Sexual Health and Sexually Transmitted Infection/Disease (STI)

Here are most common STIs in their order of prevalence and information about each one. 

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) / Genital warts

  • HPV is an extremely common virus.  50% of sexually active men and women will acquire HPV at some point in their lives.
  • HPV infection usually clears in 6-24 months. 
  • Most people with HPV have no signs or symptoms, yet can still transmit the virus to their partner.  When symptoms do occur they are in the form of bumps or flat swellings in the anal or genital area which may go away without treatment. 
  • Certain high-risk strains can lead to cervical cancer and may play a role in cancers of the anus, vulva, vagina and penis. 
  • There is currently no blood test available for HPV (nor any way of testing for its presence in men without symptoms), but a new HPV vaccine (Gardasil) is now available and approved for both females and males between the ages of 9 -26.  More on HPV

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Herpes simplex virus (HSV)

  • There are two types of herpes simplex virus, HSV-1 and HSV-2.  Both viruses can occur either orally or genitally, although oral HSV-2 is quite rare.   It is now estimated that >50% of genital herpes is caused by the HSV-1 virus, caused primarily by oral-genital contact.
  • Most people with HSV do not have symptoms but can still transmit the virus to their partner through skin contact with an infected area.
  • Symptoms are recurrent blisters (sometimes referred to as “cold sores” when around the mouth) 
  • It is estimated that 50-80% of the U.S. population has HSV-1, and 20% of the population has HSV-2. 
  • Blood tests are accurate 3-4 months after exposure, and can tell you whether you are infected with HSV-1 or HSV-2, but cannot tell you the location of infection.
  • If both partners know their HSV status, precautions can be taken to significantly reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to the genital area.
  • More on Genital Herpes    

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Chlamydia *

  • Chlamydia is a bacterial infection that can have very serious complications if left untreated, such as pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility in women.  Chlamydia can also infect the rectum from anal intercourse.
  • Symptoms may include burning on urination or urethral discharge in men, and vaginal discharge or abdominal pain in women; however, there may be no symptoms, especially in women. 
  • Chlamydia can be easily treated and cured with antibiotics.  Testing is particularly advised for women under 25 with 2 or more partners in the last year. 
  • Both men and women may be tested with a urine sample. Women may also be tested from the cervix, which may be slightly more accurate.  A sample from the rectum is required to make the diagnosis of rectal Chlamydia.
  • More on Chlamydia

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Hepatitis B *

  • Hepatitis B is a disease caused by a virus that attacks the liver.  It is transmitted the same ways as HIV but is probably 100 times more contagious
  • Hepatitis B is vaccine-preventable-the vaccine is has been given to all infants in the US since 1991. 
  • Hepatitis B is endemic to parts of Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa; it is possible to be infected at the time of birth from an infected mother.
  • Hepatitis B may cause jaundice, nausea, fatigue, and abdominal pain, but often the infection causes no symptoms
  • There is no cure for chronic hepatitis B, but treatment is available to control the infection. 
  • If you have had the hepatitis B vaccine (series of 3 shots) before exposure to the virus, you are already immune and do not need to be tested.  The blood test to detect infection is accurate 1-2 months after exposure.
  • If you have not been immunized, the vaccine is available at Vaden
  • More on Hepatitis B

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Gonorrhea *

  • Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection that can have very serious complications if left untreated, such as pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility in men and women 
  • Symptoms may include pain on urination and discharge from the urethra in men, and vaginal discharge or abdominal pain in women.  It can also cause a sore throat or rectal discomfort when it involves those areas.
  • Testing is particularly advised for women under 25 with 2 or more partners in the last year
  • Gonorrhea can be treated with antibiotics
  • Both men and women may be tested with a urine sample; women may also be tested from the cervix, which may be slightly more accurate; The throat and the rectum must be cultured separately to detect infections in these areas
  • More on Gonorrhea

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Syphilis *

  • Syphilis is a bacterial infection that is spread through contact with genital or oral sores 
  • Primary syphilis causes painless ulcers (chancres) at the point of contact; a chancre inside the vagina or rectum may go unnoticed
  • Secondary syphilis, some months later, may cause a rash
  • Tertiary syphilis can eventually invade the inner organs including the heart, brain, and liver 
  • Syphilis can be treated and cured with antibiotics. Blood test is accurate 1-2 months after exposure
  • More on Syphilis

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HIV *

  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is the virus that causes AIDS
  • Blood test is accurate 3 months after exposure. 
  • There is no cure for HIV, but treatments are available to control the virus
  • More on HIV

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Hepatitis C *

  • Hepatitis C is a serious disease caused by a virus that attacks the liver
  • You are at risk for hepatitis C is you have ever used drugs by injection and if you received a blood transfusion prior to 1992.  Sexual transmission is rare, but you may be at risk if you are a sexual partner of someone who has hepatitis C or has used drugs in this way. 
  • Usually there are no symptoms in the early stages. 
  • There is no cure for Hepatitis C, but treatment is available to control the virus. 
  • Blood test to detect infection is accurate 3 months after exposure.
  • More on Hepatitis C

*Note: Positive tests for Chlamydia, hepatitis B, gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV, and hepatitis C - must by law be reported to the County Department of Public Health.   Anonymous HIV test results are excluded from this requirement.

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