A sexually transmitted disease, or STD, is an infection that can be passed
from one person to another through sexual contact or skin-to-skin contact.
STDs are very common.
What causes an STD?
The infection can be caused by bacteria, a virus, or a parasite.
Bacterial infections and parasite infections can be treated and cured with
Viral STDs can be treated but not cured.
Are STDs contagious?
Yes. STDs are contagious.
How are STDs passed from person to person?
STDs can be spread through sexual contact, including vaginal, anal, and
The virus or bacteria that causes the infection are found in semen, vaginal
fluid, and blood.
Some STDs can be passed through blood. It can be passed from an infected
person to another person if they share needles to take drugs.
STDs can also be passed by skin-to-skin contact, not just sex.
Babies can get STDs from their mothers.
Who is at risk?
Anyone can get an STD.
People who have unprotected sex are at higher risk than those who use protection.
People with many sexual partners are at greater risk than people with few
People who share needles to take drugs are at risk.
Women are at higher risk than men.
STDs are more easily transmitted to a woman when she has her period.
What are the common types and symptoms? It is very important to be tested for STDs, even if you feel fine. Treatment
should begin as soon as possible. Women who have STDs will often not have any
Chlamydia is caused by a bacterial infection.
There may be no symptoms.
Symptoms can include burning with urination and abnormal discharge.
If not treated in women, it can lead to a disease that can cause infertility.
It is caused by a parasite.
Symptoms include discharge that smells bad and genital pain.
It may start in the genitals and can spread throughout the whole body.
The first symptom is usually a sore that forms on the genitals or mouth.
A fever, sore throat, headache, or joint pain usually follows.
Pubic lice is a parasite.
It causes redness and itching around the genitals.
Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection.
It can cause greenish or yellowish discharge. It can also cause a burning
feeling when urinating, fever, abnormal vaginal bleeding, and pelvic pain
It is caused by a viral infection.
It causes sores or blisters to form on the buttocks, thighs, genitals,
Genital warts are caused by a virus.
The warts can be found on or around the genitals and anus.
It is a viral infection.
It affects the liver.
It causes nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, a sore stomach, and jaundice
(yellowish color to the skin). It also causes a feeling of extreme tiredness.
Symptoms can include fever, night sweats, swollen glands, and tiredness.
How can I protect myself against STDs?
The only way to be 100% safe is to not have sex or skin-to-skin contact
with anyone, and to never share needles.
If you have sex, protect yourself by using contraception. Remember, some
methods protect against pregnancy but not STDs. Learn more about contraception.
The basic rule is to always use a new latex condom each time you have oral,
anal, or vaginal sex.
If you have sex, avoid having many partners. The more people you come into
contact with, the greater chance you have of getting an STD.
Ask your partner if they have been tested for STDs.
Women should avoid douching (putting water into the vagina for cleaning).
Douching can destroy the body's natural ability to fight off infections.
Do not touch rashes and open sores.
When should I call the doctor?
Call the doctor if you think you could have an STD. You should be tested
and treated as soon as possible if needed.
Call the doctor if you have symptoms of an STD.
Call the doctor if you are pregnant and could have or already do have an
Call the doctor if you partner has an STD.
Call the doctor if you have questions about contraception.
Call the doctor if you have any questions or concerns.
An STD is an infection that can be passed from one person to another through
sexual contact or skin-to-skin contact.
The infection can be caused by a bacteria, a virus, or a parasite.
STDs can be passed through sexual contact, including vaginal, anal, and
Anyone can get an STD.
There are many different types of STDs. The common types include chlamydia,
trichomoniasis, syphilis, public lice, gonorrhea, genital herpes, genital
warts, hepatitis B, and HIV.
The only way to be 100% safe from an STD is to not have sex or skin-to-skin
contact with anyone, and to never share needles.
Call the doctor if you are at risk for an STD. You should be tested and
treated as soon as possible if needed.
Dowshen S and Lamprecht C. What are STDs? KidsHealth. http://kidshealth.org/
2001 March (2002 May 1).
Merck and Co. Sexually Transmitted Diseases. The Merck Manual: Home Edition.
http://www.merck.com/ 1995-2002 (cited 2002 May 1).
The National Women's Health Information Center. Sexually Transmitted Diseases
(STDs). http://www.4woman.gov/ 1999 (cited 2002 May 1).
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