Sexually Trasmitted Infections (STIs)
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), sometimes referred to as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), are infections that are passed from one person to another during vaginal, anal, or oral sex and can sometimes be spread during other intimate contact. STIs can also be passed from a pregnant person to an unborn or newborn baby.
STIs can cause serious and sometimes life-long health problems if left untreated. Some examples include:
- inability to get pregnant and other pregnancy complications,
- certain cancers of the vagina, cervix, penis, anus, or throat,
- damage to the brain, nervous system, and organs, which can sometimes cause death
STIs passed during pregnancy or childbirth can be very serious or cause death in an unborn or newborn baby.
Many STIs, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and trichomoniasis (trich), can be cured with antibiotic medications. Other STIs such as HIV, herpes, and human papillomavirus (HPV) cannot be cured; however, there are medications to manage or treat the symptoms of these infections.
What to Watch For
Many people with STIs do not experience any symptoms. It is possible to have an infection and not know it. This is why getting tested for STIs is so important. Some common symptoms of STIs include:
- Painful urination,
- Unusual discharge from the penis or vagina,
- Sores, bumps, or rashes in and around the genital area,
- Swollen genitals or lymph nodes.
Some STIs can also cause flu-like symptoms such as fevers, tiredness, and nausea/vomiting. Learn more about each STI and the symptoms they can cause.
Prevention is Possible
It is possible to prevent STIs. To reduce your risk of getting an STI, you can:
- Use condoms and dental dams as often as possible. Many local health departments and community health clinics offer free condoms. If you live in the state of Kansas, you can also have condoms mailed to you.
- Get tested regularly. Testing is available through many doctor’s offices, community health clinics, and local health departments.
- Talk to your partners about getting tested.
- Get vaccinated. Some STIs can be prevented with a vaccine, including HPV, hepatitis A and hepatitis B.
- Consider taking PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) to prevent HIV infection
- Take emergency PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) if you have been exposed to HIV. PEP can be taken within 72 hours of an exposure to prevent HIV infection. PEP works better the sooner you take it after an exposure. Go to an emergency room to ask for emergency PEP as it is not available in pharmacies.
Contact your primary care provider for health issues, including STIs, whenever possible. Many local health departments and community health clinics offer low– or no–cost STI testing and treatment. Find STI testing near you
See the CDC's STI/HIV testing guidelines for more information on what testing is right for you.