If you are sexually active, contracting an STI or STD is a very real possibility. And, STIs/STDs are very dangerous. It’s important to be honest with your partner, doctor, gynecologist, or Patient Specialist here at CAPS Pregnancy Clinic about your sexual activity so you can have a better understanding of your risk for contracting an STI or STD. While we encourage you to visit our clinic if you have any questions about your sexual health, it’s also important to have access to accurate information about your concerns. Here are seven of the most frequently asked questions we encounter at CAPS regarding STIs and STDs, including STI/STD tests.
What’s the difference between an STI and STD?
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are essentially the same thing and the terms can generally be used interchangeably. Technically though, having an STI means that someone has an infection, but it has not yet developed into a disease. An STI often precedes an STD.
For example, many women with human papilloma virus (HPV) do not have any symptoms; they simply carry the virus and have HPV as an STI. However, if a woman develops cervical cancer from HPV, she now has an STD since cancer is a disease. Many people may never know they have an STI because at that point, they may not show any symptoms.
Can I have an STI/STD even if I don’t have any symptoms?
There are several STIs/STDs that don’t have any obvious symptoms. For instance, HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection and many of its strains don’t have any symptoms. Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and even herpes can be “silent” infections, with most people never experiencing any noticeable symptoms. Just because you might not see any signs of an infection, doesn’t mean they can’t still cause long-term damage. It’s important you get tested for STIs/STDs regularly, especially if you’re having unprotected sex.
Are STIs/STDs contagious?
STIs/STDs are among the most common contagious diseases. They are most often, but not always, spread through sexual intercourse and behaviors. The bacteria and viruses that cause STDs are found in semen, blood, vaginal secretions, and sometimes saliva. However some STIs/STDs, like genital herpes and genital warts, can be spread through skin-to-skin contact.
How can I prevent getting an STI/STD?
The only way to avoid contracting an STI/STD is by abstaining from sex—vaginal, anal, or oral. Using latex condoms each time you have sex and being in a mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has tested negative for any STIs or STDs can reduce your chances of contracting them yourself.
Can STIs/STD be cured?
There are two types of STIs: bacterial and viral. Bacterial STIs can typically be treated with antibiotics, while viral STI’s stay with you for life.
Bacterial STIs that can often be cured with antibiotics or prescriptions are:
STIs that may go away on their own after some time:
- Acute Hepatitis B (HBV)
- Acute Hepatitis C (HCV)
- HPV (some strains of HPV will go away)
- Molluscum contagiosum
And currently, there are no treatments or cures for these STDs:
- Chronic HBV and HCV
- Genital herpes
- HPV (high risk strains can cause genital warts or cervical cancer, and cannot be cured)
- Oral herpes
How will having an STD affect my future health?
Some STIs and STDs carry life-changing consequences, including several health complications such as:
- Infertility: At their extreme, untreated STIs/STDs can lead to infertility in both men and women.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID): Forty percent of women with an untreated chlamydia infection develop PID, which can lead to pelvic pain, ectopic pregnancy, and infertility.
- Infection of newborns: Pregnant women with untreated syphilis, herpes virus, HPV, or HIV can risk passing their infection on to their baby. This can lead to other fertility issues like premature birth, stillbirth, birth defects, and lifetime complications.
- Heart disease and brain function: Syphilis can sometimes lead to cardiovascular and neurological issues.
- Cervical cancer: Certain strains of HPV can cause cervical cancer.
- Death: If left untreated, syphilis and HIV will eventually lead to death.
How do I get help?
If you have had unprotected sex, you should schedule an appointment to get an STI/STD test. While CAPS provides low cost or no cost STI/STD testing, we also have a list of community clinics that provide free testing. We can also answer questions you may have and offer guidance on what to do whether your STI/STD test comes back positive or negative. Our nurses and staff aim to provide you with a safe environment to help you feel confident in your sexual health choices and future.
CAPS does not currently provide HPV testing, but we can provide HPV testing referrals.
Schedule a visit online or call us at 619-337-8080 to schedule an appointment at any of our 4 San Diego area locations near you.