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Sex Education: What are STIs?

asked Jul 16, 2017 in Questions by longhands1 (80,485 points)

What are STIs?

STI stands for Sexually Transmitted Infection.

Anyone who has had sex can get an STI. It doesn’t matter if you’re straight, lesbian, gay, or bisexual or if you’ve had one or more sex partners.

All STIs can be treated and most can be cured so having an STI doesn’t mean the end of your sex life. Sometimes teens are afraid to tell anyone they might have an STI because they are embarrassed or ashamed. This is too bad because STIs are very common and can be managed or cured.

A sexually transmitted infection is something that develops in your body when a bacteria, virus, or parasite is passed on to you through sexual contact with a person who has an STI. This can happen through:

  • Anal, oral, or vaginal sex.
  • Sharing sex toys
  • Sharing needles
  • Skin-to-skin touching (only applies to a few STIs like herpes and HPV).

There are three kinds of STIs:

  1. Bacterial STIs like gonorrhea and chlamydia which can be cured with medication.
  2. Viral STIs like herpes and HIV which cannot be cured, but their symptoms can be treated.
  3. Parasite STIs: Scabies or pubic lice which can be cured with skin creams.

Important fact

STIs used to be called STDs, or sexually transmitted diseases. The word disease was changed to infection because it is more accurate. Someone may be infected with an STI but never show any signs or symptoms of disease. They can still carry and spread the infection to others, even if they never feel sick or have any symptoms. The new term also helps make it clear that STIs can be treated and managed.

Useful Tip

Do I Have an STI?

Most STIs don’t have any symptoms that you would notice. If you think you might have one, it’s recommended that both you and your sexual partner(s) get tested right away.

Useful Tip


Try to remember that it’s quite possible that your symptoms are caused by something other than an STI. Even if it is an STI, the sooner you get tested, the sooner you can begin medications or treatments.


Get to know your body

One of the best ways to take care of yourself is to know what’s normal for you. That way, if something changes, you can have it checked right away. Get to know how your genitals look, feel and smell. Take a good look down there, using a mirror if it helps. Take note of the colors, textures, and size of your stuff. Use your hands to explore and your eyes to see.

What to look for

Check for an unusual color or rash, strange discharge from your penis* or vagina, or bumps or sores in and around your genitals.

Useful Tips

If you’re sexually active, get tested regularly for STIs even if you feel fine. Ask your health care provider about what you should be tested for and how often you should be tested.

Some STIs like herpes and warts can only be diagnosed when symptoms are showing. This means that to be diagnosed, you must be seen by a health care provider before the symptoms go away.

Remember, the sooner you are tested and treated, the sooner your symptoms can be cured or controlled.


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