What are they? How do you get them?
Sexually transmitted infections (“STIs”) are spread from one person to another through close contact or sexual activity. STIs are an infection caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites. STIs are also sometimes called STDs, or sexually transmitted diseases. A few of the most common are Human Papillomavirus (HPV), herpes, trichomoniasis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, hepatitis, and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).
How common are they?
According to the CDC, 1 in 2 sexually active people will contract an STI by age 25. HPV is one of the most common STIs—researchers estimate about 80% of sexually active adults will have an HPV infection at some point in their life. Herpes is also pretty common: about 1 in 2 young people in the U.S. carry the virus that causes oral herpes and 1 in 8 carry the virus that causes genital herpes.
How do you prevent them?
STIs can be prevented by correctly using a condom with every sexual encounter. External condoms, internal condoms, and dental dams are all great examples of methods that provide protection against STIs. It is important to note that methods like the pill, IUD, implant, shot, patch, and vaginal rings do not protect against STIs. You can prevent certain strains of Hepatitis and HPV by receiving the vaccines specifically targeted at these STIs. Finally, getting regularly tested and encouraging each new partner to do the same can help prevent transmission. The CDC recommends annual STI screening, or getting tested with each new sexual partner.
How do I get tested?
Getting tested is super easy! You can visit your primary care physician or gynecologist to get tested. Planned Parenthood, student health clinics, urgent care clinics, and other health clinics also provide confidential testing.
How much will testing cost?
Getting tested probably won’t cost you much either. Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), most insurance plans are now required to cover STI screening. Otherwise, Planned Parenthood or other health clinics may provide free or low-cost STI testing, depending on your income.
Is testing painful?
STI testing is also fairly painless. It usually involves a urine sample, swab of your mouth, blood draw, or swab of your cervix.
How are they treated?
Most STIs can be cured completely with a simple course of medication. STIs such as herpes and HIV can’t be cured completely, but symptoms can be managed with medications. HPV infections will likely resolve on their own. Pre-cancerous cells caused by a lingering HPV infection can be caught early with regular pap smears and removed with certain procedures.
Remember! It is extremely important to get tested regularly and treated quickly. Many STIs can cause long term complications (infertility, certain cancers, and problems with pregnancy) if they are not treated early!
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