Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are passed from person to person through unprotected sexual activity. STIs are also referred to as STDs, or Sexually Transmitted Diseases. Some groups of people in Ohio are at higher risk for STIs than others because of many factors.

STIs are separated into 3 main categories:

  • Parasitic (ex. Public Lice, Scabies, Trichomoniasis, Candidasis/Yeast Infections)
  • Bacterial (ex. Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, Syphilis, Tuberculosis)
  • Viral (ex. Hepatitis, HIV, HPV, Herpes)

Each of these groups vary depending on where they are in/on the body, ease of treatment, and complications. This page will give you basic information about STIs.

 

 

  • STI FAQs

    • How can I get an STI?

      STIs are typically spread through the following ways:

      • Unprotected oral, vaginal, or anal sex with someone who has an STI.
      • Contact with infected blood (sharing needles, open wounds).
      • Skin-to-skin contact in some cases (such as HPV).
      • From labor or breastfeeding (mother to child).
    • What are the Symptoms of STIs?

      Many STIs often have no symptoms at all, which is called being asymptomatic. When a person does have symptoms, they may experience:

      • Discomfort
      • Itching
      • Burning
      • Discharge
      • Rash/Redness
      • Odor
      • Painful urination

      Each person is unique, and STIs may have different levels and types of symptoms for different people. Since it’s difficult to know if you have an STI, getting tested regularly is important.

    • Do STIs only affect my genitals

      No. It’s common to see STIs appear in the throat, eyes, and anal areas, in addition to the genitals as well. Some STIs, like Syphilis and Hepatitis, will affect a person’s whole body.

    • Can STIs be harmful to my health?

      Yes. Each STI can cause different health problems for both men and women. However, most STIs can easily be treated or managed if they are detected early — with no long-term health problems.
      If left untreated, some STIs can cause:

      • Infertility or Fertility Problems
      • Pregnancy Complications
      • Organ Damage
      • Cancer
      • Death
    • How can I get tested for a STI

      Getting tested for an STI can be easy and convenient. Depending on which STIs you are being tested for and where the infection may be, tests can be a:

      • Urine sample
      • Oral fluid sample
      • Blood sample (finger prick or needle draw)
      • Swab (fluid, cell swab)

      Please visit the Testing Basics page for more information about cost, location, etc. of STI/HIV testing.

    • How can I prevent a STI?

      The only way to never get an STI is to abstain from all sexual contact. If you are sexually active, some ways you can practice safer sex and reduce your risk are to:

      • Use condoms (female and/or male).
      • Get tested (getting tested often catches infection early and reduces transmission).
      • Get vaccinated (there are vaccines for HPV and Hepatitis B).
        Wash your hands before and after sexual activity.
      • Limit your number of partners.
      • Do not douche.
      • Be monogamous.
    • Does birth control prevent STIs

      No. Only condoms are effective at preventing STIs. Birth control, like the pill, intrauterine device (IUD), cervical cap, and the arm implant do not prevent the transmission of STIs. For more information about birth control, visit the Birth Control Basics.

    • Does PrEP prevent STIs

      No. PrEP only prevents the transmission of HIV. A person can still get an STI while on PrEP, which is why it’s important to continue to use condoms with all sexual activity.

      For more general information about STIs, please visit:

      CDC
      Medline Plus

  • Parasitic Infections

    Parasitic infections are typically easily treatable and have little to no long term complications. They also are often confined to one area of the body. Parasite are organisms (ex. public lice) that lives on or in a host (ex. a person) and gets its food from or at the expense of its host.

    • Trichomoniasis

      What is it?

      Trichomoniasis is a common STI that is caused by infection with a parasite. Trichomoniasis affects both men and women and is passed from person to person during sex. You can only get infected by having sex with someone who is infected.

      What are the symptoms?

      Most infected people do not have any symptoms. For individuals that do have symptoms, they may experience itching, burning, irritation, redness or discomfort in the genital area. Pain during urination or sexual activity and unusual discharge/smells are common.

      How do I get tested?

      Your healthcare provider may perform a physical exam and look at symptoms (rash, discharge, sores, bumps, etc.) which are present. During this physical exam, swabs of sores, discharge, and infected tissue may be performed to look for the presence of bacteria or viruses. Sometimes treatment is prescribed right away. Other times, your health care provider may need to send a sample to a lab to be tested. The results may not be available for several days. Check with your health care provider when getting tested to see what the wait time is for results.

      Is there treatment?

      Yes, Trichomoniasis can be cured with antibiotics. However, people who have been treated can be infected again if they are exposed.

      For more information, please visit:
      http://cdc.gov/std/trichomonas/default.htm

    • Pubic Lice

      What is it?

      Public lice are tiny insects that attach themselves to the skin and hair in the pubic area. Pubic lice is also often referred to as ‘crabs’.

      What are the symptoms?

      Not everyone experiences symptoms of public lice, but when they do, symptoms may include:
      Itching
      Mild fever
      Redness
      Presence of small, dandruff looking spots in pubic hair

      How do I get tested?

      Typically people are able to diagnose themselves, but a healthcare provider can also help.

      Is there treatment?

      Yes. Public lice can easily be treated with over-the-counter medication like A-200, RID, and Nix. It may take several applications to fully work. Be aware the shaving and hot baths do not work. Public lice has the ability to hide in the hair follicle pore and remain on the skin. All bedding, towels, and clothing should be thoroughly washed and your home vacuumed.

      For more information, please visit:
      http://cdc.gov/parasites/lice/pubic/index.html

    • Scabies

      What is it?

      Scabies is a skin infection by a human itch mite. The microscopic mite hides under the upper layer of skin and is known to be problematic in cities and crowded places.

      What are the symptoms?

      Not everyone experiences symptoms of public lice, but when they do, symptoms may include:

      • Itching
      • Redness
      • Rash
      • Dryness
      • Skin sores

      Scabies symptoms will typically appear, but are not limited to, in/around: wrists, elbows, armpits, between the fingers, nipples, genitals, waist, and buttox.

      How do I get tested?

      Typically people diagnose themselves, but healthcare provider needs to confirm to provide a prescription. This includes a visual inspection of the infected area.

      Is there treatment?

      Yes. Scabies can easily be treated with topical prescription medication. It may take several applications to fully work. Be aware the shaving and hot baths do not work. All bedding, towels, and clothing should be thoroughly washed and your home vacuumed.

      For more information, please visit:
      http://cdc.gov/parasites/scabies/index.html

  • Bacterial Infections

    Bacterial infections are typically easily treatable and can have some moderate to severe long term complications. Depending on the infection, the STI may appear in one area of the body or affect a person’s entire system.

    • Gonorrhea

      What is it?

      Gonorrhea can infect both men and women. It can appear in the vagina, anus, and throat. It is a bacterial infection that can have long term complications, such as infertility, if left untreated.

      What are the symptoms?

      Not everyone experiences symptoms of Gonorrhea, but when they do, symptoms may include:

      • Burning sensation during urination
      • White, yellow, or green discharge from the infected area
      • Itching
      • Discomfort
      • In males, painful or swollen testicles
      • In females, vaginal bleeding between periods
      How do I get tested?

      Most of the time, only a urine sample is needed to test for Gonorrhea. However, if you had anal and/or oral sex, swabs may also be used to collect fluid samples from these areas. It is recommended that you call ahead to confirm a test site is able to administer swab tests.

      Is there treatment?

      Yes. Gonorrhea can be cured with prescription medication. It is important to take the medication as prescribed even if symptoms are no longer noticeable. It is also possible to be infected with Gonorrhea again if exposed.

      For more information, please visit:
      http://cdc.gov/std/Gonorrhea/

    • Chlamydia

      What is it?

      Chlamydia can infect both men and women. It can appear in the vagina, anus, and throat. It is a bacterial infection that can have long term complications, such as infertility, if left untreated.

      What are the symptoms?

      Not everyone experiences symptoms of Chlamydia, but when they do, symptoms may include:

      • Burning sensation during urination
      • White, yellow, or green discharge from the infected area
      • Discomfort
      • Bleeding
      • In males, painful or swollen testicles
      How do I get tested?

      Most of the time, only a urine sample is needed to test for Chlamydia. However, if you had anal and/or oral sex, swabs may also be used to collect fluid samples from these areas. It is recommended that you call ahead to confirm a test site is able to administer swab tests.

      Is there treatment?
      Yes. Chlamydia can be cured with prescription medication. It is important to take the medication as prescribed even if symptoms are no longer noticeable. It is also possible to be infected with Chlamydia again if exposed.

      For more information, please visit:
      http://cdc.gov/std/chlamydia/default.htm

    • Syphilis

      What is it?

      Syphilis can infect both men and women. Syphilis can be passed through oral, vaginal, and anal sex and will affect a person’s entire system. It is a bacterial infection that can be fatal if left untreated.

      What are the symptoms?

      Symptoms of syphilis depend on which stage of infection a person is in:

      Primary Syphilis

      The first sign of infection is a skin sore called a chancre, which is painless and usually appears one to three weeks after exposure. Common areas for a chancre to appear is on or around the area that was first infected, like: the mouth, vagina, penis, and anus. The chancre typically disappears after a few weeks even though someone is still infected with syphilis.

      Image: Primary stage syphilis sore (chancre) on the surface of a tongue. Credit: CDC, 2012

      Image: Primary stage syphilis sore (chancre) on the surface of a tongue. Credit: CDC, 2012

      Secondary Syphilis

      Secondary signs and symptoms of syphilis occur two to three weeks after infection and can overlap with the primary stage. A unique rash of raised red spots often appears on a person’s palms, bottom of their feet, and back. This rash is not itchy and causes little to no discomfort.

      Syphilis rash on palms. Credit: CDC, 2012

      Syphilis rash on palms. Credit: CDC, 2012

      Syphilis rash on bottom of feet. Credit: CDC, 2012

      Syphilis rash on bottom of feet. Credit: CDC, 2012

      Latent/Late Stage

      The latent stage of syphilis starts when all other symptoms have disappeared. If you did not receive treatment, you will continue to have syphilis is your system for years without any other signs. After ten to thirty years, it is possible for syphilis to cause paralysis, numbness, blindness, dementia, and become fatal.

      How do I get tested?

      A blood test is used to test for syphilis. It is recommended that you call ahead to confirm a test site is able to complete a Syphilis blood test.

      Is there treatment?

      Yes. Syphilis can be cured with prescription antibiotics from your healthcare provider. However, treatment will not undo any damage that the infection has already done.

      For more information, please visit:
      http://cdc.gov/std/syphilis/default.htm

    • TB / Tuberculosis

      What is it?

      Tuberculosis is a bacterial disease that can affect the lungs, kidneys, spines, and brain. If left untreated, Tuberculosis can be fatal.

      What are the symptoms?

      Symptoms of Tuberculosis depends on which part of the body is infected. If in the lungs, symptoms include:

      • Serious cough that last three weeks or longer
      • Pain in the chest
      • Coughing blood

      Other symptoms include:

      • Weakness or fatigue
      • Weight loss
      • Loss of appetite
      • Chills
      • Fever
      How do I get tested?

      Getting tested for Tuberculosis depends on the stage of infection. Tests may include a chest x-ray, blood test, or skin prick test. It is recommended that you call ahead to confirm a test site is able to complete a Tuberculosis test.

      Is there treatment?

      Yes. Tuberculosis can be cured with prescription antibiotics from your healthcare provider. However, treatment will not undo any damage that the infection has already done.

      For more information, please visit:
      http://cdc.gov/tb/

  • Viral Infections

    Viral infections are typically unable to be cured and can have some moderate to severe long term complications. Depending on the infection, the STI may appear in one area of the body or affect a person’s entire system.

    • Hepatitis

      What is it?

      Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver due to a viral infection. The most common types of Hepatitis are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C. To protect yourself against Hepatitis, vaccinations are available.

      What are the symptoms?

      Not everyone experiences symptoms of Hepatitis, but when they do, symptoms may include:

      • Fever
      • Fatigue
      • Dark urine
      • Abdominal pain
      • Loss of appetite
      • Nausea
      • Vomiting
      • Joint pain
      • Jaundice
      How do I get tested?

      A blood test is used to test for all types of Hepatitis. It is recommended that you call ahead to confirm a test site is able to complete a hepatitis blood panel.

      Is there treatment?

      Hepatitis A, B, D, and E cannot be cured but are able to be managed with regular treatment and medical supervision. Recently, medication has become available that can cure Hepatitis C and is covered by many medical insurance plans.

      For more information, please visit:
      http://cdc.gov/hepatitis/index.htm

    • HPV / Human Papillomavirus

      What is it?

      HPV is the most common STI. It is so common that nearly all sexually active people get HPV at some point in their lives. There are many different types of HPV with some potentially able to cause health issues like genital warts and cancers. To protect yourself from HPV, vaccinations are available. All children 11+ should be vaccinated to protect them from future cancer risk.

      What are the symptoms?

      Most people with HPV do not know they are infected and never develop symptoms or health problems from it. Some people with certain HPV strains may get genital warts. Women may find out they have HPV when they get an abnormal Pap test result (during cervical cancer screening). Others may only find out once they’ve developed more serious problems from HPV, such as cancers.

      How do I get tested?

      There is no test to find out a person’s HPV status. Also, there is no approved HPV test to find HPV in the mouth or throat. There are HPV tests that can be used to screen for cervical cancer, but should only be used when screening women aged 30 years and older.

      Is there treatment?

      There is no treatment for the virus itself. However, there are treatments for the health problems that HPV can cause:

      • Genital warts can be managed under medical supervision. If left untreated, they have the potential to grow in number and become worse.
      • Cervical precancer can be treated. Women who get routine Pap tests and follow up as needed can identify problems before cancer develops.
      • Other HPV-related cancers, such as anal cancer, are also more treatable when diagnosed early.

      For more information, please visit:
      http://cdc.gov/hpv/

    • HSV / Herpes

      What is it?

      Herpes is a viral infection caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). Genital and oral herpes is caused by two types of viruses called herpes simplex type 1 and herpes simplex type 2.

      What are the symptoms?

      Not everyone experiences symptoms of Herpes, but when they do, symptoms may include:

      • Blisters around the genitals, rectum, or mouth
      • Sores
      • Fever
      • Body aches
      • Swollen glands
      • Discharge
      • Burning sensation during urination
      • For women, bleeding in between periods
      How do I get tested?

      A person may be diagnosed with herpes through a visual examination by a physician or a fluid sample test gathered from an open sore.

      Is there treatment?

      There is no cure for herpes. However, medication can be used to prevent and manage blister outbreaks. Be especially aware to wash your hands often and not to touch an outbreak and potentially transfer the infection to another area of the body (ex. genitals to eyes).

      For more information, please visit:
      http://cdc.gov/std/hpv/default.htm