Sexually Transmitted Infections

What do I have?

A sexually transmitted infection (STI) is an infection caused by bacteria, a virus, or a parasite. STI’s are transmitted from one person to another through sexual contact: kissing, oral-genital contact, and anal or vaginal sexual intercourse.

One in four college students today has some kind of sexually transmitted infection. According to the CDC, 19 million new cases of STI’s occur every year, half of them occur among 15-24 year- olds.

STI’s vs STD’s--what’s the difference?

The terms STI (sexual transmitted infection) and STD (sexual transmitted disease) are often used interchangeably, but they actually refer to two different things. The term disease implies visual symptoms, but many people infected with an STI have no symptoms. Additionally, STD’s result from damage caused by STI’s. Thus, all STD’s are preceded by STI’s, but not all STI’s progress to STD’s. For example, about 90% of women infected with HPV (human papilloma virus) clear the infection within 2 years. However, 10% of women develop a chronic infection, which would be referred to as an STD. Untreated STIs can lead to serious problems such as pelvic inflammatory disease. Also, having an STI increases the risk of contracting HIV.

Signs and Symptoms

You may not notice any changes in your body when you have an STI. Sometimes the symptoms are easy to miss and they may last only a short time. Many STI’s have no symptoms at all. But, even when you don’t notice any symptoms, you can still pass an STI to a sexual partner. You can click here to view the “STI’s at a Glance” chart that has information on symptoms, tests, and treatments. Remember, the only way to know for sure is to get tested!

If you are sexually active, it is recommended that you are tested for STI’s every 12 months. Additionally, you should be tested:

  • every time you have a new sexual partner
  • if you notice any changes in your body
  • if you had sex with someone who has had an STI
  • if you have had sex without a condom

Common symptoms:

  • Discharge from penis
  • Changes in vaginal discharge
  • Bumps, sores or a rash on the genital area (penis, vagina or anus)
  • Blood in the urine
  • Burning or unusual feeling when urinating
  • Pain in the pelvis or testicles
  • Pain during sexual activity and intercourse

 

What do I do?

Prevention:
Practicing safer sex is a good way to lower your chances of getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI), or passing one on to a partner. However, it is important to remember that using safe sex practices is not 100% effective at preventing STI’s. And it is still important to get routine STI screenings.

Ways you can lower the chances of STIs:

  • Get tested: It’s important to get tested to know if you have an STI and get medications if needed. It is recommended that you get tested every 12 months, or when you have a new sexual partner.
  • Know your options: Some ways of having sex have a lower risk of passing on STIs than others. For example, anal sex has a high risk of contracting an STI, as does vaginal sex for both partners (although the risk is greater for females). Both giving and receiving oral sex has the lowest risk of contracting an STI, although it is still very possible. Know the risk related to sexual activities and the likelihood of contracting or transmitting an STI.
  • Talk with partners: Before getting involved in any sexual activities, talk to your partner about what you are comfortable with. Also discuss your concerns, values, and STI prevention. Be sure to maintain open communication and respect each other’s boundaries.
  • Use protection: Using a new condom every time you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex is the best way to prevent STI’s. Because many STI’s are passed by skin-to-skin contact, using a condom can help prevent STI transmission.

Some other things to consider:

  • If you are being treated for an STI, wait until both you and your partners have finished the medication before you have vaginal, oral, or anal sex.
  • Get vaccinated for Hepatitis B and HPV.
  • Using drugs or alcohol can affect your decision-making, and can make you more susceptible to being pushed past your sexual boundaries.

Treatment

There are resources both off and on campus for STI testing. To find off-campus locations for HIV and STI testing visit the National HIV and STI Testing Resources website.

To make an appointment:

Student Health Center
Darnall Hall Ground Floor
To make an appt: (202) 687-2200
After hours clinician on-call: (202) 444-7243
 

If you have just found out that you have a sexually transmitted infection (STI), you are not alone. STIs are common infections and anyone who is sexually active may get an STI at some point in his or her life. After finding out that you have an STI, it is common to have questions. Talk to your healthcare provider or call the STI hotline (1-877-926-0075) to get reliable answers and support.

Many STIs are easily treated and cured with medication. In these cases, the infection is resolved with a full cycle of medical treatment. Practicing safe sex will lower the chances of getting the same or another STI in the future.

Other STIs (ones that are caused by viruses) are not curable but their symptoms can be treated. Medications are used to manage symptoms and help to reduce the amount of virus in the body.

Telling your Partners

While informing your sexual partners that you have been diagnosed with an STI may be a difficult experience, it is one of the most important first steps you need to take after being diagnosed. You need to tell all your sexual partners--past, present and future-- as their health is at risk. Look here for tips and advice on the best way to inform your partners.

Your Partner has an STI

What does this mean for you? Your partner just told you that they have an STI. It's normal to have a lot of questions, feelings, and concerns about what this means for you. Some things you can do for yourself and your partner:

  • Get the facts about the STI, how it is transmitted and prevented.
  • Visit a healthcare professional to get tested for the STI and treatment, if needed.
  • Thank your partner for being honest with you even if you are upset by the news.
  • If you choose to continue to have sex with your partner, be sure to practice safe sex.

Additional Resources

  • Additional STI & Sex Information: http://smartsexresource.com
  • American Sexual Health Association’s STI Hotline: 1-919-361-8488- Available Mon-Fri, 9:00 am to 8:00 pm. Provides anonymous, confidential information on STIs and how to prevent them. Also, provides referrals to clinical and other services.