Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are a prevalent yet often stigmatized health issue that affects millions of individuals worldwide. Despite advances in modern medicine, misconceptions and misinformation surrounding STIs persist, contributing to the continued spread of these infections. To empower individuals with the knowledge needed to protect their sexual health, we hope to address STI risk factors and symptoms, and provide strategies for prevention and treatment. 

STI Risk Factors and Prevention 

The CDC estimates that about 20% of the American population – approximately 1 in 5 people – has an STI. As the name suggests, STIs are spread sexually via bodily fluids, such as, but not limited to, blood, semen, and saliva. STIs can also be transferred through shared needles and, in some cases, to infants during childbirth. 

STIs are typically caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites, and are treated accordingly. Unsafe sex practices and having many sexual partners are the biggest risk factors for STIs. The greatest prevention against transmission includes safe sex practices, such as using a condom or being vaccinated against diseases such as HPV. Reducing the number of sexual partners and/or frequent testing and open communication with partners has also been shown to significantly reduce rates of transmission.

STI Symptoms and Diagnosis 

In addition to a lack of awareness, STIs are sometimes easily spread due to a lack of symptoms. Often STIs go unnoticed until someone’s recent partner experiences complications and is diagnosed. Some of these symptoms and complications may include:

  • Painful urination
  • Abnormal discharge from the penis or vagina
  • Unusual vaginal bleeding
  • Pain during sex
  • Sores or bumps on the genitals, oral or rectal areas

If you or a recent partner are experiencing any changes in your reproductive health, make sure to see your provider for appropriate testing and treatment. STI testing is often quick and painless, involving a combination of physical examination and collection of oral, blood, and urine samples. Depending on your results, your provider will help determine an appropriate treatment plan.

STI Treatment

Depending on the type of STI, treatment will vary. Typically, your doctor will take one of the following courses of action:

  • Bacterial and parasitic STIs such as gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, and pubic lice (crabs) are typically cured after a regimen of antibiotics
  • Viral STIs such as HIV and herpes cannot be cured but can be kept in check with antiviral drugs

Depending on your situation, your doctor will determine an appropriate treatment plan for you. 

Reaching Out

Open and honest communication about sexual health with partners is key to preventing STIs. Discussing STI testing, history, and prevention methods can help establish trust and foster a supportive environment for mutual protection. Additionally, destigmatizing conversations about STIs encourages individuals to seek testing and treatment without fear of judgment. If you would like to learn more about the state of your sexual health, do not hesitate to reach out and schedule a consultation with PGOMG today.