A Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) spreads from person to person through sexual contact. Anyone who's sexually active is at risk of getting an STI, but there are ways to lower your risk.
What are the common symptoms of an STI?
If you have any of these symptoms, go see a doctor:
- Sores on or around your genitals.
- A rash spreading all over your body.
- Discharge from your vagina or penis.
- A burning feeling when peeing.
- Itchiness in your genital area.
Most STIs don't have any symptoms, so before and after you have sex with someone new, get yourself tested!
I think I have something. What should I do?
Go to the doctor and get tested. You can go to any clinic and get tested for free.
If the test results come back positive that you have an STI:
- Start treatment right away.
- Write down the names of all the people you've had sexual contact with. Remember you can get an STI without penetration!
- Tell those people what you have, what the treatment is, and encourage them to get tested.
- Finish your prescription. You might feel better before your prescription runs out, but the infection is still in you.
How can I make sure I don't get an STI?
There's only one way to avoid getting an STI: no sexual activity. If you're going to engage in sexual activities here are some tips for minimizing the risk:
- Use barriers for all oral, vaginal, or anal sex. Barriers include condoms, dental dams, and gloves.
- Get tested and make sure your partner has been tested before becoming sexually intimate.
- Get a full round of STI testing three to six months into every new relationship. Keep getting tested once a year.
- Follow some or all of these lifestyle guidelines:
- Try sex that doesn't involve exchanging sexual fluids: kissing or making out, feeling up or massaging, clothed/dry sex, mutual or solo masturbation, sanitized sex toys, phone or cyber sex.
- Delay sexual activity for a year or more into a relationship, or at least until you both have test results.
- Be thoughtful and selective when choosing partners. Avoid those who pose the highest risks, like people you don't know or people who won't use barriers.
- Stay healthy. When you're in good health, your immune system is powerful and does the best job fighting off infection.
- Don't overdo sex. Having frequent sex is tough on genitals and can create tiny cuts or wounds, making it easier to get an STI.
- Avoid recreational drugs and alcohol. When you've been drinking or if you're high you are more likely to make riskier decisions.
Watch and learn how to get tested for STIs: