Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) Prevention
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believe there are millions of new STI cases in the United States each year. Anyone who has sex can get a STI, and some groups are more affected by STIs than others. These groups include: youth and young adults; persons who are pregnant and infants; gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men; and persons of racial and ethnic minorities. The GOOD news is STIs can be prevented.
What is a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) and how does a person get one?
A STI is an infection in the body caused by a bacteria, parasite or virus.
The most common STIs include:
- Bacterial Vaginosis,
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease - PID (caused by chlamydia and/or gonorrhea),
- Hepatitis (A, B and C),
- Human papillomavirus (HPV),
- Syphilis, and
- Trichomoniasis (Trich).
All of these STIs can be passed person to person during sex (anal, vaginal, oral), and some can be passed when a person shares drug injection tools (needles/syringes), such as HIV and Hepatitis B and C.
What are the signs of a STI infection?
Most of the time there are no signs of a STI. Many symptoms can show up weeks or months after getting the STI, and half of all persons with a STI will not have signs they notice. When there are signs of STIs, they will most often show in the these ways:
For all persons:
- Swelling in the groin area, sores (painless or painful), bumps, blisters, warts in or near the sex organs, mouth, or anus (or any body part possibly exposed to a STI),
- Burning or pain when urinating (peeing) or having a bowel movement, and
- A rash that may not itch (may be on the torso, palms of hands and bottoms of feet only).
For persons with female sex organs:
- Burning or itching around the vulva or vagina,
- Vaginal discharge (different than usual),
- Bleeding from the vagina (not during their period), and
- Pain in the pelvic area or pain during sex.
For persons with male sex organs:
- Discharge from the penis or pain/burning when urinating (peeing)
Know your body, and if something is not "normal" for you, see a healthcare provider to be tested and treated, if needed.
What can happen if a person gets a STI, but does not get treated?
Some STIs are easily treated/cured and some stay with you for life.
The STIs that can be cured are caused by bacteria and are: bacterial vaginosis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and trichomoniasis, also known as Trich (is caused by a parasite).
The STIs that stay with you for life, yet can be managed with medicine are: herpes, HPV, HIV and hepatitis A and B. (hepatitis C is curable)
There are some serious health problems which can be caused by STIs. These include:
- Not being able to have children (known as infertility),
- Pregnancy outside of the uterus in the fallopian tubes (known as an ectopic, or tubal, pregnancy, and can cause death if not known),
- Cancers of the cervix, vulva, penis, anus, and throat (linked to anal, vaginal and oral sex),
- Newborn deaths or life long problems due to getting an STI during the pregnancy, during birth,or from breastfeeding,
- Loss of child during pregnancy (known as a miscarriage),
- Increased chance of getting HIV, and
- In some of the worst cases, blindness, brain damage, and death.
How does a person keep from getting a STI?
The only sure way to keep from getting a STI is to not have sex (anal, vaginal, oral) or share needles/syringes.
When you decide to have sex, these ideas can help you take care of yourself and your sex partner(s).
- Use a condom every time you have sex, and use it the right way. (You can use an external or internal condom.)
- Use an external condoms or dental dam for oral sex.
- Have fewer sex partners. For example, instead of having 3 sex partners have 2 sex partners.
- Get the vaccines that prevent some of these STIs (HPV - cancer prevention, hepatitis A and B).
- Talk with your sex partner(s) about staying healthy. This can even mean getting tested together before having sex, and yearly.
- Get tested, because many of the STIs do not have signs. Being tested is the only way to know for sure.
- If you have a positive test result, begin the treatment for the STI and wait to have sex until both you and your sex partner(s) have finished the medicine, any symptoms (signs) go away, or the healthcare provider says you can.
You can go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website and view vaccine schedules for children/youth and adults. These will show when a person can get the HPV and hepatitis vaccines as stated above.
Where can I send someone who needs free or low cost testing and/or treatment for a STI?
For testing services, people should see their healthcare provider, visit a local community health center, or one of the DPHS Partner Agencies who offer STI testing and treatment.
- Manchester Health Department - 603-624-6466
- Nashua Health Department - To reserve a date and time, call 603-589-4500, option 2.
In an emergency, clients need to go directly to the nearest urgent care center or hospital ER.
Top Banner - CDC (2021). Sexually Transmitted Infections Prevalence, Incidence, and Cost Estimates in the United States. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/std/statistics/prevalence-2020-at-a-glance.htm