Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) primarily attack your sexual and reproductive organs, and can affect other areas of the body as well. STIs are spread during close sexual contact, such as vaginal or anal sexual intercourse and oral sex.
Below are important facts you should know about sexually transmitted infections.
- STIs are extremely common. Sexually active teens have the highest rates of sexually transmitted infections in the United States.
- In the US, there are about 10 million new cases of STIs each year in people 15-24 years of age.
- The most common STIs are trichomoniasis, HPV (genital warts), chlamydia, gonorrhea and herpes. Syphilis and HIV are less common, but still can affect teens.
- Most teens who have an STI have no symptoms.
- If you are having any sexual contact, including oral sex, you are at risk for STIs.
- If you think you might have an STI or had sex with someone who has an STI, see a healthcare provider as soon as possible.
- Untreated STIs can cause chronic pain and infertility (the inability to have children) in the future and increase your risk of having a life-threatening tubal pregnancy.
- STIs will not go away without treatment; symptoms may disappear but the damage continues or gets worse.
- Almost all STIs can be cured. The sooner you get attention, the less chance there is of permanent damage.
- In all states, teens can be tested or treated for STIs confidentially, that is, without notifying a parent or guardian. Check with your healthcare provider about their policy on confidential services.
If you have been diagnosed with an STI:
- Tell your sexual partner. Your partner also needs to be treated.
- Stop all sexual activity until your healthcare provider tells you it is safe.
- Follow your healthcare provider's instructions. Take all of your medicine.
To prevent STIs you can:
- Choose not to have oral, vaginal, or anal sex. This is the best way to prevent STIs.
- Use a condom whenever you have sex. Condoms are not perfect, but will decrease your risk of STIs.
- Limit your number of sexual partners. Each time you are sexually active with a new partner you may get any infections that they already have (see sex map, below). It is usually not possible to tell if your sexual partner has an STI.