being able to father a child.

Genital Herpes

Genital herpes is an STD caused by two types of viruses. The viruses are called herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2).

Oral herpes is usually caused by HSV-1 and can result in cold sores or fever blisters on or around the mouth. However, most people do not have any symptoms. Most people with oral herpes were infected during childhood or young adulthood from non-sexual contact with saliva.

Oral herpes caused by HSV-1 can be spread from the mouth to the genitals through oral sex. This is why some cases of genital herpes are caused by HSV-1.

How is genital herpes spread?

You can get genital herpes by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the disease.

If you do not have herpes, you can get infected if you come into contact with the herpes virus in:

  • A herpes sore;
  • Saliva (if your partner has an oral herpes infection) or genital secretions (if your partner has a genital herpes infection);
  • Skin in the oral area if your partner has an oral herpes infection, or skin in the genital area if your partner has a genital herpes infection.

You can get herpes from a sex partner who does not have a visible sore or who may not know he or she is infected. It is also possible to get genital herpes if you receive oral sex from a sex partner who has oral herpes.

You will not get herpes from toilet seats, bedding, or swimming pools, or from touching objects around you such as silverware, soap, or towels. If you have additional questions about how herpes is spread, consider discussing your concerns with a healthcare provider.

How do I know if I have genital herpes?

Most people who have genital herpes have no symptoms, or have very mild symptoms. You may not notice mild symptoms or you may mistake them for another skin condition, such as a pimple or ingrown hair. Because of this, most people who have herpes do not know it.

Herpes sores usually appear as one or more blisters on or around the genitals, rectum or mouth. The blisters break and leave painful sores that may take a week or more to heal. Sometimes these symptoms accompany flu-like symptoms such as fever, body aches, or swollen glands.

People who experience an initial outbreak of herpes can have repeated outbreaks, especially if they are infected with HSV-2. Repeat outbreaks are usually shorter and less severe than the first outbreak. Although the infection stays in the body for the rest of your life, the number of outbreaks may decrease over time.

How does genital herpes affect my baby if I'm pregnant?

If you are pregnant and have genital herpes, it is very important for you to go to prenatal care visits. There is some research that suggests that genital herpes infection may lead to miscarriage, or could make it more likely for you to deliver your baby too early. You may be offered anti-herpes medicine towards the end of your pregnancy, which may reduce your risk of having signs or symptoms of genital herpes at the time of delivery.

Herpes infection can be passed from you to your unborn child before birth but is more commonly passed to your infant during delivery. This can lead to a potentially deadly infection in your baby (called neonatal herpes). It is important that you avoid getting herpes during pregnancy.

What happens if I don’t get treated?

Genital herpes can cause painful genital sores and can be severe in people with suppressed immune systems.

Do not touch the sores or fluids to avoid spreading herpes to another part of your body. If you do, you may transfer herpes to another part of your body, such as your eyes.


Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is most common in areas with poor sanitary conditions and limited access to personal hygiene. Hep A is contracted when there is fecal to oral contact, or when someone mouth comes into contact with infected waste particles. It can also be sexually transmitted via fecal to oral contact. Bloodborne transmission of HAV (Hepatitis A Virus) is uncommon.

Symptoms include fatigue, sudden nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, a low-grade fever, a some other gastrointestinal symptoms. However, the diagnosis of hepatitis A cannot be made simply by being seen by a doctor, but rather requires blood tests that look for the presence of the IgM anti-body.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is more common in the United States than Hepatitis A.

How is Hepatitis B spread?

HBV (Hepatitis B Virus) is efficiently transmitted by exposure to infected blood or body fluids that contain HBV. The primary risk factors associated with infection are unprotected sex with an infected partner, multiple partners, MSM (Men Who Sleep With Men), history of other STDs, and injection-drug use. 

How do I know if I have Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B symptoms sometimes aren't obvious or don't even present at all, especially in children. Most symptoms include yellowing of the eyes, fatigue, abdominal pain, and dark urine. 

How does Hepatitis B affect my baby if I'm pregnant?

Regardless of whether they have been previously tested or vaccinated, all pregnant women should be tested for the HBV anti-bodys at the first prenatal visit and at delivery if at high risk for HBV infection. Pregnant women at risk for HBV infection should receive hepatitis B vaccination. 

How does Hepatitis B affect me if I am HIV+?

HIV infection can make it so that the hepatitis B vaccine doesn't work as well or as quickly. Persons with HIV infection should be tested for the HBV anti-bodys 1–2 months after the third vaccine dose. Modified dosing regimens, including a doubling of the standard antigen dose and administration of additional doses, might increase the response rate.

What happens if I don’t get treated?

There is no 'cure' or on-going treatment for HBV. Treatment typically involves a post-exposure vaccination that will try to suppress the HBV anti-bodys. Hoverever, if left untreated and unmonitored, HBV can lead to liver failure. 

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is thought to be the most common bloodborne infectious disease in the United States. HCV (Hepatitis C Virus) is not considered an STI/STD as it is not efficiently transmitted through sex.


The signs and symptoms of early HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) infection are similar to the signs and symptoms of other common illnesses like the flu, cold, sore throat or mononucleosis.

Signs and symptoms of Acute/Early HIV
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen glands
  • Fever 
  • Rash
  • Joint and muscle aches
  • Diarrhea 
  • Tiredness
  • Tonsillitis 
  • Mouth sores

The signs and symptoms of acute HIV infection can begin 2 to 4 weeks after you are infected with HIV. Symptoms can last for just a few days or weeks. In rare cases, they could last for several months.

Read more about the early signs of HIV here. You can also read more about how to prevent HIV here, or how to treat HIV here.


HPV (Human Papillomavirus) is the most common sexually transmitted infection. 79 million Americans, most in their late teens and early 20s, are infected with HPV. There are many different types of HPV. Some types can cause health problems including genital warts and cancers. But there are vaccines that can stop these health problems from happening.

How is HPV spread?

It is most commonly spread during vaginal or anal sex. HPV can be passed even when an infected person has no signs or symptoms.

Anyone who is sexually active can get HPV, even if you have had sex with only one person. You also can develop symptoms years after you have sex with someone who is infected. This makes it hard to know when you first became infected.

How do I know if I have HPV?

Some people find out they have HPV when they get genital warts. Women may find out they have HPV when they get an abnormal Pap test result (during cervical cancer screening). Many don't know that they have HPV until they develop some sort of serious health problem later in life, like cancer.

The fact that HPV often doesn't show symptoms means that many people don't realize they have it. HPV can still be passed on to another even if there aren't any obvious symptoms.

This is why it's so important to make sure that both boys and girls at the age of 11-12 should get the HPV vaccine. Follow-up vaccines for people up to age 26 who didn't complete their HPV vaccinations when they were younger are also recommended. The vaccination can protect against diseases (including cancers) caused by HPV when given in the recommended age groups.

How does HPV affect my baby if I'm pregnant?

If you are pregnant and have HPV, you can get genital warts or develop abnormal cell changes on your cervix. Abnormal cell changes can be found with routine cervical cancer screening. You should get routine cervical cancer screening even when you are pregnant.

What happens if I don’t get treated?

There is no treatment to 'cure' HPV. However, if you are under the age of 26 and didn't receive the HPV vaccine when you were younger, it is recommended that you get it now to prevent health complications caused by HPV, like genital warts or cancer.


How is syphilis spread?

You can get syphilis by direct contact with a syphilis sore during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. You can find sores on or around the penis, vagina, or anus, or in the rectum, on the lips, or in the mouth. Syphilis can spread from an infected mother to her unborn baby.

How do I know if I have syphilis?

Syphilis is divided into stages (primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary), with different signs and symptoms associated with each stage.

A person with primary syphilis generally has a sore or sores at the original site of infection. These sores usually occur on or around the genitals, around the anus or in the rectum, or in or around the mouth. These sores are usually (but not always) firm, round, and painless.

Symptoms of secondary syphilis include skin rash, swollen lymph nodes, and fever. The signs and symptoms of primary and secondary syphilis can be mild, and they might not be noticed.

During the latent stage, there are no signs or symptoms. 

Tertiary syphilis is associated with severe medical problems.  A doctor can usually diagnose tertiary syphilis with the help of multiple tests. It can affect the heart, brain, and other organs of the body.

How does syphilis affect my baby if I'm pregnant?

If you are pregnant and have syphilis, you can give the infection to your unborn baby. Having syphilis can lead to a low birth weight baby. It can also make it more likely you will deliver your baby too early or stillborn (a baby born dead). To protect your baby, you should be tested for syphilis at least once during your pregnancy. Receive immediate treatment if you test positive.

What happens if I don’t get treated?

Syphilis can be cured with antibiotics from your doctor. However, there is no way to reverse any damage that has already been done. For example, any scarring from a rash developed during the secondary stage will remain, as well as any health problems that developed if the STI/STD was allowed to advance to the tertiary stage. To keep from experiencing any long-term physical or medical effects of syphilis, you'll need to receive treatment as soon as possible.


Trichomoniasis (or “trich”) is a very common sexually transmitted disease (STD). It is caused by infection with a protozoan parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. Although symptoms of the disease vary, most people who have the parasite cannot tell they are infected.

How is trichomoniasis spread?

The parasite passes from an infected person to an uninfected person during sex. In women, the most commonly infected part of the body is the lower genital tract (vulva, vagina, cervix, or urethra). In men, the most commonly infected body part is the inside of the penis (urethra).

During sex, the parasite usually spreads from a penis to a vagina, or from a vagina to a penis. It can also spread from a vagina to another vagina. It is not common for the parasite to infect other body parts, like the hands, mouth, or anus.

How do I know if I have trichomoniasis?

About 70% of infected people do not have any signs or symptoms. When trichomoniasis does cause symptoms, they can range from mild irritation to severe inflammation. Some people with symptoms get them within 5 to 28 days after being infected. Others do not develop symptoms until much later. Symptoms can come and go.

Men with trichomoniasis may notice:

  • Itching or irritation inside the penis;
  • Burning after urination or ejaculation;
  • Discharge from the penis.

Women with trichomoniasis may notice:

  • Itching, burning, redness or soreness of the genitals;
  • Discomfort with urination;
  • A change in their vaginal discharge (i.e., thin discharge or increased volume) that can be clear, white, yellowish, or greenish with an unusual fishy smell.
How does trichomoniasis affect my baby if I'm pregnant?

Pregnant women with trichomoniasis are more likely to have their babies too early (preterm delivery). Also, babies born to infected mothers are more likely to have a low birth weight (less than 5.5 pounds).

What happens if I don’t get treated?

Trichomoniasis is easily treated with medication in the form of pills. If untreated,  having trichomoniasis can make it feel unpleasant to have sex, and the infection can last for months or even years.

As with most other STI/STDs, trichomoniasis can increase the risk of getting or spreading other sexually transmitted infections. For example, trichomoniasis can cause genital inflammation that makes it easier to get infected with HIV, or to pass the HIV virus on to a sex partner.

STI/STD Prevention

Anyone who is sexually active can get an STD. Some groups are disproportionately affected by STDs:

  • Adolescents and Young Adults
  • Gay, Bisexual, & other Men who have Sex with Men (MSM)
  • Some Racial and Ethnic Minorities

The good news is that STIs/STDs are preventable. There are steps you can take to keep yourself and your partner(s) healthy.


Use Condoms

Using a condom correctly every time you have sex can help you avoid STDs, since condoms lessen the risk of infection, but don't completely eliminate it. You still can get certain STIs/STDs, like herpes or HPV, from contact with your partner's skin even when using a condom.

Most people say they used a condom the first time they ever had sex, but less than a quarter said they use a condom every time.

Step by step male condom instructions


Get Vaccinated

The most common STD can be prevented by a vaccine. The HPV vaccine is safe, effective, and can help you avoid HPV-related health problems like genital warts and some cancers.

Who should get the HPV vaccine?

  • Routine vaccination for boys & girls ages 11 to 12
  • Catch-up vaccination for:
    • Young women ages 13 to 26 and young men ages 13 to 21
    • Gay, Bisexual, & other Men who have sex with Men up to age 26
    • Men with compromised immune systems up to age 26

Talk With Your Partner

Talk with your sex partner(s) about STIs/STDs and staying safe before having sex. It might be uncomfortable to start the conversation, but protecting your health is your responsibility.

Get Tested

Many STIs/STDs don’t have symptoms, but they can still cause health problems.

  • Talk with your health care provider
  • Search for CDC recommended tests
  • Find a location to get tested for STIs/STDs

The only way to know for sure if you have an STI/STD is to get tested.

If You Test Positive...

Getting an STI/STD is not the end. Many STIs/STDs are curable and all are treatable. If either you or your partner is infected with an STI/STD that can be cured, both of you need to start treatment immediately to avoid getting re-infected.

Do You Need an STI/STD Test?

Recommended STI/STD Testing Frequency

During certain life events
  • All adults and adolescents from ages 13 to 64 should be tested at least once for HIV.
  • Syphilis, HIV, and hepatitis B screening for all pregnant women, and chlamydia and gonorrhea screening for at-risk pregnant women starting early in pregnancy.
Once a year
  • Screening at least once a year for syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea for all sexually active gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM).
  • Annual chlamydia and gonorrhea screenings of all sexually active women younger than 25 years, as well as older women with risk factors such as new or multiple sex partners, or a sex partner who has a sexually transmitted infection
  • Anyone who has unsafe sex or shares injection drug equipment should get tested for HIV at least once a year.
Every 3 to 6 months
  • Sexually active gay and bisexual men may benefit from more frequent HIV testing (e.g., every 3 to 6 months).
  • MSM who have multiple or anonymous partners should be screened more frequently for STDs (e.g., at 3-to-6 month intervals).

If You Have Unprotected Sex And Are HIV+

While not directly related, HIV and STIs/STDs can have an impact on each other. Because HIV affects the immune system, if you are HIV+, you're more likely to contract an STI/STD if exposed to it than those who are HIV-. Vice-versa, if you have an active STI/STD infection, it is much more likely for you to contract HIV if you're exposed to it.

The best way to prevent contracting HIV or an STI/STD if to wear protection during any intimate encounters and make sure you're staying on top of any medical treatment or medication you're receiving as treatment. If you're HIV+, taking Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis can help suppress your viral load, which helps boost your immune system, lessens your symptoms, and makes it more difficult to pass HIV on to someone else.

Find testing locations near you here.

If You've Contracted an STI/STD

The most important thing to do if you have received a positive test result for an STI/STD is to begin treatment immediately. Many STIs/STDs can be cured with immediate and correct treatment, like chlamydia. Other STIs/STDs cannot be cured, but their symptoms can be treated, like with herpes. Other STIs/STDs are chronic and will require ongoing treatment to suppress the presence of the virus, making your symptoms less and making it more difficult to pass on, like in the case of HIV.

Regardless of the type of treatment, it's important to follow your doctor's instructions exactly and begin treatment as soon as possible so that the condition doesn't worsen.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)

Going without treatment can add additional complications aside from the STI/STD as well. Left untreated, STIs/STDs can cause PID, or pelvic inflammatory disease. 1 in 8 women with a history of PID experience difficulties getting pregnant.

If you do develop PID, you will need to be treated for it as quickly as possible, because PID treatment can't undo any damage that will have been done to your reproductive system.

Some of the complications of PID are:

  • Formation of scar tissue both outside and inside the fallopian tubes that can lead to tubal blockage;
  • Ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy outside the womb);
  • Infertility (inability to get pregnant);
  • Long-term pelvic/abdominal pain.

Finish Treatment and Use Protection

It is very important wear protection during sex while you're undergoing treatment. Even if your symptoms have gone away, you may still be infectious and can still pass the infection on to your partner.

You should also tell your partner(s) about the STI/STD and advise that they get tested as well. If you have any current sexual partners that are also infected, you should refrain from having sex until you've both completely finished with your treatments. This will help ensure that you don't reinfect each other. 

Your Sexual Health Can't Be Ignored

When was the last time you had an STI/STD test? Use the recommended testing frequency above to determine how often you should be getting tested, and then make it a priority to keep to that schedule. 

Apicha Community Health Center offers free HIV and STD Testing, as well as rapid HIV tests.

Request an STI/STD Testing Appointment Today.

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