Sexually Transmitted Infections
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), also referred to as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), include the various infections spread through sexual contact involving the penis, vagina, mouth or anus. Some STIs are more communicable than others and some cannot be cured, but all can be transmitted even if a person has no detectable symptoms.
You may get some STIs more than once, because you usually don’t become immune. You may also have more than one STI at the same time. Unfortunately, one STI may mask another that poses a more serious health problem. For example, a woman may have vaginitis and chlamydia, but only be aware of the vaginitis because chlamydia symptoms are less noticeable.
If you’re exposed to one STI, tests for other common STIs should be done as well.
The best way to prevent STIs is to abstain from sexual contact of any kind with another person. If you choose to be sexually active, be smart. Stay healthy, be responsible, communicate with your partners and practice safer sex.
The likelihood of an STI greatly increases with the number of partners a person has. However, people can contract an STI from having just one sexual encounter without taking precautions. The bacteria, parasites and viruses that cause STIs can spread through the exchange of bodily fluids or through skin-to-skin contact between the genitals, mouth or anus. Always take these precautions:
Prevent skin-to-skin contact and exchanging semen, vaginal secretions and blood. Use a latex condom, Reality condom or latex shield every time you have sex. Remember that condoms only protect areas they cover; infections like herpes, warts and molluscum, which spread through skin-to-skin contact, may not be preventable by using a condom.
Know your partner and their sexual history. Your risk of getting an STI increases with the number of sexual partners either of you have had.
Communicate honestly and openly, including sharing information about your sexual or medical history. If you learn you have an STI, inform your partners so they can be evaluated and be treated.
- Examine yourself periodically, especially if you notice something on or around your genitals, mouth or anus. Refrain from all sexual activity (masturbation is still okay) until you are evaluated and/or treated.
Drugs and alcohol impair your judgment and fine motor skills, and affect your immune system, making you more susceptible to infections. Being high reduces a person’s ability to take correct precautions to prevent STIs or pregnancy.