STIs: Your Go-To Guide

As I’ve discussed previously, April is STI Awareness Month and for today’s post, I’m going to be outlining some basic facts about STIs (sexually transmitted infections). When it comes to protecting yourself from STIs, it is important to understand signs and symptoms. But just as important in preventing the spread of STIs is understanding transmission, how to get tested, and how to treat them. Luckily, I’m going to be going over all of this today.

Now, before I get into the details, I understand that there is a lot of information out there, and it can seem overwhelming. This is why I have written this as a short-cut. The Three T’s of STIs outline: 1) transmission, 2) testing, and 3) treatment.

Chlamydia

In *2015, there were 1,526,658 new infections of Chlamydia in the US, with most new infections occurring in people ages 15-24. In female-bodied people, Chlamydia can present as unusual discharge, burning/tingling during urination, lower abdominal pain, pain during sex, or bleeding between periods. In male-bodied people, Chlamydia can present as penile discharge, burning/tingling during urination, or pain and swelling of the testicles.

The Three T’s of Chlamydia:

  • Transmission: Chlamydia is a bacteria that is transmitted via vaginal, oral, or anal sex
  • Testing: Give a urine sample
  • Treatment: Curable through the use of antibiotics

Gonorrhea

In *2015, there were 395,216 new infections of Gonorrhea in the US, with most infections occurring in people ages 15-24 years of age. In female-bodied people, Gonorrhea can present as unusual discharge, burning/tingling during urination, or bleeding between periods. In male-bodied people, Gonorrhea can present as penile discharge or burning/tingling during urination.

The Three T’s of Gonorrhea:

  • Transmission: Gonorrhea is a bacteria that is transmitted via vaginal, oral, or anal sex
  • Testing: Give a urine sample
  • Treatment: Curable through the use of antibiotics

Herpes Simplex Virus

In *2014, over 300,000 people presented with Herpes Simplex-2 (genital herpes), many between the ages of 14-49. HSV-2 presents as cold-sore like blisters on the penis, vulva, or anus.

The Three T’s of Herpes Simplex Virus:

  • Transmission: Herpes is a virus that is transmitted via vaginal, oral, anal sex, or any physical contact with a herpes sore
  • Testing: A swab of the sore
  • Treatment: Not curable, but can be managed through the use of antiviral medication, healthy lifestyle, and stress reduction

Human Papilloma Virus

HPV comes in over 40 different variations and in 2015, about *79 million Americans were carrying some form of HPV. The most common symptom of HPV is genital warts. The biggest concern with HPV is that certain strains can lead to reproductive cancers like cervical cancers in female-bodied people.

The Three T’s of Human Papilloma Virus:

  • Transmission: Human Papilloma is a virus that is transmitted via vaginal, oral, anal sex, or any skin-to-skin contact
  • Testing: None. Some women may be screened for strains of HPV that cause cervical cancer during routine pap smears, others only find out when they experience genital warts.
  • Treatment: Not curable. Some strains of HPV cause genital warts, warts can be removed with a burn or freeze treatment. There is also a vaccination available to anyone over the age of 12 which can protect you against the specific strains of HPV that cause reproductive cancers.

Human Immunodeficiency Virus

In *2015, there were 39,512 people diagnosed with HIV in the United States in the 13-60 age range. The most common signs of an HIV infection are flu-like symptoms that last for a few weeks after initial exposure. It is in this early stage of infection where people are most likely to pass the virus to their sexual partners.

The Three T’s of Human Immunodeficiency Virus:

  • Transmission: Human Immunodeficiency Virus is transmitted via direct contact with bodily fluids: blood, semen, vaginal fluid, or breast milk. HIV CANNOT be transmitted by hugging, shaking hands, and sharing toilets.
  • Testing: A simple blood test
  • Treatment: Not curable, but if caught in the early stages can be successfully managed with antiviral drugs. A person treated with antivirals can live just as long as someone who does not have HIV.

Syphilis

In *2015, there were a total of 23,872 cases of syphilis reported in the United States, mainly in people ages 20-29. The initial sign of infection with Syphilis is a painless sore at the place where the bacteria entered the body: mouth, vagina, penis, or anus.

The Three T’s of Syphilis:

  • Transmission: Syphilis is a bacteria that is transmitted through sexual contact with a sore via vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Transmission can also occur between mother and baby during pregnancy.
  • Testing: Via blood test or swabbing of an open sore
  • Treatment: In the early stages, Syphilis can easily be cured with a high dose of antibiotics

Trichomoniasis

In *2015, it was estimated that 3.7 million people in the US ages 14-60 were diagnosed with Trichomoniasis. The most common signs of trichomoniasis for female-bodied people are itching/burning, redness/soreness in the genital region, discomfort during urination, unusual vaginal discharge, and can cause preterm labor in pregnant women. For male-bodies people they can experience itching/irritation inside the penis, burning after urination or ejaculation, or penile discharge.

The Three T’s of Trichomoniasis:

  • Transmission: Trichomoniasis is transmitted via sexual contact: vaginal, oral, or anal.
  • Testing: A pelvic swab for female-bodied people or a urethral swab for male-bodied people
  • Treatment: Curable, usually treated with antibiotics.

Remember, you cannot tell if someone has an STI just by looking at them and getting tested is the ONLY way to know for sure if you have an STI. Getting tested with each new sexual partner, or at each annual physical are all great ways to be in control of your health and, should the need arise, will help you get the treatment you need. At the Annex, we are always here to help, just give us a call: (763) 533-1316. 

*Data collected from the CDCs most recent STI surveillance report

Amy Sutherland Meet the Author: Amy is a volunteer at the Annex Teen Clinic. She has a tendency to buy more books than she can read!
Educators, Parents, Volunteer, Young Adult
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