The Lowdown on STIs
What are STIs?
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are also known as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The Women’s Health department defines STIs as “an infection passed from one person to another person through sexual contact. An infection is when a bacteria, virus, or parasite enters and grows in or on your body. Some STIs can be cured and some STIs cannot be cured. For those STIs that cannot be cured, there are medicines to manage the symptoms.” Additionally, there was a shift from utilizing the terminology of STD to STI because of the shame associated with the past term (STD).
How do you get an STI?
There are a variety of ways in which STIs can spread. Contact through the exchange of blood, vaginal fluids, or semen, with other infected body fluids can aid to the spreading of STIs. Additionally, contact with infected skin i.e sores around/in the mouth can also lead to the spreading of STIs. Sharing needles for drugs, piercings, or tattoos can lead to STIs if an infected partner partakes and exchanges their blood while in the process of sharing needles. However, most STIs are shared through direct intercourse (vaginal, anal, oral).
How can you prevent getting an STI?
There are many ways to protect yourself from contracting an STI.
ALWAYS USE CONDOMS! That includes vaginal, anal, and oral sex!
Get tested for STIs after every sexual partner.
Have your partner get tested for any STIs and/or ask them when was the last time they got tested. It is very important to have a discussion with your future sexual partner about their past: whether they have ever had an STI, if they still do, and if they have ever gotten tested. Having this conversation BEFORE sex is a must!
Do not have sex with someone who shows any signs of having an STI- this includes sores, rashes, or irregular discharge from genital areas.
*PSA: Hormonal birth controls such as the pill, depo, IUDs etc DO NOT PREVENT STIs! They are aimed at preventing pregnancies! BARRIER birth controls, such as CONDOMS and dental dams, are aimed at preventing BOTH pregnancy + STIs!
What are the symptoms of an STI?
Every STI is different. Some have symptoms and some do not. Some symptoms can include:
Sores/blisters on or around your genital region or mouth
Pain and/or burning when you pee
Unusual discharge from the vagina/penis/anus
Itching, swelling, pain in or around the vagina/penis/anus
Pain in your abdomen or general pelvic area
Bleeding when it is not during your period
These may or may not be STIs- only your healthcare provider can confirm what these symptoms may be.
What should I do if I think I have an STI?
If you show any symptoms of STIs or think you may have been exposed to one, see your healthcare provider right away. The good news is that most STIs can be treated and the earlier you get treated the better!
For more information, feel free to check out these websites below!