When you are sexually active, pregnancy is usually the greatest concern. While pregnancy is something to be very concerned about, sexually transmitted infections (STI) are equally, if not more, worrisome. You are at risk for pregnancy if you have sex around ovulation (about 3 days a month), but you are at risk for getting an STI every time you have sex. If you are sexually active, you should see a healthcare provider for STI testing yearly or after changing sexual partners.
Are You at Risk of Contracting an STI?
- Are you sexually active?
- Do you have more than one partner?
- Has your sexual partner had other sexual partners?
- Have you known your partner for less than one year?
- Have you changed sexual partners since you were last tested for STI’s?
- Have you ever had oral or anal sex?
Remember, when you have sex with someone, you are exposed to everyone they’ve had sex with before you.
“When you have sex with someone, you are having sex with everyone they have had sex with for the last ten years, and everyone they and their partners have had sex with for the last ten years.” – C. Everett Koop, M.D., Former U.S Surgeon General
Did You Know?
- One in four will get an STI in their lifetime.
- More than 70 million people have an incurable STI.
- Half of all STI’s occur in people younger than 25.
- One in four teenage girls has an STI.
- Infection with an STI often has no symptoms.
- Infection with an STI is possible without intercourse.
- It takes only ONE sexual partner to be at risk if that partner has had one or more other sexual partners.
What Causes STIs?
- STI’s can be caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites.
- Chlamydia is the most common bacterial STI.
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common viral STI.
How Do You Get STIs?
- Any sexual activity. This includes vaginal sex, oral sex and anal sex.
- HPV and herpes can be spread by contact with infected skin.
- You can get STI’s from a person who has no symptoms.
What Are Possible Symptoms of an STI?
- STIs often have no visible symptoms, so you or your partner may not even know you have one.
- Some common symptoms include: pain or burning while urinating, rashes, sores, blisters, itchiness, unusual discharge from the penis or vagina and pain during sex.
What Are Some of the Possible Complications?
- Pelvic Inflammatory disease
- Ectopic Pregnancy (pregnancy somewhere other than the uterus)
- Cervical Cancer or Penile Cancer
- Miscarriage or Stillbirth
- Preterm delivery
What are the Available Treatments?
- Most bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics and cured.
- Treatment does not reverse any damage that may have already occurred.
- Viral STIs can be treated for symptoms, but not cured.
How Can I Prevent Myself from Getting an STI?
The only way to be 100% safe from STIs and HIV/AIDS is to abstain from all sexual activities until you and your uninfected partner can remain faithful to each other for life.
Correct and consistent condom use can reduce (but not eliminate) your risk of getting most STIs.
Consistent and correct condom use during vaginal sex reduces your risk for:
- HIV by 85%
- Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, Herpes and Syphilis by about 50%
- HPV by 50% or less
If you think you may be infected with an STI see a healthcare provider right away. For more information, call us at 704-983-2100 or visit our contact page.
1. “The Facts about Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs),” The Medical Institute, http://www.medinstitute.org/content.php?name=stifacts
2. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation
3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, http://www.cdc.gov/std