What are sexually transmitted infections?

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are a family of diseases that people acquire through sexual contact with people who are already infected. Some examples of STIs are: chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis B, HIV, syphilis, and the human papillomavirus (HPV). STIs cause a variety of illnesses, including genital skin lesions, painful urination, and systemic diseases such as AIDS.

How do I avoid STIs?

The method of transmission can change depending on the STI, but they are generally passed through unprotected sexual activity. Abstaining form any type of sexual activity is the most reliable way to avoid infection with an STI.

For those who are sexually active, there are many ways to reduce the risk of STI transmission. Male latex condoms are highly effective at reducing STI transmission, in addition to preventing unintentional pregnancy. In order to be fully effective, male condoms must be worn correctly and used for all types of sexual intercourse – anal, vaginal, and oral.

There are also vaccines for two different STIs: hepatitis B and HPV. Ideally, these vaccines should be given before and boy or girl becomes sexually active. Hepatitis B and HPV are both capable of causing cancer, so vaccination against these STIs is especially important.

What should I do if I think I have an STI?

Contact your doctor immediately. In most cases, your doctor will be able to order and quick test to allow him or her to diagnose and treat your STI. By treating the STI early on you may prevent future complications. Also, the best way for you to avoid transmitting an STI to somebody else is to know whether or not you are infected.