Here, we’re going to talk a bit about Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs); what they are, how they’re passed, and something we find most helpful to talk about with our classes — how to talk about getting tested, or having an STI. You see, sex can be a really great thing for a lot of people, but it’s KEY to know how to protect yourself so that having sex doesn’t lead to an unintended pregnancy or getting an STI from your partner.
Before we get too far along, let’s clear one thing up: You may be thinking, “I thought it was STDs.”
The term Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) has become more widely used to decrease negative stigma behind the term STD, which stands for Sexually Transmitted Disease. Professionals hoped using the term STI would help make people more comfortable when it came to getting tested or accessing treatment. While we prefer STI, these abbreviations and terms can be used interchangeably.
What is exactly is an STI, and how can sex lead to getting one?
STIs are infections that are passed from one person to another during vaginal, anal or oral sex, and fall into three categories: bacterial; viral; and parasitic. Pretty much, any type of sexual contact with another person can put you at risk for STIs — whether bodily fluids are present or genital skin is touching. The good news is that all STIs are preventable by using internal or external condoms, and dental dams.
Different STIs present different symptoms. Click the image below to learn more about the types of STIs!
Who gets STIs?
STIs are very common, and lots of people who have them may not know it because they don’t experience any symptoms. In fact, the most common symptom of an STI is having NO symptoms at all! So, getting tested is very important for someone who is sexually active.
You might think that getting tested is embarrassing, but think of it this way: getting tested for an STI is just another piece of managing your overall health — like taking care of your stomach, your eyes or your skin! You can even encourage a partner to go and get tested with you, and it can be less awkward than you think.
Getting tested regularly for STIs, and talking honestly with the people you’re intimate with about preventing them, is the best way to keep yourself healthy and safe.
Getting tested is easy
Here at PP, we encourage people to carve out the time for some self-care (important, in general!) and to get tested for STIs. Depending on the STI, a simple urine or blood test will let you know your status – and that can feel really empowering.
To make an appointment for testing, click here to find a PP clinic near you.
What do I do if I test positive for an STI?
Most people get an STI at some point in their life. And, while some STIs can be serious, they can usually be cured or treated, often with a simple prescription. That said, it’s really important to follow your treatment plan.
One question I often get is: “My STI treatment plan has me feeling so much better, but I still have more pills. What should I do?”
Whenever a medical provider prescribes a treatment to address an STI, you MUST follow all directions for the prescription you have received. For example, if you are prescribed an 11-day regimen of a certain antibiotic, you cannot stop at day 7 of your treatment simply because you feel better or aren’t showing symptoms any longer. By stopping your medication too early, you could actually be giving the bacteria or parasite an opportunity to get stronger and build resistance to the treatment. Follow your medical provider’s directions, and you’ll be better off for it.
How to tell someone you have an STI:
Being transparent with your sexual partner about having an STI, so that you can both be safe, is the best way to go. Here are some suggestions to help make the conversation more comfortable:
It may seem like a lot of information, but just know that providers like Planned Parenthood are here for you. If you’re not sure if you’re at risk, here’s a great tool to gauge if you should get tested.