Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Did you know that sexually transmitted infections, or STIs, are the most common diseases in the United States after the cold and flu? Around 12 million new cases of STIs are reported every year – almost 33,000 cases each day. Sixty-three percent of these cases occur in people under 25 years old, and teenagers alone account for 3 million STI cases each year.

If you’re having any kind of sex, it’s important for you to stay informed about STIs. What are the different STIs? What are the symptoms? How are they spread? How do you prevent them? You can find these answers and more right here. To get started, click on the STI you’d like to learn more about.

Chlamydia

Chlamydia

What is chlamydia?

  • It's a bacteria.
  • The bacteria that causes chlamydia is called chlamydia trachomatis.
  • Both men and women can contract it.
  • Chlamydia usually infects a woman's cervix or may infect the urethra – the tube urine passes through - in both men and women. It can also infect your vagina, fallopian tubes, anus, rectum, throat, or eyes.

How common is it?

  • Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the United States.
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 1.5 million cases were reported in 2011 in the United States.
  • There are 3 to 4 million cases every year in the United States, but only about half of those cases are reported and treated. Why? Many people have chlamydia and don't know it because they've never had symptoms.

Who is most likely to get it?

  • You are more likely to get chlamydia if:
  • You are having sex with more than one person.
  • The person/people you are having sex with are having sex with other people.
  • You don't use condoms.
  • You have had a sexually transmitted infection before.
  • You are under 25 years old
  • There are more reported cases of chlamydia in women and people ages 15-19 or 20-24 years old, but people in these groups might just be getting tested more often.

How do you get it?

  • Unprotected or under-protected sex. This means having sex without using condoms or using a condom, but the condom breaks, slips off, or you don't use it the entire time.
  • You can get chlamydia by having ANY type of sex, including vaginal, anal, and oral sex.
  • The bacteria that cause chlamydia to live in the tissue that lines the openings of your body. This includes your vagina, urethra (tube that urine passes through), rectum, and throat. The chlamydia bacteria can pass between two people at any time these tissues come together.
  • Chlamydia can be passed from a mother to a baby during birth.
  • You cannot get it from:
    • Kissing on the mouth
    • Toilet seats
    • Bed linens
    • Door knobs
    • Swimming pools, hot tubs, or bathtubs
    • Sharing silverware
    • Sharing clothes

How do I know if I have it?

  • Around 90 percent of women and 70 percent of men have NO SYMPTOMS.
  • The only way to know for sure if you have chlamydia is to GET TESTED.
  • If you do get symptoms, they usually start one to three weeks after coming in contact with the chlamydia bacteria.

Symptoms can include:

For women only:

  • Bleeding between periods
  • Bleeding from your vagina after intercourse
  • Pain in the lower part of your belly
  • Pain during sex
  • New or different discharge or liquid from your vagina

For men only:

  • Clear or milky discharge or liquid from your penis
  • Swelling or pain in your testicles

For everyone:

  • Fever
  • Burning feeling when you pee
  • Needing to pee more than you usually do
  • Pain, itching, bleeding, and/or discharge or liquid coming from your rectum, if you have chlamydia in your anus

Can it be treated? How do I get rid of it?

  • YES. You can treat and cure chlamydia with antibiotics prescribed by a doctor.
  • It is important to take all of the antibiotic medicine your doctor prescribes. The infection can still be in your body even after you start to feel better.
  • To make sure chlamydia is cured and you don't pass it on to your partner, don't have sex for 7 days, until your antibiotics have time to clear the infection from your body.
  • If you do end up having sex before you finish your antibiotics, make sure you use a condom because the antibiotics might not work.
  • Your partner(s) should also get tested and treated at the same time, so you don't re-infect each other.
  • Get treated as early as possible to prevent serious health problems.
  • The first step to getting rid of chlamydia is to see a doctor and get tested.

What can happen if I don't get treatment?

Chlamydia that is not treated can cause serious health problems, including:

For women:

  • Pain in the lower part of your belly.
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID):
  • PID happens when the infection spreads to your fallopian tubes and/or ovaries.
  • 30 percent of untreated chlamydia turns into PID.
  • PID can make it more difficult to have a baby when you are ready:
    • Does this mean I can't get pregnant?
      • No, most people with PID can still get pregnant. BUT, if these infections aren't treated early enough, scar tissue can form in your fallopian tubes and inside your belly. This tissue can block your fallopian tubes, which can make it harder to get pregnant. If the tubes are partially blocked, fertilized eggs might not reach your uterus, and your pregnancy can form in the fallopian tubes. This is called a tubal or ectopic pregnancy.
      • Scar tissue caused by PID can also be very painful, and that pain can last for months or even years. If it's bad enough, you may have to have surgery to treat the scar tissue.
      • PID can come back many times, and it's more likely to come back if you get an STI again. The more times you have PID, the more likely you are to have health problems and more harm to your body.
      • PID also be passed from mother to baby during birth and can cause the baby to be blind or have lung damage.

For men:

  • Epididymitis
    • An infection in the tubes that connect your testicles to the urethra (where urine passes through) of the penis
    • Pain in testicles
    • In rare cases, can cause infertility

For everyone:

  • Increases your chances of getting HIV and other STIs.

How can I keep from getting it?

  • The only 100 percent effective way to not get chlamydia is to not have sex.
  • If you have sex, use a condom every time you have any type of sex and get tested regularly.
  • Ask your partner(s) to get tested before you start having sex. You can get chlamydia again, even if you have been treated for it in the past.
  • Only have sex with a partner who has tested negative for chlamydia and is not having sex with anyone else.
  • If you have tested positive for chlamydia and finished treatment, get tested again 3 months later to make sure the infection is gone and you don't have it again.

How can I keep from spreading it?

  • If you think you might have chlamydia, don't have sex until you get tested and treated.
  • Get tested regularly. Remember, you may not have symptoms. You can still spread chlamydia even if you don't have symptoms.
  • Use a condom EVERY TIME you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex.
  • If you test positive for chlamydia:
    • Don't have sex until you've finished ALL of your medicine and your doctor says it's ok.
    • Tell all of your current and past partners that you have it, since they could have it too. Remember, untreated chlamydia can cause serious health problems, so anyone who might be infected should get tested and treated.

How do I get tested for it?

There are a few different ways to test for chlamydia:
  • Peeing in a cup
  • Collecting a swab from your vagina or cervix, if you are a woman
  • Collecting a swab from your urethra, at the tip of your penis, if you are a man

You can get tested at places like family planning centers, private doctors' offices, STI clinics, hospital clinics or health departments.

Find a place to get tested from our list of testing locations.

How often should I get tested?

  • If you are under 25 years old and have ever had sex, get tested at least ONCE A YEAR.
  • You should get tested more often if you change sex partners or have had chlamydia or another STI in the past. Talk to a doctor to figure out how often you should get tested.
  • It is important to continue to get tested regularly, even if you took all of your medicine and cured a past infection. You can get chlamydia more than once, and may not have symptoms even if you had symptoms before.
Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea

What is it?

  • It's a bacteria, called Neisseria gonorrhea, that causes an infection of the penis or vagina.
  • Both men and women can get it.
  • Some people also call it "the clap," "a dose," or "the drip."
  • Gonorrhea usually infects the penis or vagina, but it can also infect your rectum, throat, or eyes.

How common is it?

  • There were more than 5,500 cases of gonorrhea reported in 2010 in Washington, DC.
  • There are about 700,000 cases of gonorrhea in the United States every year - that means approximately one in every 400 people get it each year.
  • Only about half of those cases are reported and treated.

Who is most likely to get it?

  • You are more likely to get gonorrhea if:
    • You are having sex with more than one person.
    • The person/people you are having sex with are having sex with other people.
    • You don't use condoms.
    • You have had a sexually transmitted infection before.
    • You are under 25 years old.
  • There are more reported cases of gonorrhea in people ages 15-19 or 20-24 years old, but in these groups might just be getting tested more often.

How do you get it?

  • Unprotected or under-protected sex. This means having sex without using condoms or using a condom, but the condom breaks, slips off, or you don't use it the entire time.
  • You can get gonorrhea by having ANY type of sex; vaginal, anal, and oral sex.
  • The bacteria that cause gonorrhea like to live in the moist areas of your body. This includes the vagina, penis, rectum, throat, and eyes. You can be infected with the gonorrhea bacteria any time you come in contact with these areas on someone who is infected.
  • A male does not have to ejaculate for the gonorrhea bacteria to get passed to another person.

How do I know if I have it?

  • Because so many people infected with gonorrhea have NO SYMPTOMS, the only way to know for sure is to GET TESTED.
  • If you do get symptoms, they can start 1-30 days after coming in contact with the gonorrhea bacteria. On average, people usually start experiencing symptoms 4-8 days after becoming infected.
  • Men are more likely to have symptoms of gonorrhea than women.

Symptoms can include:

For women only:

  • Pain in the lower part of your belly
  • Pain or spotting (light bleeding from your vagina) during sex
  • Burning feeling when you pee
  • New or different discharge or liquid from your vagina

For men only:

  • Discharge or liquid from your penis. This could look milky, white, yellow, or green.
  • Burning feeling when you pee
  • Swelling or pain in your testicles

For everyone:

  • Fever
  • Sore throat, if you have gonorrhea in your throat
  • Pain, bleeding and/or discharge from your anus, if you have gonorrhea in your anus

The symptoms for gonorrhea and chlamydia are very similar, but the treatment is different for each one. So, if you are having symptoms of either infection, make sure you get tested for both.

Can it be treated? How do I get rid of it?

  • YES. You can treat and cure gonorrhea with antibiotics prescribed by a doctor.
  • A doctor might give you an antibiotic shot along with other medicine to take while you are at the clinic/office.
  • If you treat gonorrhea early, it is usually cured with a single dose of antibiotics.
  • To make sure your gonorrhea is cured and you don't pass it on to your partner, don't have sex until you have received antibiotics.
  • Even though gonorrhea is easy to treat and cure, remember that you can get it again, even if you've had it and been treated before.
  • Your partner(s) should also get tested and treated at the same time, so you don't re-infect each other.
  • Get treated as early as possible to prevent serious health problems.
  • The first step to getting rid of gonorrhea is to see a doctor and get tested.

What can happen if I don't get treatment?

Gonorrhea that is not treated can spread from one area of your reproductive tract to other surrounding parts. It causes serious health problems, including:

For women:

  • Pain in the lower part of your belly
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
    • PID happens when the infection spreads to your fallopian tubes and/or ovaries.
    • 30 percent  of untreated chlamydia turns into PID.
    • PID can make it more difficult to have a baby when you are ready.
    • Does this mean I can't get pregnant? - No, most people with PID can still get pregnant. BUT, if these infections aren't treated early enough, scar tissue can form in your fallopian tubes and inside your belly. This tissue can block your fallopian tubes, which can make it harder to get pregnant. If the tubes are partially blocked, fertilized eggs might not reach your uterus, and your pregnancy can form in the fallopian tubes. This is called a tubal or ectopic pregnancy.
    • Scar tissue caused by PID can also be very painful, and that pain can last for months or even years. If it's bad enough, you may have to have surgery to treat the scar tissue.
    • PID can come back many times, and it's more likely to come back if you get an STI again. The more times you have PID, the more likely you are to have health problems and more harm to your body.

For men:

  • If the infection is bad enough and doesn't get treated, it could cause scarring of the tubes that carry sperm and affect your ability to have a baby in the future. This is pretty rare.

For everyone:

  • Gonorrhea can spread into your bloodstream and cause fever, chills, blisters on your skin, or arthritis in your joints.

How can I keep from getting it?

  • The only 100 percent effective way to not get gonorrhea is to not have sex.
  • If you have sex, use a condom every time you have any type of sex and get tested regularly.
  • Ask your partner(s) to get tested before you start having sex. Only have sex with a partner who has tested negative for gonorrhea and is not having sex with anyone else.
  • If you have tested positive for gonorrhea and finished treatment, get tested again 3 months later to make sure the infection is gone and you don't have it again.

How can I keep from spreading it?

  • If you think you might have gonorrhea, don't have sex until you get tested and treated.
  • Get tested regularly. Use a condom EVERY TIME you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex
  • If you test positive for gonorrhea:
    • Don't have sex until you've finished ALL of your medicine and your doctor says it's ok.
    • Tell all of your current and past partners that you have it, since they could have it too. Remember, untreated gonorrhea can cause serious health problems, so anyone who might be infected should get tested and treated.

How do I get tested for it?

  • There are a few different ways to test for gonorrhea:
    • Peeing in a cup
    • Collecting a swab from the affected area - this could be your penis, vagina, cervix, rectum, throat, and/or eye.
  • Remember, the symptoms for gonorrhea and chlamydia are very similar, but the treatment is different for each one. It's important to get tested for both.
  • You can get tested at places like family planning centers, private doctors' offices, STI clinics, hospital clinics, or health departments.
  • Find a place to get tested from our list of testing locations.

How often should I get tested?

  • If you are under 25 years old and have ever had sex, get tested at least ONCE A YEAR.
  • You should get tested more often if you change sex partners or have had gonorrhea or another STI in the past. Talk to a doctor to figure out how often you should get tested.
  • It is important to continue to get tested regularly, even if you took all of your medicine and cured a past infection. You can get gonorrhea more than once, and may not have symptoms even if you had symptoms before.
Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B

What is it?

  • It's a virus.
  • The virus that causes Hepatitis B affects your liver.
  • Both men and women can get it.
  • It can also be called HBV, which stands for Hepatitis B Virus.
  • There is a vaccine to prevent it, and most babies get this vaccine as part of their normal care.

How common is it?

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 1.25 million people in the United States have it.
  • Many people get a vaccine to prevent Hepatitis B now, so it's not as common as it used to be.
  • 100,000 people in the United States become infected each year and 5,000 die from Hepatitis B each year.

Who is most likely to get it?

  • You are more likely to get Hepatitis B if:
    • You have sex with multiple partners
    • You don't use condoms
    • You share needles, razors, nail clippers, toothbrushes, or other items that can pierce your skin or have blood on them
    • People who work in hospitals, doctors' offices, and other healthcare settings are also more likely to get Hepatitis B because they come in contact with body fluids a lot. These people are required to get the Hepatitis B vaccine before they can work.

How do you get it?

  • Hepatitis B can live and be passed through any body fluids, but it's mostly spread through blood, semen, and vaginal fluids.
  • You can get Hepatitis B by having ANY type of sex: vaginal, anal, and oral sex.
  • Unprotected or under-protected sex. This means having sex without using condoms or using a condom, but the condom breaks, slips off, or you don't use it the entire time.
  • Since the virus can live in blood, you can also get it by sharing needles, nail clippers, razors, or toothbrushes with someone who has it.
  • The virus can pass from mother to baby during childbirth.
  • You do not get Hepatitis B from:
    • Kissing on the cheek or lips
    • Coughing or sneezing
    • Hugging or holding hands

How do I know if I have it?

  • Many people with Hepatitis B have NO SYMPTOMS, or just feel like they have the flu.
    • You can still give the virus to other people, even if you don't have any symptoms.
  • If you do get symptoms, they can begin between six weeks to six months, and most people start getting symptoms around three months after being infected.
  • Symptoms can include:
    • Yellow skin or eyes
    • Having no appetite - you don't feel hungry and you don't want to eat
    • Feeling very tired or having no energy
    • Brown and dark-colored pee
    • Pain in your belly, muscles, or joints
    • Gray or light-colored stools
    • Feeling sick to your stomach and/or throwing up
    • Having diarrhea

Can it be treated? How do I get rid of it?

  • There is no cure for Hepatitis B but, in some people, it goes away on its own. Others who get the virus can have it for the rest of their lives.
  • Most people who get Hepatitis B recover from the illness and have no symptoms after about six months.
  • If you don't recover from the illness, a doctor will come up with a treatment plan that includes:
    • Medicine for your liver
    • Eating healthy food
    • Exercising
    • Not drinking alcohol
    • Regularly checking your liver to make sure it's working normally
  • See a doctor and get treated as early as possible to prevent serious health problems.

What can happen if I don't get treatment?

  • Even if you don't have symptoms, you can pass the virus to other people.
  • Permanent liver disease, including cancer of your liver
  • Increases your chance of getting HIV, if you are exposed to it
  • Death from damage to your liver

How can I keep from getting it?

  • Get the vaccine.
    • Most people get the vaccine when they are babies, but if you haven't gotten the vaccine yet, talk to a doctor about getting it now.
    • It's given in three shots, and you have to get all three for the vaccine to work best
  • If you have sex, use a condom every time you have any type of sex.
  • Only have sex with a partner who has gotten the Hepatitis B vaccine.
    • If your partner has Hepatitis B, talk to a doctor to find out if you should consider updating your vaccine.
  • Don't share needles, syringes, razors, toothbrushes, or any other items that pierce your skin or could have blood on them.

How can I keep from spreading it?

  • If you think you might have Hepatitis B, don't have sex or other close contact (like kissing) until you get tested and a doctor says it's ok.
  • You can infect other people with Hepatitis B even if you have no symptoms and don't know you have it. Find out if you have been given the vaccine. If not, get tested for Hepatitis B to make sure you don't have it and then get the vaccine.
  • Use a condom EVERY TIME you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex.
  • Don't share needles, syringes, razors, toothbrushes, or any other items that pierce your skin or could have blood on them.
  • If you find out you have Hepatitis B, tell all of your current and past partners, since they could have it too.
  • If you have Hepatitis B and you are pregnant, tell your doctor. The virus can pass from mother to baby during birth, and your baby will need special treatment right after birth to keep from getting the infection.

How do I get tested for it?

  • A doctor will test a small sample of your blood for the virus.
    • If you think you have Hepatitis B, your doctor will also feel around your liver to check if it's swollen and tender.
  • You can get tested at places like family planning centers, private doctors' offices, STI clinics, hospital clinics or health departments.
  • Find a place to get tested from our list of testing locations.

How often should I get tested?

  • If you think you have Hepatitis B, or think you have been exposed to Hepatitis B, see a doctor and get tested.
    • If you've already had the vaccine, ask your doctor if you should consider updating it by getting a booster vaccine.
  • For women:
    • If you are pregnant, you should get tested at your first prenatal visit. If your doctor thinks you are at higher risk for getting Hepatitis B, they may recommend getting tested again during your third trimester.
Herpes

Herpes

What is it?

  • It's a virus.
  • There are two types of herpes - Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 (HSV-1) and Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2 (HSV-2).
  • Herpes can cause cold sores or fever blisters on your mouth, known as oral herpes, and/or can cause blisters or sores on your genitals, known as genital herpes.
  • Both men and women can get it.

How common is it?

  • Herpes is one of the most common STIs in the United States.
  • One in six people between the ages of 14 and 49 in the United States have herpes.
  • Almost 90 percent of people in the United States will have HSV-1 (oral herpes, or "cold sores") at some point in their lives.
  • Many people have herpes and don't know it because they've never had symptoms. Most doctors don't screen for herpes unless you ask for it, so be sure to let your doctor know if you do have symptoms or have had sex or close contact with someone who has it.

How do you get it?

  • You get herpes from mouth-to-mouth, mouth-to-genital, or genital-to-genital contact.
  • You can get herpes by touching, kissing, or having any type of sex - that includes vaginal, anal, and oral.
  • You can get herpes when you come in contact with herpes sores or blisters OR from the body fluids from the vagina, penis, anus, or mouth of someone who is infected.
  • Herpes is most easily spread when the infected person has open sores or blisters, but it can also be spread before the sores/blisters form or even when the infected person has no symptoms.
  • Moist areas of your body are easily infected, including:
    • Vulva - the area outside and around your vagina
    • Vagina
    • Anus
    • Mouth
    • Throat
    • Eyes
  • Herpes can be passed between people, but you can also pass it from one part of your body to another part of your body.
  • Unprotected or under-protected sex. This means having sex without using condoms or using a condom, but the condom breaks, slips off, or you don't use it the entire time. However, because a condom doesn't cover all the areas where the herpes virus can live on a person's body - including the mouth - condoms won't completely protect you from getting herpes.
  • You can get genital herpes, known as HSV-2, two different ways:
    • HSV-1, also called oral herpes, can pass from a person's mouth to another person's genitals during oral sex and cause genital herpes.
    • HSV-2 can pass between two people during sex or whenever your genitals come in contact.

How do I know if I have it?

  • Many people have NO SYMPTOMS. Remember, you can still give herpes to other people, even if you have no symptoms.
  • If you do get symptoms, you might only get them once or you might get them several times during your life. It's different for everyone.
    • When symptoms appear, it's called an "outbreak."
  • For oral herpes:
    • Symptoms are more likely to happen when you have a cold or a fever, or after you've been out in the sun.
    • Symptoms can include:
      • Sores in your mouth, around your teeth and gums.
      • Blisters on or around your lips:
        • These are called cold sores or fever blisters.
    • The symptoms usually go away within 7-10 days.
  • For genital herpes:
    • If you get symptoms:
      • The first outbreak is usually the worst and most painful.
      • They usually appear within 2-20 days after you are infected.
      • They usually go away within 2-3 weeks.
    • Symptoms can include:
      • Tingling in the genital area.
      • Small, painful red bumps that turn into blisters in about 24-72 hours.
        • These can appear on the labia, clitoris, vagina, vulva (area outside and around your vagina), cervix, penis, scrotum, anus, thighs, or butt.
      • Burning in the genital area.
      • Pain when you pee and urine passes over the sore or blisters.
      • For women, your vulva (the area outside and around the vagina) can get so swollen from the sores that you aren't able to pee.
      • Swelling and tenderness in the lymph glands around your groin, neck, or under your arms:
        • These glands can stay swollen for up to six weeks.
      • Aching muscles
      • Headache
      • Fever
      • Nausea - feeling sick to your stomach and like you might throw up
      • Feeling "run down" and/or achy

Can it be treated? How do I get rid of it?

  • You cannot get rid of herpes. Once you are infected with the herpes virus, you will have it for the rest of your life.
  • Even though you can't get rid of herpes, there are medications to treat it. These medicines can do the following:
    • Help your sores and blisters go away faster
    • Make symptoms less painful
    • Lower the chance that you will infect your partner
    • Make outbreaks happen less often
  • For HSV-1 (oral herpes), you can use sun block on and around your lips and wear a hat to lower the chance of getting cold sores after being out in the sun.
  • You can also lower your pain and/or discomfort during genital herpes outbreaks by doing the following:
    • Keep the sores dry and clean. You can also use an ointment like Desitin or A+D on the sores to help with irritation.
    • Don't touch the sores. If you do touch them, wash your hands with soap and water afterward.
    • Wear lose, cotton underwear and clothes to keep your clothes from rubbing against the sores.
    • Take warm or cool baths (depending on which helps you the most).
    • Hold cool compresses or ice packs to the sores for a few minutes several times a day.
    • Drink water.
    • Take acetaminophen (like Tylenol or Excedrin) or ibuprofen (like Advil or Motrin) to help with any pain or fever you are having.
    • For women, if peeing is painful, you can sit backwards on the toilet so the urine won't run over your sores or pee in a bath or shower.
    • Don't touch or rub your eyes, and don't wet your contact lenses with saliva. Wash your hands after you touch a contact lens.

What causes an outbreak? Can I prevent them?

  • About half of all people infected with herpes don't have any outbreaks after the first time they get sores and blisters. Other people with herpes might only get a few outbreaks during their lives, while others might get a lot of outbreaks.
  • It's not clear what causes an outbreak, but some ideas include:
    • Other infections in your body or a lowered immune system
    • Physical or emotional stress
    • Being out in the sun
    • Having sex
    • For women, your period
    • Using alcohol
    • Having surgery
    • Having a fever
    • Trauma
  • It is possible to have many outbreaks in a row and then go months or years without getting one.
  • If you have an illness that lowers your immune system, like leukemia or HIV, you are more likely to get outbreaks and for your outbreaks to be more painful and last longer.
  • You can't prevent outbreaks from happening, but taking medicine prescribed by a doctor can help you to have them less often. If you aren't on a herpes medication and you get outbreaks a lot or they are really bad, talk to a doctor about what kind of medicine you should take.
  • Eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and lowering your stress can help decrease the amount of outbreaks you have.

What can happen if I don't get treatment?

  • Without treatment, you might get more outbreaks and/or have outbreaks that last longer and are more painful.
  • Treatment may not prevent passing herpes to your partner(s), but it lowers the chance of this happening. Without treatment, you are more likely to infect your partner(s) with herpes.
  • You can be more likely to get HIV. HIV can easily infect your body through the open herpes sores, and treatment helps you to get these sores less often and to go away faster.
  • If you become pregnant, you could pass the herpes virus onto your baby during or after birth, which can make the baby really sick.
  • Rarely, the herpes virus can spread to your spinal cord and/or brain.

How can I keep from getting it?

  • Don't kiss or have oral sex with someone who has cold sores or fever blisters on their mouth.
  • If you see any sores or blisters, don't touch them with your hands, lips, or genitals.
  • Only have sex with someone who has been tested for herpes and does not have it.
  • If you have sex, use a condom every time you have any type of sex and get tested regularly.
    • Remember, condoms are not 100 percent effective in preventing herpes, since the virus can live on body parts not covered by a condom AND the virus can be passed just by touching body parts that are affected by the virus.

How can I keep from spreading it?

  • If you think you might have herpes, don't have sex or close contact with anyone (including kissing or touching of body parts) until you get tested and begin treatment.
  • Get tested. Remember, you may not have symptoms. You can still spread herpes even if you don't have symptoms.
  • Use a condom EVERY TIME you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Since the herpes virus can live on body parts not covered by a condom, condoms are not 100 percent effective in preventing herpes, BUT they do lower the chance of spreading it.
  • DO NOT have sex during an outbreak or until all the sores have healed, fallen off, and the skin is normal again.
  • If you have oral herpes, don't let anyone kiss or touch your mouth and don't have oral sex when you have sores or blisters.
  • Before an outbreak, some people feel a tingling, burning, or itching where the sores were before. If you feel this, stop having sex until the outbreak is over. This feeling can happen a few hours or days before an outbreak starts.
  • If you test positive for herpes, talk to a doctor about:
    • Taking medication to control your symptoms and lower the chance of passing it to your partner(s).
    • Advice on how to keep from spreading it to your partner(s).

How do I get tested for it?

  • A doctor will look at any sores or blisters you might have and take some of your blood to test for the virus:
    • If you don't have any symptoms, the doctor will just take some of your blood.
  • You can get tested at places like family planning centers, private doctors' offices, STI clinics, hospital clinics, or health departments.
  • Find a place to get tested from our list of testing locations.

How often should I get tested?

  • If you think you have herpes, or think you have been exposed to herpes, see a doctor to get tested.
  • If you change sex partners, both you and your new partner should get tested before you start having sex.
HIV/AIDS

HIV/AIDS

What is it?

  • HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, the virus that causes Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, also known as AIDS.
    • HIV and AIDS are not the same thing. HIV is a virus that can lead to AIDS, if you don't treat it and/or your body gets too weak to fight the virus.
  • Both men and women can get it.
  • HIV attacks your immune system, especially white blood cells called CD-4 cells, also known as T-cells. This makes it harder for your body to fight off infections and you get sick more easily.

How common is it?

  • More than 1.1 million people in the United States are living with HIV or AIDS; of those, one in five do not even know that they are infected.
  • Someone in the United States is infected with HIV every 9 1/2 minutes.
  • There were 47,500 new cases of HIV reported in the United States in 2010; more than 12,000 of these new infections were in people 13-24 years old.
  • Washington, DC, has a higher rate of people living with HIV/AIDS than any state in the United States. Almost 14,500 people were living with HIV in Washington, DC, as of 2010.

Who is most likely to get it?

  • ANYONE who has unprotected or under-protected sex and/or shares needles and syringes with an infected person is at risk for getting HIV.
    • Unprotected or under-protected sex means having sex without condoms or using a condom, but the condom breaks, slips off, or you don't use it the entire time.
  • Many people used to think that only men who have sex with men get HIV, but that is not true. About half of all new infections occur in heterosexual people.

How do you get it?

  • The virus is found in and can be spread through four bodily fluids:
    • Semen
    • Vaginal fluids
    • Blood
    • Breast milk
  • You can get HIV from an infected person by:
    • ANY type of sex; vaginal, anal, and oral, that is unprotected or under-protected.
    • Sharing needles and/or syringes
    • Through open sores and irritations from other STIs
    • Through the urethra,the tube than urine passes through
    • Through small tears in the vagina and/or anus from vaginal or anal sex
  • HIV can be passed from mother to baby before or during birth or during breastfeeding
  • You cannot get it from:
    • Touching
    • Hugging
    • Shaking hands
    • Coughing
    • Sneezing
    • Sharing glasses or dishes
    • Toilets
    • Doorknobs
    • Pets
    • Insects
    • Donating blood - a new needle is used for each donor
    • Blood transfusions - in the past, people did become infected from blood transfusions, but now donated blood is tested for the virus first

How do I know if I have it?

  • You can have HIV and not know it, since it can be months or even years before you notice any symptoms.
  • While some people might not have any early symptoms, others get an illness within six weeks of being infected and have flu-like symptoms that can include:
    • Fever
    • Headache
    • Swollen glands
    • Feeling very tired
    • Aching joints or muscles
    • Sore throat
    • Rapid weight loss
    • Diarrhea
    • Night sweats
  • When HIV becomes AIDS, symptoms can include:
    • Fever that lasts longer than one month
    • Weight loss
    • Feeling extremely tired
    • Diarrhea that lasts longer than one month
    • Swollen lymph glands
    • Not being able to think clearly
    • No sense of balance

Can it be treated? How do I get rid of it?

  • You cannot get rid of HIV. Once you become infected, you will always have the virus in your body.
  • There are some medicines that can slow down the progress of HIV in your body for a long time, but you still have the virus and can pass it to other people
  • If you test positive for HIV, your doctor will make a special treatment plan for you that may include:
    • Taking medicine
    • Eating healthy food
    • Exercising
    • Lowering stress in your life
  • Following the doctor's treatment plan is extremely important. If you are prescribed medicine, you must take it at specific times and not miss doses.

Does everyone who had HIV get AIDS?

  • Not all people with HIV get AIDS
  • If your T-cell numbers drop and the amount of virus in your blood stream rises (this is called your viral load), your immune system can get too weak to fight off infections and you are considered to have AIDS.
  • If HIV becomes AIDS, you can get sick with diseases that don't usually affect other people, including:
    • Kaposi Sarcoma (KS) - a rare type of skin cancer
    • Pneumocystis Carinii Pneumonia (PCP) - a type of pneumonia
  • You can treat these diseases and your T-cells and viral load can get back to healthier levels with the right type of medicine.

What can happen if I don't get treatment?

  • Over time, HIV and AIDS keep your body from being able to fight off diseases. Medicines can slow this process down, but without them, the process happens faster and you can have more serious or life-threatening health problems.
  • You can lose a dangerous amount of weight, experience mental problems, get cancers, and even die.

How can I keep from getting it?

  • The only 100 percent effective way to not get HIV is to not have sex.
  • If you have sex, use a condom every time you have any type of sex and get tested regularly
  • Ask your partner(s) to get tested before you start having sex.
  • Only have sex with a partner who has tested negative for HIV and is not having sex with anyone else.
  • Using condoms every time you have sex greatly reduces your risk of getting HIV, but you also need to make sure you are putting the condom on the right way and using it the entire time you have sex. Also, check the expiration date on the package and only use condoms that are not expired.
  • Use dental dams during oral sex. A dental dam is like a condom, but is used specifically for oral sex.
  • Don't share needles or syringes
  • Only use sterile needles, and make sure that anything that pierces your skin has been fully sterilized first. This includes needles and equipment used for getting a tattoo, body piercing, or using IV drugs.
  • Don't share razors or toothbrushes, since these items could have blood on them that may carry the virus (if the blood is from someone who is infected with HIV).

How can I keep from spreading it?

  • If you think you might have been exposed to HIV or AIDS, make an appointment to get tested as soon as possible.
  • Get tested regularly.
  • Use a condom EVERY TIME you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex.
  • Don't share needles, razors, toothbrushes, or anything that breaks the skin or could have your blood on it.
  • If you test positive for HIV, tell all of your past and current partners or anyone you may have shared needles with about your positive test. It's important to let them know because they could have it too, and need to begin a treatment plan as soon as possible. This can be a scary thing to do, but:
    • Your doctor or the health department can help you notify these people confidentially, without identifying who you are.
    • There are online resources, like inSPOT or National HIV and STD
    • Testing Resources, which can help you contact these people anonymously or give you tips on how to talk about it, if you choose to speak to them yourself.
    • Remember, untreated HIV can cause dangerous health problems, so anyone who might be infected should get tested and begin a treatment plan.

What should I do if I think I have it?

If you think you have been exposed, are infected, or have symptoms, see a doctor and get tested right away.
The earlier you get tested, the sooner you can start medicine to control the virus, if you have been infected.
Getting treated early can improve your chance at living a healthy life. It can slow down the infection and may prevent you from getting AIDS.

How do I get tested for it?

  • There are a few different ways to test for HIV:
    • Blood test
    • Collecting some saliva from your cheek on a cotton swab
  • There are three different types of tests for HIV that are done in a doctor's office:
    • Standard blood test, also known as EIA or ELISA tests
      • A sample of blood is taken from your arm
      • You get the results in about two weeks
    • Rapid tests
      • Two types:
        • Finger stick - some blood is taken from the tip of you finger
        • Oral - some saliva is taken from your mouth with a cotton swab
      • You get the results in about 20 minutes
    • Western Blot test
      • If the Standard blood test or a rapid test comes back positive, a Western blot test is automatically done.
      • If this test comes back positive, you will be diagnosed with HIV
  • There is another type of test that you can buy at most pharmacies without a prescription - the home access kit. This is also a finger stick test - you prick your finger, place a drop of blood on the card that comes with the kit, and send the card to a lab. You can get the results over the phone in one to three days. If this test comes back positive, you should see a doctor to make sure the test is correct.
  • BE AWARE - HIV doesn't show up in test results right away. It can take up to three months or longer for a test to come back positive after someone is infected
    • Your doctor may recommend that you retake the test in three months, to be sure you are not infected
  • Many doctor's offices, hospitals and clinics offer HIV testing at a low cost or for free.
  • Find a place to get tested from our list of testing locations.

How often should I get tested?

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all teenagers should have at least one HIV test by the time they are 16 to 18 years old.
  • If you are sexually active, get tested at least ONCE A YEAR.
  • You should get tested more often if you change sex partners or have shared needles with someone. Talk to a doctor to figure out how often you should get tested.
  • If you think you may have been exposed to HIV or have shared needles or another object that pierces the skin with someone else, talk to a doctor about when you should get tested.
HPV (human papilloma virus)

HPV (human papilloma virus)

What is it?

  • HPV stands for human papilloma virus.
  • There are over 150 different types of HPV, and more than 40 types are sexually transmitted.
  • Different types of HPV can cause genital warts, warts on your hands and feet, or changes in your cervix (the opening to the uterus and part of the female reproductive system) that can lead to cancer.
    • The types of HPV that cause genital warts are different from the types that cause cervical cancer and other types of cancer
  • Both men and women can get it.
  • In rare cases, some types of HPV can also cause cancer of the vulva (area outside and around your vagina), vagina, and anus in women, and in the anus and penis in men.

How common is it?

  • HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the United States.
  • Around 20 million people in the United States are currently infected with HPV.
  • About 6 million people get it every year, and at least 50 percent of all sexually active people get it at some point in their lives.
  • Most people fight the virus off on their own, but:
    • About one percent of sexually active people in the United States have genital warts at any given time.
    • Around 12,000 women get cervical cancer each year.

Who is most likely to get it?

  • Any person who has sex can get HPV
  • You are more likely to get HPV if:
    • You start having sex at a younger age
    • You are having sex with more than one person
    • The person/people you are having sex with are having sex with other people
    • You don't use condoms
    • You or your partner(s) have had a sexually transmitted infection before

What can happen to me if I get it?

  • Because there are many types of HPV and each person's body can react differently to the infection, any of the following can happen if you get HPV:
    • Nothing happens. The area of your body infected with the virus stays normal and you might never know you have it, but you are still able give the infection to other people. This is called a latent or inactive infection.
    • You can get bumps on your genital area called genital warts. These warts almost never lead to cancer, but can go away and come back throughout your life.
    • If you're a woman, the infection can cause cells in your cervix to change, and these changes can show up in the results of a Pap test (a screening test that you get when you visit the gynecologist). Most women start getting Pap tests when they turn 21. If you get the infection as a teenager, most of the time your body will clear the infection on its own and when you start getting Pap tests, they will be normal. However, sometimes the infection comes back or stays in your cervix, and this can lead to cervical cancer if you aren't treated early.
    • Some other cancers can also be caused by HPV, like cancers of the vagina, anus, and head, neck, mouth, and throat.

How do you get it?

  • Any skin-to-skin contact with body parts infected by HPV, even if the person with HPV has no symptoms or signs of the infection.
  • You can get HPV by having ANY type of sex; vaginal, anal, and oral sex.
  • Unprotected or under-protected sex. This means having sex without using condoms or using a condom, but the condom breaks, slips off, or you don't use it the entire time.
    • Condoms lower your chance of getting HPV, BUT they are not 100 percenteffective in preventing HPV since the virus can live on body parts that are not covered by a condom.

How do I know if I have it?

  • Most people don't know they have HPV because they have NO SYMPTOMS.
    • You can still infect your partner(s) with HPV even if you don't have symptoms
  • For women, having a Pap test that comes back abnormal at the gynecologist's office is usually the first sign of an HPV infection. That's why it's important to start getting regular Pap tests when you are 21, or earlier if your doctor recommends it.
  • If you have a type of HPV that causes genital warts, you may or may not get symptoms.
    • If you do get symptoms, they usually start out as small bumps in or around your vagina, penis or anus. Here's some information about these warts:
      • They can grow in bunches or clusters.
      • They can be raised or flat, and any size.
      • They can be pink, red, brown, or the color of your skin.
      • They might itch, be painful, or bleed.
    • Even if you do get symptoms, you might not notice them. Why? The warts or bumps can be really small and you might not see or feel them.
  • HPV warts can also grow on your thighs, groin, lips, mouth, tongue, throat, or on a man's scrotum.

Can it be treated? How do I get rid of it?

  • There's not a clear answer to this question. Most of the time, signs of an HPV infection go away on their own and the virus may no longer be detectable in your body. However, in some cases the virus may just be hidden and could still cause symptoms and health problems later in your life.
  • If you get genital warts from an HPV infection:
    • Any warts you get should go away on their own. If they don't, or if they bother you, a doctor can remove them or use a medication to make them go away.
      • The method your doctor uses to get rid of the warts will depend on how many you have, how big they are, where the warts are located on your body, and the cost and side effects of each treatment.
      • There are some home medicines you can use to get rid of warts, but they must be prescribed by a doctor.
        • DO NOT use over the counter wart medicine on genital warts - these medications are too harsh for the sensitive skin around your genital area.
    • Even if your warts go away or are removed, the virus can stay in your skin and can infect your partner(s) with HPV.
    • Warts can also come back after they go away or are removed.
  • For women, if you get a type of HPV that causes changes to your cervix:
    • You doctor will monitor the changes and you will probably need to get Pap tests more frequently until one of the following happens:
      • Your body clears the infection on its own
      • Your doctor decides to treat the affected areas of the cervix to prevent cervical cancer
  • If you have HPV, talk to your doctor about the different treatment choices and what will work best for you. Also let your doctor know if you think you are pregnant, since that will affect what type of treatment you should choose.

What can happen if I don't get treatment?

  • If you have a type HPV that can lead to cancer and you don't get treatment, you can get cancer
    • Around 12,000 women get cervical cancer in the United States each year
    • Even though men don't get cancer from HPV as much as women do, it can still happen:
    • Each year in the United States, HPV causes:
      • Penile cancer in 400 men
      • Anal cancer in 1,500 men

How can I keep from getting it?

  • The only 100 percent effective way to not get HPV is to not have sex or close skin-to-skin contact with body parts that can become infected with HPV
  • If you have sex, use a condom every time you have any type of sex.
    • Condoms lower your chance of getting HPV, but they are not 100 percent effective because HPV can live on areas of the body that are not covered by a condom.
    • Dental dams may also help you from getting HPV from oral sex that can cause oropharyngeal (mouth and throat) cancer
  • Get the vaccine! There are two vaccines for HPV, and getting one can lower your chance of getting the virus.
  • Gardasil:
    • You can get this vaccine if you are 9-26 years old
    • Prevents the following types of HPV:
      • Types 16 and 18 which cause cervical cancer
      • Types 6 and 11 which cause genital warts
    • Works best in women who have not yet come in contact with the virus
    • You getthree shots over six months
    • Who is it recommended for?:
      • Females: All 11 and 12 year olds during routine vaccinations and everyone up to 26 year olds who haven't gotten the vaccine yet
      • Males: 11-21 year olds for preventing HPV types 6 and 11
  • Cervarix:
    • You can get this vaccine if you are 10-25 years old
    • Prevents the following types of HPV:
      • Types 16 and 18
      • You get three shots over six months

How can I keep from spreading it?

  • If you notice warts or unusual bumps on your genitals, don't have sex until you get tested and talk to a doctor about when it's ok to have sex again.
  • Use a condom EVERY TIME you have vaginal, anal or oral sex. Condoms aren't 100 percent effective at preventing HPV because the virus can live on body parts that aren't covered by a condom, but it lowers your chance of getting it.
  • Remember, you can still spread HPV even if you don't have symptoms.

How do I get tested for it?

  • There is no screening test just for HPV.
  • For women, your doctor will use results of a test called a Pap smear to monitor if there are abnormal changes in your cervix. These changes are a sign of an HPV infection.
  • If you think you have genital warts, your doctor will use a bright light to look at them and decide if they are caused by an HPV infection.

How often should I get tested?

  • If you think you have genital warts, or that you have been exposed to HPV, make an appointment with a doctor.
  • Most women should start getting Pap tests when they turn 21. The results of these pap tests will help your doctor monitor changes in your cervix that can be caused by certain types of HPV.
Syphilis

Syphilis

What is it?

  • The bacteria that causes syphilis is caused by a very small organism called a spirochete.
  • Syphilis affects both men and women.
  • Syphilis usually starts by causing painless sores, called chancres, or rashes on your skin. Over time syphilis can become a more serious and dangerous infection.

How common is it?

  • As of 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that more than 46,000 people in the United States are infected with syphilis.
  • There are more than 13,000 new cases of syphilis reported each year in the United States.
  • Reporting 134 new cases of syphilis in 2010, Washington, DC, has higher rates of this disease than any state in the United States.
  • Young people between the ages of 15-24 reported higher rates of syphilis than any other age group in 2011.

Who is most likely to get it?

  • You are more likely to get syphilis if:
    • You are having sex with more than one person
    • The person/people you are having sex with are having sex with other people
    • You don't use condoms
    • Are a man who has sex with other men
  • The biggest increase in reported cases of syphilis between 2004 and 2008 was in young people 15-24 years old

How do you get it?

  • Syphilis is spread through skin-to-skin contact
  • You can get syphilis from the following:
    • Any type of sex;vaginal, anal, or oral
    • Kissing, touching, or other direct contact with a syphilis sore or rash
  • Syphilis can be passed from a mother to a baby before birth

How do I know if I have it?

  • You can be infected with syphilis and not have any symptoms. Remember, you can still give syphilis to other people, even if you have no symptoms.
  • Early symptoms are very similar to other types of diseases or may be so mild that you don't even notice them.
  • There are four stages of syphilis symptoms:
    • Stage One - Primary:
      • You may notice a sore, called a chancre, which does not hurt or feel uncomfortable but is firm and round
      • The sore will show up anywhere from 9-90 days after you are infected. The average time for the sore to show up is 21 days.
      • The sore will show up where the bacteria entered your body, which is usually on the penis, anus/butt, vulva (the area around your vagina), mouth, lips, or hand.
      • The sore can heal on its own within three to six weeks, but you still need to be treated and can still infect other people.
  • Stage Two - Secondary:
    • If you don't get treated, flu-like symptoms can develop between three weeks and six months after infection.
    • You can also get a rash on the palms of your hands, soles of your feet, or your groin area, which are usually brown sores about the size of a penny. The rash might also show up over your whole body.
    • Other symptoms during this stage can include:
      • Fever
      • Headache
      • Sore throat
      • Swollen glands
      • Patchy hair loss
      • Aching muscles
      • Pain in your joints
      • Sores in your mouth
      • Feeling tired
      • Lumps, warts, or sore in moist areas of your body
    • Syphilis bacteria live in the rashes that show up on your body and you can spread the infection to other people through any physical contact with the rashes, even if it's not sexual
    • The rashes usually go away within two to six weeks, even without treatment. However, you still need to be treated to prevent spreading the infection to other people and to prevent more serious health problems.
  • Stage Three - Latent:
    • Stage Three happens when you don't treat syphilis and the symptoms you had seem to have gone away. The infection is now latent, or "hidden," and you can stay in this stage for many years.
  • Stage Four - Tertiary:
    • Some people get tertiary, or late syphilis. This is when the bacteria can cause serious health problems, including damage to your heart, eyes, brain, nervous system, joints, or other parts of your body.
    • This stage can begin anywhere from 10-30 years after you become infected
    • Tertiary syphilis can cause:
      • Mental illness
      • Blindness
      • Heart disease
      • Brain damage
      • Paralysis

Can it be treated? How do I get rid of it?

  • YES.You can treat and cure syphilis with antibiotics prescribed by a doctor.
  • Syphilis is usually treated with a shot of penicillin, but other antibiotics can be used if you're allergic to this medication.
  • You might get a small fever, headache, or the sore(s) on your body might swell after you get the antibiotic. This usually is not serious, but see a doctor if you are in pain or it does not get better.
  • You will need to continue to follow up with your doctor for about a year to make sure your treatment worked.
  • To make sure syphilis is cured and you don't pass it on to your partner, don't have sex until you have taken the antibiotics and your doctor says it's ok.
  • Your partner might be infected and not know it, since sores can be hidden in the vagina, rectum, or mouth, or might be so small that you can't see them. Also, some people don't get any symptoms. Encourage your partner(s) to get tested and treated at the same time as you, so you don't re-infect each other.
  • Get treated as early as possible to prevent serious health problems.
  • The first step to getting rid of syphilis is to see a doctor and get tested.

What can happen if I don't get treatment?

  • Syphilis that is not treated can be very dangerous to your health. After many years, the bacteria can damage your eyes, heart, brain, and/or bones and this damage cannot be undone.
  • You can infect other people with syphilis, even if your symptoms are mild or you don't notice any symptoms.
  • You are two to five times more likely to get HIV if you have syphilis and are exposed to HIV because the sores caused by syphilis make it easier for HIV to infect your body.

How can I keep from getting it?

  • The only 100 percent effective way to prevent syphilis is to not have sex
  • If you have sex, use a condom every time you have any type of sex and get tested regularly.
    • Condoms may reduce the risk of giving or getting syphilis, but since you can also get it just by touching the syphilis sores, and the sores can be in areas not covered by a condom, this method is not 100 percent effective.
  • Ask your partner(s) to get tested before you start having sex. You can get syphilis again, even if you have been treated for it in the past.
  • Only have sex with a partner who has tested negative for syphilis and is not having sex with anyone else.

How can I keep from spreading it?

  • If you think you might have syphilis, don't have sex until you get tested and treated.
  • Get tested regularly. You can still spread syphilis even if you don't have symptoms or they go away.
  • Use a condom EVERY TIME you have vaginal, anal or oral sex
  • If you test positive for syphilis:
    • Don't have sex until you've finished your medicine and your doctor says it's ok.
    • Tell all of your current and past partners that you have it, since they could have it too. Remember, untreated syphilis can be dangerous to your health, so anyone who might be infected should get tested and treated.
      It can be difficult to start a conversation with your current or past partner(s) about STIs, but with such serious health consequences, wouldn't you want someone to tell you? If you are having a hard time talking to your partner(s) about this, your doctor can help you find another way to inform them that they may have been exposed.
    • After you have finished treatment, go to all of your follow-up appointments to make sure the infection is gone and you are healthy. The doctor who treats your infection will tell you how long you need to continue to follow-up.

How do I get tested for it?

  • A doctor will give you a physical exam to look for sores or other symptoms. If you have any sores, the doctor will take some fluid from the sore to look at under a microscope.
  • The doctor might also test some of your blood, especially if you don't have any sores or other symptoms.
  • You can get tested at places like family planning centers, private doctors' offices, STI clinics, hospital clinics, or health departments. Before you make an appointment, make sure you can get tested for syphilis at that location.
  • Find a place to get tested from our list of testing locations.

How often should I get tested?

  • If you think you have syphilis, or think you have been exposed to syphilis, talk to a doctor about getting tested.
  • If you are pregnant, you should get tested at your first prenatal visit and again when you give birth. If your doctor thinks you are at higher risk for getting syphilis, they might recommend that you get tested during your third trimester as well.
Trichomonas

Trichomonas

What is it?

  • It's a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a parasite, called a trichomonad.
  • Also known as trichomoniasis, or "trich" (pronounced like "trick").
  • Both men and women can get it.
  • Trich most often infects the vagina, urethra (the tube that urine passes through), and vulva (the area outside and around the vagina) in women, and the urethra in men.

How common is it?

  • Trich is a very common STI and it's the most common curable STI in young, sexually active women.
  • Approximately 3.7 million people in the United States are infected.
  • In 2007, there were over 7.5 million estimated new cases of trich in the United States, but not all of these cases are diagnosed and treated.

Who is most likely to get it?

  • You are more likely to get trich if:
    • You are having sex with more than one person.
    • The person/people you are having sex with are having sex with other people.
    • You don't use condoms.
  • Trich is the most common curable STI in young women, but that might not mean that young women are more likely to get it than other people. It might mean that young women are more likely to have symptoms or more likely to get tested.

How do you get it?

  • Unprotected or under-protected sex. This means having sex without using condoms or using a condom, but the condom breaks, slips off, or you don't use it the entire time.
  • You get trich by coming in contact with the body fluids of an infected person during vaginal or anal sex.
  • Women are often infected by male partners who don't know they have trich because they don't have any symptoms. This is why it's important to use condoms during sex, even if the other person doesn't think they have an STI.
  • You cannot get it from toilet seats.

How do I know if I have it?

  • Only about 30 percent of people infected with trich ever have any symptoms.
    • Men rarely have symptoms, but the parasite still lives and multiplies in their bodies, and they can still infect their partners.
  • Many people infected with trich have NO SYMPTOMS; the only way to know for sure is to GET TESTED.
  • If you do get symptoms, they might not begin until days or even months after you are infected, but you can still spread trich to your partner(s) during this time.
  • For women:
    • You may or may not get symptoms. If you do get symptoms, they can include:
      • Yellow, gray or green discharge or liquid from your vagina. The discharge or liquid might smell foul or fishy.
      • Burning, itchiness, soreness, or redness in or around your vagina
      • Pain or burning when you pee
      • Pain or bleeding during sex
  • For men:
    • Men usually don't have symptoms, but the parasite still lives and multiplies in their bodies, and they can still infect their partner(s).
    • If your partner experiences any symptoms, it's important for her to let you know. It could mean that you have trich too, and will need to see a doctor for treatment.
    • If you do get symptoms, they can include:
      • Pain or burning during or after you pee
      • Burning after ejaculation
      • Itching or irritation in your penis - trich affects the urethra, the tube that urine passes through, and can cause the itching/irritation
      • Pain during sex

Can it be treated? How do I get rid of it?

  • YES. You can treat and cure trichomonas with antibiotics prescribed by a doctor.
  • The antibiotics usually prescribed to treat trich are metronidazole or tinidazole. Common names for these antibiotics are Flagyl and Tindamax.
  • It's normal for a doctor to prescribe the antibiotic in one single dose, and you need to take the whole dose for it to be most effective.
  • To make sure trich is cured and the you don't pass it on to your partner or become re-infected, don't have sex until you have taken all the antibiotics and your partner has been tested and treated if necessary.
  • Don't drink alcohol while you are taking medication for trich, or you may get sick and throw up. This could make the medication less effective.
  • Your partner(s) should also get tested and treated at the same time, so you don't re-infect each other. Remember, even if your partner doesn't have any symptoms, he or she can have trich and can still re-infect you.
  • The first step to getting rid of trich is to see a doctor and get tested.

What can happen if I don't get treatment?

  • You could pass it to your partner(s), even if you don't have symptoms when you have sex.
  • You could be more likely to get other STIs and/or HIV.
  • If you are pregnant, you are more likely to have your baby too early or have a baby that weighs less.

How can I keep from getting it?

  • The only 100 percent effective way to not get trich is to not have sex
  • If you have sex, use a condom every time you have sex and get tested regularly.
    • Since trich is passed through body fluids, using latex condoms during sex is the most effective way to lower your risk of getting trich.
  • Ask your partner(s) to get tested before you start having sex. You can get trich again, even if you have been treated for it in the past.
  • Only have sex with a partner who has tested negative for trich and is not having sex with anyone else.

How can I keep from spreading it?

  • If you think you might have trich, don't have sex until you get tested and treated.
  • Get tested regularly. You can still spread trich even if you don't have symptoms.
  • Use a condom EVERY TIME you have sex
  • If you test positive for trich:
    • Don't have sex until you've finished your medicine and your doctor says it's ok.
    • Tell all of your current and past partners that you have it, since they could have it too. Remember, many people don't get symptoms and may not know they have it, but they can still spread trich to other people and should be treated.

How do I get tested for it?

  • For women:
    • Your doctor will give you a physical exam and use a cotton swab to take a sample of your vaginal discharge
  • For men:
    • Doctors don't usually test for trich in men during your yearly or regular STI testing. If you are having symptoms and/or a partner tells you she has symptoms or tested positive for trich, be sure to let your doctor know.
    • A urine sample can be used to test for trich, or your doctor might use other special DNA tests .
  • You can get tested at places like family planning centers, private doctors' offices, STI clinics, hospital clinics or health departments.
  • Find a place to get tested from our list of testing locations.

How often should I get tested?

  • If you think you have trich, or you think you have been exposed to trich, talk to a doctor about getting tested.
  • It is important to continue to get tested regularly, even if you took all of your medicine and cured a past infection. You can get trich more than once, and may not have symptoms even if you had symptoms before.

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