Sexually Transmitted Infections


Sexually Transmitted Infections

STD’s are highly contagious diseases that are mainly passed from one person to another during sex. There are at least 25 different sexually transmitted diseases with a range of different symptoms.

Sexually transmitted infections (also known as STI’s, or STD’s for ‘sexually transmitted diseases,’ or VD for ‘venereal diseases’) are infections that commonly have a high probability of being spread from person to person through sexual contact.

What is an STI?

An STI (sexually transmitted infection) is a germ (virus, bacteria, parasite) that can cause an illness inside a person even though it doesn’t have any symptoms. The term STI is broader and more encompassing because some infections are curable and may not cause any symptoms.

What is an STD?

An STD (sexually transmitted disease) refers to infections that are causing symptoms or problems. If the infection results in altering the body’s typical function, it is then called a disease.

So that’s why you may hear people say STI’s – it’s technically more accurate and also reminds people that there are often no symptoms, so it’s important to get tested.

What are the different types of STI’s?

STI’s can be grouped into three families: Viral, Bacterial, and Parasitic/Fungal. 

Viral Infections

Viral STI’s are caused by viruses and is passed from person-to-person during sexual activity. Viral STD’s (the four “H’s”), such as HIV, HPV (genital warts), Herpes, and hepatitis (the only STD that can be prevented with a vaccine), have no cure, but their symptoms can be alleviated with treatment. Your body’s immune system has to fight the virus and make an antibody to kill the virus. In general viral infections involve many different parts of the body at the same time. Examples of viral infections are HIV, Hepatitis, Human Papilloma Virus and Molluscum Contagiosum.

Bacterial Infections

Bacterial STIs are caused by bacteria passed from person-to-person during sexual activity. Examples of bacterial infections are Bacterial Vaginosis, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Lympho Granuloma Venereum, mucopurulent cervical, and pelvic inflammatory disease Syphilis and Cystitis.

Parasitic Infections

These STIs are caused by parasites passed from person-to-person during sexual activity. A parasite is a creature that lives off another being’s body. Think of a parasite as a little bug that lives off a human but cannot always be seen by the naked eye. Examples of parasitic infections are Pubic Lice, Scabies and Trichomoniasis.

Fungal Infections

While not technically STIs, this infection can be passed through sexual contact in rare circumstances. Examples of fungal infections are Candida Albicans.

How do people get STD’s?

These diseases may be spread through vaginal, anal and oral sex—the germs cause STDs to hide in semen, blood, vaginal secretions, and sometimes saliva. Most of the organisms are spread by vaginal, anal, or oral sex, but some, such as those that cause genital herpes and genital warts, may be spread through skin contact.

STD’s is a serious health problem. Often people delay asking for help because they find it too embarrassing to do so. If left untreated, some STD’s can cause permanent damage, such as infertility (the inability to have a baby) and even death (in the case of HIV/AIDS).

Can you get an STD Infection without having sex?


You can contract an STI by kissing. When someone has type I herpes (also known as oral herpes), they carry it for life. Even though the disease may not be visibly showing, the danger of infection still exists. However, the possibility of transmitting the disease is much lower if there is not an outbreak of sores. Even though infection is sometimes possible without visible symptoms, the best way to protect yourself from getting infected by someone who has type I herpes is to know how to recognize it. A sore on someone’s lip made of small clusters of fluid-filled blisters is an indication of herpes. If you have a break in the skin (chapped lips) that comes in contact with infected secretions or sores, your risk is greater to contract an infection.

Oral sex?

Although some people might not consider oral sex to actually be “sex” because it does not involve vaginal penetration, it can still lead to the spread of STD’s. An STD can be spread during oral sex by contact with infected secretions and surfaces on the body. It is always safer to use condoms during penile-oral sex or dental dams for oral-vaginal sex. Avoiding sex when you have any breaks in the skin or other involved bodily tissue that may come in contact with another person can be protective.

Body rubbing or dry sex?

Also described as body-to-body rubbing, dry sex can spread herpes even though there is no penetration or bodily fluids involved. But the only way that herpes could be spread by dry humping is if there is skin-to-skin contact, which means that you are safe if clothes are kept on. But if there is skin-to-skin contact, infectious material from warts (HPV) and other viral or bacterial infection could be present. The risk of transmission depends on the amount of infection that someone has and the number and severity of breaks in the skin.

Shaving “down there” can increase the risk of infection as well. The popularity of shaving the hair in various areas of the body, including the genital area, can increase the transmission of infections because of the risk of even small breaks in the skin. Stubble from hair growing back can be very abrasive to the other person’s skin, and the blade used can itself pick up infectious material from one part of your skin and spread it to another.

Indirect contact?

Another possible indirect way that STDs can be spread is through a damp or moist object, such as a towel, coming in contact with infected areas. The disease Trichomoniasis, more commonly known as Trich, is a parasite that can live outside the body for 45 minutes. To prevent the possibility of spreading diseases is by not sharing damp or moist items like clothing or towels that touch down below.

Sharing needles, razors, or other cutting devices with someone who has an STD can also spread diseases because they are items that break skin contact and let the infections into the body, so avoid sharing these items at all to be safe.

What are the possible symptoms of STD’s?

vaginal or penis discharge (smelly/ white / yellow / reddish brown)
painful lymph nodes in the groin
ulcers/ warts/ itchy lesions/ blisters on genitals
burning urination
lumps in the genital region
swollen testicles
increased vaginal bleeding
abdominal pain
painful bowel movements
painful sex
weight loss

How do STI tests work?

Getting tested can be quick and easy. Depending on what you are being tested for, your provider may take a blood sample, a swab, or ask you to pee in a cup.  Here’s an idea of what to expect:


How the test is done: Swab of genital area or urine sample
You also need to know: If you have had oral or anal sex, let your healthcare provider know this. These sites may be infected, but vaginal or urine samples may not be positive.


How the test is done: Swab of genital area or urine sample
What you also need to know: Like with gonorrhoea, if you have had oral or anal sex, let your healthcare provider know this also. These sites may be infected, but vaginal or urine samples may not be positive.


How the test is done: Blood test or swab from inside of the mouth
What you also need to know: Confidential and anonymous testing options are available in many clinics.

Genital herpes(no symptoms)

How the test is done: Blood test (drawn from the arm or a fingerstick)
What you also need to know: Be sure to ask for a type-specific IgG test (not an IgM test)

Genital herpes (with symptoms)

How the test is done: Swab of the affected area; if at first negative for herpes, follow later with a blood test to make sure.
What you also need to know: Must be done as soon as possible; “viral culture” test not as accurate after 48 hours. A negative culture does not mean that you do not have genital herpes.


How the test is done: A blood test or sample is taken from a sore.
What you also need to know: The CDC recommends all pregnant women be tested for syphilis.


How the test is done: Swab of the infected area, physical exam or sample of discharge.
You also need to know that “Trich” is harder to detect in men than in women.

HPV (genital warts)

How the test is done: Visual diagnosis
What you also need to know: Warts can occur in both men and women.

HPV (cervical cancer)

How the test is done: If the Pap test result is abnormal, an HPV DNA test and a biopsy may be done.
What you also need to know: Pap tests detect cervical cell changes, not HPV. An HPV infection often causes an abnormal test. No test available for men for these types of HPV.

When to test for STD’s:

STD Name How Soon to Get Tested; Why That Time-Frame? If I Test Positive, Do I Need to Get Retested After Treatment?


Chlamydia 24 Hours – 5 Days Get tested again 2 weeks after treatment to ensure that you are clear of the Chlamydia trachomatis bacteria.


Gonorrhoea 2-6 Days Get tested 2 weeks after being treated to ensure that you are clear of the Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria.


Syphilis 3-6 Weeks Get tested again after 3 months to ensure that you are clear of the Treponema pallidum bacteria.


Hepatitis A (HAV) 2-7 Weeks; the hepatitis A virus averages a 28-day incubation period. Retesting is not necessary since Hepatitis A is a virus and remains in your system for life.


Hepatitis B (HBV) 6 Weeks; hepatitis B can occasionally be detected as early as 3 weeks after exposure, but we recommend getting tested after 6 weeks for more accurate results. Retesting is not necessary since Hepatitis B is a virus and remains in your system for life.


Hepatitis C (HCV) 8-9 Weeks Get retested after 3 months to confirm your initial test results.


Oral Herpes (HSV-1/Herpes I) 4-6 Weeks If you tested negative, get retested frequently if you have unprotected oral sex or contact with Herpes 1 fluids like saliva or semen.


Genital Herpes (HSV-2/Herpes II) 4-6 Weeks Even if you tested negative for Genital Herpes, it is advised to retest after 3 months to confirm the initial results.


HIV (HIV Antibody Test Method) 1-3 Months Retesting is not necessary since HIV is a virus and remains in your system for life. Seek treatment if you test positive for HIV.


HIV (HIV RNA Test for early detection) 9-11 Days Retesting is not necessary since HIV is a virus and remains in your system for life. Seek treatment if you test positive for HIV.



HPV: Currently, there is no HPV test recommended for men. The only approved HPV tests on the market are for screening women for cervical cancer. They are not useful for screening for HPV-related cancers or genital warts in men. Most people with HPV do not know they are infected and never develop symptoms or health problems. 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).

Get help


  • Stick to one sexual partner.
  • Use latex condoms every time you have sex. If you use a lubricant, make sure it’s water-based. Use condoms for the entire sex act.
  • Avoid sex with someone who has sores, rashes, blisters or genital discharges.
  • Avoid sharing towels or underwear.
  • Wash before and after intercourse
  • Women: to prevent bladder infections, empty your bladder as soon as possible after intercourse. It cleanses out any bacteria that might have entered the urethra during sex, and that might cause a bladder infection.
  • Get vaccinated against hepatitis B. This is a series of three shots.
  • Get tested for HIV.
  • If you have a problem with drug or alcohol abuse, get help. People who are drunk or on drugs often fail to have safe sex.
  • Consider that not having sex is the only sure way to prevent STDs.

How Can I Prevent Spreading an STD?

  • Stop having sex until you see a doctor and are treated.
  • Follow your doctor’s instructions for treatment.
  • Use condoms whenever you have sex, especially with new partners.
  • Don’t resume having sex unless your doctor says it’s OK.
  • Return to your doctor to get rechecked.
  • Be sure your sex partner or partners also are treated



You can do a self-test quiz to learn more about STI’s and your risk of being infected with one.

STD Quiz

Get help


You can chat to an online counselor on our helpline: LIVE CHAT.

It is a text-based chat and you may remain anonymous.

Questions we can help with:

  • How can you tell if you have an STD?
  • What are the symptoms of an STD?
  • How soon can I get tested after exposure to possible infection?
  • Where can I get tested for STD’s?
  • Is it confidential to get tested, or will they tell my parents??
  • Where is my nearest state clinic?
  • How much does it cost to be tested?
  • Can I be cured?



Comments are closed.