Basic Facts about STDs

Infections that pass from one person to another during sexual contact are known as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Sexual contact includes vaginal, anal, and oral sex.

Sexually transmitted diseases include chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital herpes, syphilis, and trichomoniasis. These are presented separately on pages 266 through 275. HIV/AIDS is often classified as a sexually transmitted disease, but can be passed through means other than sexual contact. So, though mentioned at times, it is not defined here. (See “HIV/AIDS” on page 356.) Note, though, that the Self-Care/Prevention Tips on page 275 in this chapter can help prevent sexually acquired human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Signs and Symptoms

Each STD has its own set of symptoms, but a discharge from the penis or vagina, pain when urinating (in males), and open sores or blisters in the genital area are typical of most STDs. Unfortunately, early stages of STDs often have no detectable symptoms. In addition, you can also have more than one STD at the same time. Gonorrhea and chlamydia, for example, are often picked up at the same time.

How STDs Spread

STDs are transmitted through intimate sexual contact.

Fast Response Counts

If you suspect you have an STD, see a doctor as soon as possible. Your sexual partner(s) should also be contacted and treated.


Some STDs can be treated and cured with antibiotics. For others, such as herpes and HIV/AIDS, there is no cure.

Possible Complications

Depending on the infection, STDs can cause serious, long-term problems like birth defects, infertility, diseases of the brain, or, in the case of HIV/AIDS, death.

No “Shots” for Prevention

At present, no vaccines exist to prevent STDs.

Repeat Episodes

Once you’ve had an STD, you can get it again. You can’t develop an immunity once you’ve been exposed.

Parents Don’t Have to Know

A minor does not need parental consent to receive treatment for an STD.

{Note: Medical treatment, not self-care treatment, is necessary for sexually transmitted diseases. One exception is genital herpes, for which many self-care measures can help alleviate the discomfort that occurs with recurrent attacks. Self-Care/ Prevention Tips should be followed to lower the risk for contracting STDs, however. (See page 275.)

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Written by American Institute for Preventive Medicine

Explore Wellness in 2021