STI General Information

We present this information so that you can make informed decisions about your sexual activity. We hope these pages will encourage you to get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), improve communication in relationships, and increase the awareness of this hidden epidemic.

What are STIs?

STIs are transmitted through body fluids: vaginal secretion, semen, blood, breast milk, and saliva. A common misconception is that the only way to get an STI is by having intercourse. This is not true! STIs can be transmitted without having intercourse. For example, skin-to-skin contact or genital rubbing can transmit HPV and the herpes virus. That's why it's so important to get tested. Don't let yourself feel ashamed, embarrassed, or guilty because STIs are among the most common infections that occur in the US today. When diagnosed early, the majority of STIs can be cured or treated to alleviate symptoms. If left untreated, STIs can lead to serious health conditions such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), cervical cancer, infertility, and can even be fatal. Don't hesitate to make an appointment to see a medical provider for a checkup, testing, and treatment.

Some STI Statistics

There is a significant amount of social stigma associated with STIs. Because people don't feel comfortable talking about STIs, the discussion is pushed under the rug and many students underestimate the prevalence of STIs in their age-group. According to the CDC, adolescents (10- to 19-year-olds) and young adults (20- to 24-year-olds) are at higher risk for acquiring STIs for a number of reasons: they may be more likely to have multiple sexual partners rather than a single, long-term relationship; they may be more likely to engage in unprotected intercourse; and they may be involved with partners at higher risk. Statistics concerning college students state that:

  • 2/3 of all STIs occur in people 25 years of age or younger.
  • 1/4 of new STI infections occur in teenagers.
  • By the age of 24, 1 in 3 sexually active people will have contracted an STI.
  • The highest rates of genital HPV infections are found in adults between the ages of 18 to 28.
  • In 2000, 15- to 19-year-old women had the highest rate of gonorrhea compared to all other age categories. In addition, 20- to 29-year-old women had the highest rates of primary and secondary syphilis.
  • Among men, 20- to 24-year-old men had the highest rate of gonorrhea and 4th highest rates of primary and secondary syphilis.(Sources: American Social Health Association, Centers for Disease Control, and Planned Parenthood.)

Discussion about STIs is also lacking because they are often asymptomatic and someone can be unaware that they have an infection. That means that any statistics about STIs are underestimates. Unfortunately, because people often don't know they have an STI, they might be less likely to practice safer sex and can pass on their infection to another partner, thus perpetuating the cycle. That's why we always recommend practicing safer sex, so that you and your partners minimize the risk of acquiring STIs during sexual activity.

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Types of STIs

To the left is the list of different STI information pages you will find in this section. An important point to make is that there are 2 main types of STIs: bacterial and viral. Bacterial STIs, such as gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydia, are often cured with antibiotics. However, viral STIs, such as HIV, HPV (genital warts), herpes, and hepatitis have no cure, but their symptoms can be alleviated with treatment, and you can reduce the risk of your partner(s) being exposed.

STI vs. STD

You may have asked yourself why we use the term sexually transmitted infection (STI), instead of the term sexually transmitted disease (STD). The term "infection" more accurately describes conditions where sexual partners may not have symptoms and may not be aware that they have an infection, and because many of these infections are actually curable. The term "infection" carries less of a social stigma than the term "disease." STI is used by many leading sexual health organizations.

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