Q&A: A lot of patients ask, what is a sexually transmitted infection? How do I protect myself?

A sexually transmitted infection is an infection that is passed from one person to another when they have vaginal, oral or anal sex with someone who is infected. Some infections can also be transmitted by skin-to-skin contact. They are caused by bacteria, viruses, and parasites. The most common sexually transmitted infections are Chlamydia and HPV (Human Papilloma Virus). According to the CDC, there is an increase in cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis in the United States. STIs are preventable. The first step in protecting your health is knowing if you are at risk for an STI and getting tested.

A lot of patients ask “Should I be tested for a sexually transmitted infection?” The answer is that it depends on your sexual history and your risk factors for having an STI. You are at risk of having a sexually transmitted infection if:

  • You are between 15- 24 years old
  • Have more than one sexual partner
  • Have oral, vaginal, or anal sex without using a condom
  • You or your partner has had an STI in the past
  • You or your partner inject drugs
  • You or your partner exchange sex for money or drugs
  • You suspect that your partner may be having sex with other people

If any of the above applies to you, get tested right away. You should also get tested if you notice abnormal bleeding especially after having sex, an increase in the amount of discharge, a change in the color or smell of your discharge or pelvic pain.

Be open and honest with your doctor or healthcare provider. By giving us as much information as you can, we can suggest the proper tests and treatments. Most STIs are curable or manageable.

It important to get treatment because having an STI can increase your chances of giving or getting HIV, can cause pelvic infections that lead to pelvic and abdominal pain, and can cause irreversible scarring that makes it difficult to get pregnant.  Sexually transmitted infections can also be transmitted to your baby while you are still pregnant. The only way to know if you have an STI is to get tested.

“What can I do to protect myself?”

Abstinence or not having sex is the only way to not get an STI. If you decide to have sex with a new partner, it is important that you both get tested before anything happens- including oral sex. Condoms used from start to finish help decrease the chance of getting some STIs. If you or your partner are having sex with other people, it is recommended you use a condom every single time for oral, vaginal and anal sex. It is only safe to stop using condoms if you and your partner have both been tested and are STI-free AND if you are only having sex with each other. Deciding to have sex with someone comes with responsibilities-  Protect yourself! Be honest with your partner. You should be comfortable enough to talk about ways to prevent getting an STI or becoming pregnant. Talk to your doctor about vaccinations against HPV and Hepatitis B. For further information, call us at 718- 291- 3276 to schedule an appointment or visit The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for information on their website: https://www.cdc.gov/std/default.htm

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.