Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)


Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), also known as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), are infections transmitted through sexual activity involving the mouth, anus, vagina, or penis. Common symptoms include burning, itching, or discharge in the genital area, although many STIs can be asymptomatic, showing no symptoms at all. These infections can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites and are spread through contact with blood, semen, or vaginal and other bodily fluids.

STIs are highly contagious and can be passed between partners without either knowing, due to the often-asymptomatic nature of these infections. This makes regular screening crucial for those who are sexually active, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While some STIs, like HIV, are incurable and can be life-threatening without proper treatment, others are treatable with medication.

Apart from sexual contact, STIs can also be transmitted in other ways, such as from mother to child during pregnancy or childbirth, through blood transfusions, or by sharing needles. It’s important to recognize that an individual can contract an STI from another who appears to be healthy and unaware of their infection status.


Symptoms of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can vary based on the specific disease and may not always be present. If symptoms do occur, they can appear in the genital area and include:

  • Bumps, sores, or warts on or near the genitals, mouth, or anus.
  • Severe itching or swelling near the genitals.
  • Unusual discharge from the penis or vagina, which may have a bad odor or differ in color or quantity.
  • Bleeding from the vagina that isn’t related to menstrual periods.
  • Pain during sexual intercourse or urination.
  • Frequent urges to urinate.

Additionally, STIs can cause systemic symptoms such as:

  • Skin rashes.
  • Unexpected weight loss.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Night sweats.
  • General aches and pains.
  • Fever and chills.
  • Jaundice, which is the yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes.

If you are sexually active and suspect you might have been exposed to a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or if you have symptoms of an STI, it is crucial to see a healthcare professional immediately. Additionally, consider making an appointment with a healthcare provider when you’re thinking about becoming sexually active, by age 21 at the latest, or before you begin having sex with a new partner. This proactive approach helps ensure your health and safety as well as that of your partners.


Sexually transmitted diseases can stem from various bacteria, viruses, or parasites that invade the body. They are typically contracted through sexual activities such as vaginal, oral, and anal sex, as well as other intimate acts, by coming into contact with bodily fluids like blood, urine, semen, saliva, and mucous-lined areas.

The following are potential causes of STDs:

  • Bacteria: Among the STDs brought on by bacteria include gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydia.
  • Parasites: An STD called trichomoniasis is brought on by a parasite.
  • Viruses: The herpes simplex virus, the human papillomavirus (HPV), and the HIV virus—which causes AIDS—are examples of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) that are caused by virus.

Risk factors

Sexually transmitted diseases are potential results of actively engaging in sexual activity. Those who share their private materials like needles that contain their blood can also result in a sexually transmitted disease.

The following are some factors that could make you more likely to get an STD:

  • Age: Compared to older people, those between the ages of 15 and 24 report higher rates of STIs.
  • Forceful sexual activity: Consult your healthcare provider as soon as you can to receive treatment, screening, and emotional support.
  • Hereditary: Certain STDs can be transferred from mother to child during pregnancy or childbirth. Gonorrhea, chlamydia, HIV, and syphilis are a few examples. STDs can result in deaths or major complications for newborns. Every expectant mother should get tested for STIs and treated as necessary.
  • History: The spread of another STI is considerably increased by the presence of an initial STI.
  • Improper usage of alcohol or recreational drug use: Misuse of substances may hinder judgment and increase your likelihood to engage in unsafe activities.
  • Injectable: When using a shared needle for drug injection, numerous serious medical conditions can spread. Hepatitis B, C, and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) are a few examples.
  • Multiple sexual partners: Your risk increases if you engage in multiple sex partners. Perhaps oral sex is less dangerous. However, usage of a dental dam or condom (latex or polyurethane) does not prevent the spread of STDs.
  • Unprotected sex: The risk of acquiring an STD is significantly increased by vaginal or anal intercourse with an infected partner who isn’t wearing a condom (latex or polyurethane). Natural membrane condoms are not advised as they do not effectively prevent some sexually transmitted infections. Another way to increase risk is to not use condoms consistently or correctly.