What YOU need to know about STIs...
What is an STI?
STI stands for sexually transmitted infection. Sometimes people use the term STD, which means sexually transmitted disease. They mean the same thing. STI is the newer, more accurate term.
What are some examples of STIs?
Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Syphilis, Herpes, HPV, Hepatitis C.
How do I get an STI?
Remember than the S and T in STI stand for sexually transmitted. STIs are transmitted from person to person during anal, vaginal and oral sex. Many STIs can be transmitted just through the skin to skin contact that may happen during these sexual behaviors. In other words, unlike HIV, STIs like the ones listed on this page do not require a fluid to be present.
So what's the difference between all these?
Most STIs fall under one of two categories:
Bacterial STIs are curable. This means once you have taken the proper treatment, the STI will be completely gone from your body. Common bacterial STIs include chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis.
Viral STIs are treatable, but they are not curable. This means that you can take treatment to manage symptoms, but the STI will always be present in your body. Common viral STIs include HIV, herpes and Hepatitis C.
More about chlamydia and gonorrhea...
Common symptoms for these two STIs include burning during urination, discharge from the penis or vagina, pain during intercourse and an itching or burning feeling in the genital region. However--and this part is important--more often than not, when people become infected with chlamydia and gonorrhea, they do not show symptoms. This is why it's so important to get tested regularly. Chlamydia and gonorrhea can have long term effects if they go untreated, like pelvic inflammatory disease or infertility in women, and sterility in men.
Syphilis is very common in Louisiana. There are a couple of stages to syphilis, each with different symptoms. Often when people are infected with syphilis, sores appear where syphilis entered their body, and then later appear on their hands and feet. Individuals may also experience a rash. It's important to note that initial sores may go away on their own. Often people will notice a sore and be concerned, but since it goes away, they do not seek treatment. Syphilis requires treatment--it will not go away on its own. And if left untreated, syphilis can have serious long term health effects such as blindness, paralysis, and damage to internal organs.
How do you know if you have one of these STIs?
Just like with HIV, the only way to know for certain is to get tested. Sometimes people will experience some of the symptoms mentioned earlier, which will motivate them to get tested. But because in many cases individuals who have an STI do not show symptoms, getting into the habit of testing regularly is that much more important. At the Movement, we have free syphilis testing on Mondays 5pm-8pm and on Fridays/Thursdays 12pm-5pm. You're welcome to call us and make an appointment, or just walk in.
The Movement also houses a program called the Wellness Center, which offers free chlamydia and gonnerhea testing for men who identify as gay, bisexual or trans. You can make an appointment for the Wellness Center by calling Nick at 504.945.4000x202.
If you are interested in getting tested for STIs besides just HIV and syphilis and do not fall into the Wellness Center's demographic, you can make an appointment with Crescent Care by calling 504.207.2273 or 844.315.2273.
...and how can I prevent getting an STI in the first place?
The best method is to use protection during anal, vaginal and oral sex, to provide a barrier between your body and the other person's. At the Movement, we recommend using a lubricated, latex condom every time. You can also supplement the condom with water-based lubricant. For more information about condoms, where to get them, and how to use them properly, click here.
Take note...individuals with syphilis are 2-5 times more likely to contract HIV.