Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) / Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

What are STDs/STIs?
Sexually transmitted diseases and infections, or STDs/STIs, are infections you can get by having sex with someone who has one of these diseases. STDs/STIs can cause problems for the rest of your life.

Have I been exposed to an STD/STI?
If you have sex, just once, with someone who has an STD/STI, you can catch it, whether the sex is genital, oral, or anal. Some STDs/STIs are even transmitted through kissing or skin-to-skin contact. You often will not be able to tell if your sex partner has an STD/STI. Sometimes, there are no signs that you can see. If you find out you have an STD/STI, tell the person or persons with whom you’ve had sex. Anyone who has had sex with a person with an STD/STI needs to get treatment. Remember, even if you’ve been treated or cured, you can get the same STD/STI again, or a different one, if you have sex with a person who has an STD/STI.

What are the symptoms of STDs/STIs?
The information below lists the most common STDs/STIs, and there are many more. If you have these symptoms, seek treatment immediately! Call us to find out where to go for treatment. Remember, your phone call to us is confidential.

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) / AIDS Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome

Viral – No Cure
Signs and Symptoms:
rapid weight loss; dry cough; recurring fever or profuse night sweats; profound and unexplained fatigue; swollen lymph glands in the armpits, groin, or neck; diarrhea that lasts for more than a week; white spots or unusual blemishes on the tongue, in the mouth, or in the throat; pneumonia; red, brown, pink, or purplish blotches on or under the skin or inside the mouth, nose, or eyelids; memory loss; depression and other neurological disorders
Modes of Transmission:
Vaginal, anal and oral contact; body fluids; and from mother to child in breast milk
Opportunistic infection (i.e. cancer, pneumonia), brain damage, death


Bacterial – curable with antibiotics

Signs and Symptoms:

  • 80% of women and 40% of men have no symptoms.
  • Women may have vaginal discharge and/or pelvic pain. When the infection spreads from the cervix to the Fallopian tubes (tubes that carry eggs from the ovaries to the uterus), some women still have no signs or symptoms; others have lower abdominal pain, low back pain, nausea, fever, pain during intercourse, or bleeding between menstrual periods. Chlamydial infection of the cervix can spread to the rectum.
  • Men’s symptoms are more apparent: burning during urination, discharge from penis, burning and itching around the opening of the penis, swelling in the testicles
Modes of Transmission:
Mother to baby during vaginal delivery; vaginal, anal and oral sexual contact
If untreated, 20-40% of females will develop Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID); may cause sterility


Bacterial – curable with antibiotics; however, drug-resistant strains of gonorrhea are increasing in many areas of the world, including the United States, and successful treatment of gonorrhea is becoming more difficult. Because many people with gonorrhea also have chlamydia, antibiotics for both infections are usually given together. Persons with gonorrhea should be tested for other STDs.

Signs and Symptoms:

  • Women: often no symptoms; often mistaken for a bladder or vaginal infection; bloody urine/discharge.
  • Men: often no symptoms; painful urination; swollen genitals; rashes on arms and legs; discharge (yellowish white)
  • Symptoms of rectal infection in both men and women may include discharge, anal itching, soreness, bleeding, or painful bowel movements.
  • Rectal infection also may cause no symptoms. Infections in the throat may cause a sore throat but usually causes no symptoms.
Modes of Transmission:
Mother to baby during vaginal delivery; vaginal, anal and oral contact
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID); may cause sterility and arthritis

HPV (Human Papilloma Virus, “Genital Warts”)

Viral – more than 100 different strains or types
No “cure” for HPV infection, although in most women the infection goes away on its own

More than 30 of these viruses are sexually transmitted, and they can infect the genital area of men and women including the skin of the penis, vulva (area outside the vagina), or anus, and the linings of the vagina, cervix, or rectum. Most people who become infected with HPV will not have any symptoms and will clear the infection on their own.
Signs and Symptoms:
Pink, gray, or flesh-colored warts (painless), abnormal pap smear
Modes of Transmission:
Skin-to-skin contact


  • Highly contagious – looks like cauliflower
  • Can take up to 18 months to remove all warts; patient under doctors care for life
  • There are no tests to detect HPV infection in men
  • Warts must be cut, frozen or burned with acid cream
  • All new cervical cancer is caused by HPV


Bacterial – curable in the early stages

Signs and Symptoms:

  • Stage 1: Sores can appear on mouth, genitals, and rectum (small, firm and painless); appear on spot where syphilis entered body; last 3-6 weeks and heal on their own
  • Stage 2: Sores heal; white patches on tongue; low-grade fever/flu-like symptoms (swollen lymph glands, headaches, muscle aches, tiredness); hair loss; will clear up without treatment; rash on palms of hands and/or soles of feet
  • Stage 3: Begins when secondary symptoms heal; damage to organ systems and ultimately death; no symptoms, just positive blood/fluid tests
Modes of Transmission:
Mother to baby during vaginal delivery; vaginal, anal and oral contact, as well as through kissing; direct contact with a syphilis sore.
There is an estimated 2- to 5-fold increased risk of acquiring HIV infection when syphilis is present.


Bacterial parasite – curable with antibiotics

Signs and Symptoms:

  • Women: Thin, foul-smelling watery or frothy green vaginal discharge; vaginal irritation, redness; pain during sex; burning upon urination/frequent urination; lower abdominal discomfort
  • Men: Discharge from the urethra; urge to urinate; burning sensation with urination or ejaculation
Modes of Transmission:
Vaginal, anal and oral contact
The genital inflammation caused by Trichomoniasis can increase a woman’s susceptibility to HIV infection if she is exposed to the virus. Having Trichomoniasis may increase the chance that an HIV-infected woman passes HIV to her sex partner(s).


Viral – No Cure

Two Types:

  • HSV-Type 1: commonly causes fever blisters on the mouth or face
  • HSV-Type 2: typically affects the genitalia
  • Both viral types can cause either genital infection or oral infection
  • Transmitted with or without the presence of sores or other symptoms
Signs and Symptoms:
Painful skin lesions (blisters, ulcers, fissures); genital discharge; vulvar irritation; swollen lymph glands; malaise; aches
Modes of Transmission:
Direct contact: kissing, sexual (vaginal, anal and oral contact) or other skin-to-skin contact
Herpes can make people more susceptible to HIV infection, and it can make HIV-infected individuals more infectious.

Viral Hepatitis

Viral – vaccinations are only useful to prevent infection. Once a person is already positive for Heptitis B, the vaccine will not cure it.
Signs and Symptoms:
Jaundice, fatigue, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal discomfort, dark urine, grey-colored bowel movements, joint pain
Modes of Transmission:
Mother to baby during vaginal delivery; infected needles or “works”; vaginal, anal and oral contact; blood or body fluids
Complications: Some people who become infected with HBV develop chronic (lifelong) infection. Chronic infection increases the risk for cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver cancer, and liver failure. About 15%-25% of people with chronic HBV infection might die prematurely from liver cirrhosis or liver cancer.

Sources: Center for Disease Control and Prevention, March of Dimes, and LifeChoices Medical Clinic Resource Center.