Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), also called sexually transmitted infections or STIs, are infections that pass from one person to another by sexual contact. Sexual contact includes vaginal intercourse, anal intercourse, oral-genital contact, skin-to-skin contact in the genital area, kissing, and the use of sex toys, such as vibrators. The diseases usually affect the genital area, for example, the penis or vagina or surrounding skin. Other areas such as the mouth, throat, and anus can also be affected.
Examples of STDs are:
Key facts about STDs are:
Bacteria, viruses, and parasites cause STDs. They are usually passed between partners during sex. You can have an STD without knowing it. This means that you could infect your partner before you know you have an STD.
Some possible symptoms of STDs are:
The diagnosis may be made from your symptoms, an exam, and usually lab tests.
Some STDs can be cured with antibiotic medicine, especially when they are diagnosed and treated early. Some STDs caused by viruses, such as herpes, HIV, and HPV (genital warts), have no cure, but treatment can lessen or avoid complications. If you cannot afford to pay for treatment, most communities have an STD clinic or county health department where visits are free of charge or cost a very small amount.
Do not be embarrassed or afraid to seek care or ask for information. STD checks are a part of routine care at most medical offices and clinics. Remember that early diagnosis and treatment can prevent complications and keep you from spreading the disease to your partner. You can get more information and treatment from your healthcare provider, the health department, a family planning clinic, or an STD clinic. Make sure that you carefully follow your provider's treatment plan.
Some STDs can now be prevented by a vaccine.
The best way to prevent STDs is to avoid sexual contact. This includes not having vaginal sex, anal sex, or oral sex. If you are sexually active, here are some steps you should take to lower your risk of getting infected:
If you are sexually active, always use a condom and have regular checkups for STDs, especially if you are having sex with a new partner.
If you think you might have an STD or may have been exposed to an STD, get checked by your healthcare provider before you have sex again.
You can get more information by calling 1-800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636), or visiting the CDC STD Web site at http://www.cdc.gov/std.