Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
A sexually transmitted infection (STI) is an infection caused by bacteria, a virus, or a parasite transmitted from person to person through sexual contact (kissing, oral-genital contact, and anal or vaginal sexual intercourse).
Many STIs do not manifest with any symptoms, and you may not notice any changes in your body at all after contracting an STI. STIs can still be passed between sexual partners, however, even without noticeable symptoms. The only way to know for sure if you have an STI is to get tested. This STIs At A Glance chart has more information about specific STIs.
Common symptoms of STIs can include: penile discharge, changes in vaginal discharge, bumps/sores/rashes on the genital area, blood in urine, burning/unusual feelings while urinating, pain in pelvis or testicles, pain during sexual activity/intercourse.
Practicing safe sex is the best way to lower the chances of contracting an STI or passing one on to a partner, but even using safe sex practices is not 100% effective. It is always important to get routine STI screenings. These screenings are recommended every 12 months for sexually active individuals. You should also be tested whenever you have a new sexual partner, if you notice any changes in your body, if you’ve engaged in sexual activity with someone with a known STI, and/or if you’ve engaged in sexual activity without protection.
To lower your chances of STIs:
- Get tested — getting tested every twelve months and when you have a new sexual partner will help you understand your circumstances and get any necessary medications.
- Know your options — know the risks related to certain sexual activities and the likelihood of contracting of transmitting an STIs since some ways of having sex have a lower risk of contraction and transmission; oral sex, for example, has a lower risk of transmission compared to both anal and vaginal sex.
- Talk openly with your partners — before engaging in sexual activities talk with your partner about your comfort level, your concerns, values, and STI prevention; it’s important to maintain open communication and respect boundaries. Even though it might be difficult, it’s important to inform your partner (as well as past sexual partners) if you’ve been diagnosed with an STI.
- Use protection — because many STIs are passed by skin-to-skin contact, using a condom every time you have vaginal, oral, or anal sex is the best way to prevent the transmission of STIs.
Make sure to be vaccinated for Hepatitis B and HPV.
Many STIs are easily treated and cured with medication, the infection resolving with a full round of medical treatment. If you are being treated for an STI, wait until both you and/or your partner(s) have finished medication cycles before engaging in sexual activity. STIs caused by viruses cannot be cured with medication but their symptoms can be managed.
If your partner has an STI, understand how the particular infection is transmitted and prevented, and visit a healthcare professional to be tested and receive treatment if needed. Make sure to thank your partner for their honesty. If you choose to continue to engage in sexual activity with your partner, practice safe sex to reduce the risks of future transmission.
For even more information about STIs, visit the Student Health Center’s page of STI FAQs and resources.