Sexually Transmitted Infections
No one wants to have to worry about sexually transmitted infections (STIs) but the reality is this: if you are engaged in any form of sexual activity you are at risk. Learn ways to avoid these potentially devastating infections.
Why is preventing STIs so important?
- STIs can have subtle to non existent symptoms and can be spread without the knowledge of the infected person.
- Some STIs are not curable with antibiotics or other medicines and may recur (Herpes).
- STIs can have serious health consequences, such as infertility, if left untreated
- STIs, especially those that cause sores and ulcers, can facilitate the spread of HIV infection (Herpes, Syphilis).
- One STI can increase the risk of developing certain high risk types of cervical, anal and oral cancer (high risk subtypes of HPV - Human Papilloma Virus).
How can I avoid getting STIs?
Abstaining from sexual contact (including oral sex) is the only way to protect yourself 100% but there are ways to make sex safer:
- Talk with your partner (before you have sex) about the importance of preventing STIs for both of you. This is a difficult but potentially life saving conversation.
- Remember: many STIs have no obvious symptoms. Your partner may feel and look fine but could still pass on a serious infection.
- Use latex condoms and barriers (dental dams-latex squares for oral-genital contact). There are safe non-latex alternatives for those with latex allergy (ex. polyurethane condoms such as Avanti).
- Water based lubricants (Astroglide, etc.) are recommended. Avoid the use of spermicides such as Nonoxynol 9.
- If you have ever had unprotected sexual contact even once, or if you notice any symptoms, get checked for infection.
- Don't mix alcohol or drug use with sexual activity. Many people use alcohol or other substances to "loosen up"-they also impair judgment and may lead to risky behavior.
When should I see a provider?
- Ideally, before you become sexually active for the first time so you can learn how to reduce your risk and stay safer.
- If you notice any unusual blisters, sores or wart like growths on the genitals.
- If you have an unusual vaginal or penile discharge.
- If you experience burning or discomfort with urination.
- If you have pain or other discomfort during sexual activity.
- If you notice vaginal bleeding or spotting after sex or in between periods.
- If you have any questions about STIs. Remember: it is ok to make an appointment with a provider "just to ask questions".
I think I have an infection. What do I do now?
Try not to panic-not every lump or bump turns out to be a sexually transmitted infection. Make an appointment with a medical provider as soon as possible for an evaluation. If you have a preference for a male or female provider, just ask. The provider will ask questions about symptoms you are experiencing, sexual practices, condom use, etc. You will be examined, tested and treated, as appropriate. There may be a bill for tests sent to an outside lab. The provider will provide information, answer any questions, and discuss safer sex practices.
Where can I get more information?
Make an appointment to talk with a SHC medical provider. We have many print materials available on request. Also: