Sexually Transmitted Infections

for LEARN Sexually Transmitted Infections pageSexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are most commonly caused by bacteria or viruses spread via sexual contact. STIs may be passed via skin-skin contact or through exposure to body fluids including blood, semen, vaginal fluids, etc. It is important for each individual to be aware of the risks of exposure to other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) regardless of their HIV status. Many STIs spread today are asymptomatic which means that although they are present they do not show any signs or symptoms of infection. Please keep in mind that even if you do not have any symptoms, it is still possible to transmit infections that are asymptomatic. We encourage the use of preventative measures (Condoms, Female Condoms, Dental Dams, etc.) to protect you from exposure to STIs.

Below are links for more information about the ten most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs):

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

Bacterial Vaginosis is a term for a bacterial infection of the vagina that occurs when certain kinds of bacteria increase in number and create an imbalance of bacteria that normally inhabit the vagina. This is the most common bacterial infection of the vagina. There is much about BV that we still do not yet understand and it is the topic of a great deal of current research.


Chlamydia is a bacterial infection that affects both men and women and is spread via vaginal, anal, and oral sex. Although it can be associated with symptoms like painful urination or discharge Chlamydia does not always show signs or symptoms of infection. When left untreated, Chlamydia can cause long term harm to the body including the reproductive organs.


Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection that like Chlamydia can affect both men and women. Gonorrhea is spread via vaginal, anal, and oral sex and can cause infections in the genitals, the rectum, and also the throat. Symptoms can include pelvic pain and vaginal discharge in women and painful urination and discharge in men however Gonorrhea is often asymptomatic and can show no signs of infection at all. If left untreated, Gonorrhea can have a more detrimental impact on the body.

Viral Hepatitis C

For more information on Hepatitis C, please visit our Hepatitis C page.

Genital Herpes

Genital Herpes are caused by two closely related viruses known as Herpes Simplex 1 and Herpes Simplex 2. The disease is characterized by small sores or lesions that can appear on the genitals, anus, buttocks, and the thighs but can also be accompanied by pain, burning, itching, and sometimes discharge. Genital Herpes can affect men and women and is primary spread via skin-skin contact and contact with fluid from the characteristic sores/lesions. Because genital herpes is caused by a virus, it cannot be cured with medications at this time. Individuals with genital herpes can however take medications that suppress the virus reducing the impact on the individual’s health and reducing the risk of transmission.

Human Papilomavirus (HPV)

Human Papilomavirus is a large group of over 100 types of viruses that are responsible for warts found all over the body. Some HPV strains can cause symptoms primarily around the genitalia and are therefore called Genital Warts. Recent research has found a link between some strains of HPV and certain kinds of cancer. HPV can be passed from skin to skin contact and this may explain in part why this is the most common STI in the United States.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)

Pelvic inflammatory disease is an infection of the female reproductive organs and a serious complication resulting from untreated STIs. Some infections like Chlamydia and Gonorrhea can place women at especially high risk for PID because these infections can be asymptomatic and go untreated. Symptoms can range from pain, painful urination, discharge, and more. Long term PID can cause severe damage to a woman’s reproductive organs and can even cause infertility.


Syphilis is a bacterial infection spread via sexual contact that left untreated can have adverse health impacts on various systems in the body. Syphilis occurs in four stages and each is characterized by specific signs & symptoms. Syphilis can, however, present many atypical signs outside of those commonly observed and can therefore be difficult to recognize. There are diagnostic tests that can identify if you have been infected and treatments are very effective if the infection is caught early enough. If you are sexually active, it is important to complete an STI screening including Syphilis at least once a year to prevent any serious impacts that may occur from STIs that go undiagnosed and untreated.

More information about Syphilis from the CDC:


Tricomoniasis is an infection of the vagina caused by a small parasitic organism. Women are at highest risk of infection from Tricomoniasis but men can also become infected and act as carriers spreading the infection to others. In men, Tricomoniasis may be asymptomatic but when they appear, symptoms can include pain, burning, itching, and in women can also include discharge. Tricomoniasis has been associated with other more serious health complications but the infection is curable with special medications.

Other STIs

Here is a link to the CDC that lists the easiest and most effective ways you can protect yourself from exposure to many of the STIs discussed above: