Frequently Asked Questions about STDs

Your sexual health is extremely important. Please take some time to understand the facts, issues, and risks associated with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). We've compiled a list of the most commonly asked questions about STDs. Please contact us if we can provide you more information.

A sexually transmitted disease (STD) is a type of infection that is transmitted through sexual contact. There are several STDs that can be shared through various forms of sexual activity, but the most common infections include:

Abstinence from all forms of sexual activity is the only way to completely prevent contracting these infections. However, there are other preventative measures that will reduce your risk.

There are no documented cases of STDs being spread through kissing. While it is not common, there is a chance that small amounts of the HIV virus can be present in saliva. However, as of today, this has not resulted in anyone contracting HIV from kissing. It is important to note that while kissing is not considered to be an STD risk factor, oral sex can result in someone contracting an STD, so those with an STD should refrain from this form of sexual activity.

STDs can be prevented when you use the right preventative measures. The only way to absolutely avoid an STD is to practice abstinence. However, there are other things that you can do to significantly minimize your risk of infection:

  • Always use a latex condom for all forms of sexual intercourse
  • Limit sexual partners
  • Know the health status of your sexual partners
  • Have regular STD screenings
  • Practice monogamy
  • Avoid sexual activity when under the influence of any substances

Syphilis is an STD caused by bacteria. Not everyone has symptoms immediately after infection, and in some cases, you are infected, but do not exhibit symptoms for years. A small sore is typically the first symptom and this usually develops on rectum, mouth or genitals. When this infection goes untreated, it can lead to brain, heart and other organ damage. Since this is a bacterial infection, an antibiotic is prescribed to cure the infection. To ensure that the infection is gone, you will need a follow up blood test. If there is still evidence of the bacteria in your blood, you will prescribed another dose of antibiotics.

In the United States, chlamydia is the most common STD, affecting about three million people each year. It is caused by a bacteria and it can infect the penis, cervix, urethra, throat, vagina, anus or the eyes. In most cases, there are no symptoms with this infection, but when they do occur, they start about five to 10 days after the initial infection. The symptoms vary among men and women, with common symptoms among both genders being abnormal discharge, burning or pain during urination and tenderness or swelling around the anus, vagina or testicles. A course of antibiotics is used to treat this STD and you may need a re-test in about four months to ensure that the infection is gone.

Gonorrhea is a bacterial STD that can infect the vagina, anus, throat, penis, cervix or urethra. Every year in the United States, approximately 800,000 people are infected. It is common not to experience any symptoms, but if they do occur, they start one to 14 days after the initial infection. The symptoms vary among men and women, with common symptoms among both sexes including abnormal discharge from the penis or vagina, frequent urination and painful urination. If this infection goes untreated, it is possible to experience infertility, arthritis and pregnancy complications. This bacterial STD requires antibiotics to be cured. Three months after finishing antibiotics, you should be re-tested to ensure that the infection is gone.

Genital herpes is a viral STD that cannot be cured, but there are treatments to reduce infecting other people and to relieve the symptoms. It is important to note that even if you have no symptoms, you can still spread the infection. Symptoms may be mild or not occur at all after you are initially infected, but when they do occur, they can include tiny white blisters, small red bumps, itching or pain, scabs and ulcers in the genital area. It is important to receive treatment for the rest of your life to minimize your symptoms and prevent complications, such as bladder problems, inflammation of the rectum and meningitis. Treatment includes taking antiviral medications.

Genital warts are very common and they occur as a result of the human papillomavirus (HPV). Women are at a slightly higher risk for this viral STD. The symptoms affect the genital or anal area and they include bleeding with intercourse, wart clusters, swollen areas that are gray or flesh-colored and itching. Treatment may not be necessary if your genital warts are not causing problems. When treatment is necessary, it typically includes surgery to remove the genital warts and topical creams that are applied directly to the warts.

Hepatitis B and hepatitis C are considered to be STDs since this viral infection can be transmitted through infected bodily fluids. Symptoms that can occur with both types of hepatitis include: loss of appetite, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, pale stools and dark-colored urine, stomach pain, and jaundice. Both are serious infections that require treatment. In some cases, hepatitis B can be cured, but many people are infected for life. There is no cure for hepatitis C. Both can be managed with medications and it is important to have regular monitoring done to prevent complications like liver failure or cirrhosis of the liver.

HIV is a viral infection that can develop into AIDS, the most serious stage of the infection. This is a viral infection and HIV can cause: fever, sore throat, fatigue, headache, swollen glands, rash, joint and muscle pain. As soon as HIV is diagnosed, it is important to start antiretroviral therapy. When this therapy is strictly adhered to, it can reduce symptoms, reduce the risk of transmission and prevent your infection from progressing to AIDS. Patients have to take a "cocktail" that typically includes three different medications for the rest of their life.

If you are pregnant and you suspect an STD, it is critical to be tested right away because these infections can cause complications. Different STDs have different effects on pregnancy:

  • Gonorrhea and chlamydia: Increased risk of eye infections and pneumonia in the baby, miscarriage and preterm birth
  • Herpes: The baby can become infected during birth
  • Syphilis: Increased risk of the baby contracting the infection, stillbirth and miscarriage
  • HIV: The baby can become infected with HIV

HIV testing is considered to be routine preventative care, so everyone should be tested at least once a year. If you believe that you have been exposed to HIV, you should be tested even if you have been tested within the last 12 months. The most accurate results are based on different timeframes, depending on the type of HIV you are taking:

  • Rapid testing is most accurate two to 12 weeks after initial exposure
  • Antigen testing is most accurate one to three weeks after initial exposure
  • PCR testing is most accurate two to three weeks after exposure

If you test positive for an STD, you should take the time to notify your sexual partners. The clinic or hospital, however, will not go against your privacy and notify your partners for you. If you have an STD, make a list of all of your recent sexual partners so that you know who to contact. When you contact them, you should tell them when you tested positive and which STD you are infected with. This allows your partners to get any necessary treatment so that they do not spread the infection.

Those who are infected with hepatitis B will not receive any protection from the vaccine since they already have the infection. If you do not have this infection, the vaccine can protect you from it. This vaccine is given in a series and it is important that you get all of the shots in the series to ensure the most protection. Your doctor will explain to you when you need to have each shot and it is important that you follow this advice and get each shot on time.

A rapid HIV test is done to test for HIV antibodies and the window for testing is about three months. It is called a rapid test because you will have your results within 20 minutes. This test is most accurate when being used for uncomplicated or satisfactory types of HIV infection. If this test is positive, you will referred to have further HIV testing performed to ensure that the rapid test provided an accurate result. There are several rapid test types, with a finger prick blood sample and a blood draw sample being the most common.

When you have STD testing done, you will only spend a few minutes providing a sample. Urine testing does not cause any pain or discomfort. Blood testing does involve using a needle, but when the needle is placed into your vein, you should only feel a slight prick and not actual pain. After you have STD testing done, you can leave the clinic and go home because there is no recovery time necessary for blood or urine STD testing.

To test for STDs, urine testing and blood testing are done. Urine testing involves providing a urine sample in a sterile cup so that it can be tested for the signs of an infection. Blood testing involves getting a blood sample from a vein and testing it for the signs of infection. When the samples are tested, the lab technicians are looking for specific antibodies that indicate which STD is present. If you have a positive test, it will indicate the exact STD that is causing a positive result.

STDs can cause infertility in some cases. Infertility can affect both men and women, but women are more often affected. Infertility typically occurs when someone has an STD and they do not get prompt treatment. When an STD goes untreated, the infection can cause damage to the reproductive organs that make it difficult, and even impossible in some cases, to conceive a child. Infertility is more common in women because the female reproductive organs tend to be affected more severely than the male reproductive organs.

Everyone is at risk for STDs if they are sexually active. Every year in the United States, approximately 12 million people are diagnosed with an STD. In the United States today, there are approximately 55 million people living with an STD. If you are sexually active, it is important to take preventative measures so that you do not acquire an infection. Make sure to get immediate STD testing if you ever suspect that you were exposed to any of the infections.

Viral STDs include infections like HIV, genital warts and genital herpes. There is no cure for any of the viral STDs, but there are treatment regimens that will keep symptoms under control and help to reduce the risk of spreading the infection. If you have a viral STD, you will take certain medications and have regular appointments with your doctor. This is important and you must follow your treatment regimen exactly to be as healthy as possible and reduce your risk of disease-related complications.

Bacterial STDs include infections like gonorrhea, chlamydia and gonorrhea. These STDs are curable with a course of antibiotics. To ensure that the infection is completely cleared from the body, you must take the antibiotics exactly as directed and you must finish the entire prescription. Approximately three to four months after you finish the antibiotics, you will go back to the doctor and be tested a second time to make sure that the antibiotics did their job and cured you of the infection.

Those who are infected with an STD can do a few things to not spread the infection to other people. You can prevent spreading STDs using the right preventative measures, including:

  • Always use a condom when you engage in vaginal intercourse, oral sexual activity or anal intercourse
  • Make sure that the condoms that you use are latex condoms
  • Limit your amount of sexual partners
  • Practice abstinence if you are infected until a doctor tells you that it is safe to have sex again

As long as someone has an STD they can spread the infection. They do not have to have symptoms for you to contract the infection. Since many STDs do not cause noticeable symptoms right away, an infected person can spread it to several people before they realize that it is happening. Because of this, it is important that you always use a condom during sex and that you limit your sexual partners to prevent the spread of infection.

Birth control pills only work to prevent pregnancy and they do not offer you any protection against STDs. The only birth control method that reduces the risk of STDs is proper use of condoms, but condoms do not offer 100 percent protection. However, if you are on birth control, you should always use a condom during sexual intercourse. This will further decrease the risk of pregnancy and offer you some protection against all forms of STDs.

There are some vaccines available that can protect you against certain STDs. These vaccines include the HPV vaccine that offers protection against the human papillomavirus which causes HPV and genital warts, and the hepatitis B vaccine that offers protection against hepatitis B. Vaccines are a good preventative measure for HPV and hepatitis, but they never offer 100 percent protection, so it is important that you still use other preventative measures to reduce your risk of contracting STDs.

HPV, or human papillomavirus, is a type of virus that causes genital warts and increases your risk of cervical cancer. Unless someone develops genital warts, this virus typically does not cause any symptoms. It generally goes away on its own over the course of eight to 13 months, but for some people, the virus remains in the body and cannot be detected. It can stay in the body for years before someone learns that they have an HPV infection. Almost all people who have had sexual intercourse have been infected with this virus.