Did you know that according to the CDC in 2018, 1 in 5 people in the United States had an STI at any given time? And almost half of new STIs were among people aged 15-24 in the United States?

It’s important to know, first and foremost, that most STIs are curable, and ALL are manageable. If you’ve had an STI or are worried you have one, you’re not alone! Having knowledge about what STIs are, how they’re spread, and how to prevent them can help you stay as healthy as possible.

So, let’s dive in to the top seven things that everyone should know about STIs.

 

  1. What is an STI?

STI stands for sexually transmitted infection. They are also known as STDs (sexually transmitted diseases).

 

  1. How are STIs spread and who gets them?

Sexually transmitted infections are passed from one person to another through different sexual activities – via vaginal, anal or oral sex. Some of them pass skin-to-skin (specifically when the skin on your mouth, genitals or anus comes into contact with those parts on another person) and others pass through vaginal fluids, semen or blood. Anyone who has sex can be exposed to an STI.

 

  1. What are common types of STIs?

Sexually transmitted infections are mainly caused by viruses or bacteria.

Some common viral STIs include:

Common bacterial STIs include:

 

  1. What are symptoms?

The most common symptom of an STI is no symptoms at all! Your genitals may look fine, and you may feel fine, but you might still have an STI if you’ve ever had sex and have not been tested. If you do have symptoms, they can include:

  • Unusual discharge from the vagina, penis or anus
  • Pain or burning with urination
  • Bumps on the skin
  • Rash
  • Unusual vaginal bleeding
  • Itchiness
  • Blisters and sores

 

  1. What’s it like to get tested?

Getting tested for STIs is quick, easy, affordable and confidential! If you’d like to schedule here at Bridgercare, visit Bridgercare.org/schedule or call the front desk at 406-587-0681 and they’ll be happy to help.

Come prepared to leave a urine sample. A provider will go over your health & sexual history so they can be sure to recommend the right tests for you, and answer any questions or address any concerns you have. Cost is based on a sliding fee scale, so you may be eligible for discounts based on your household’s income.

Heads up – if you’re concerned about a recent encounter and aren’t showing symptoms, be sure to schedule your appointment 2 weeks or more after the encounter to make sure you receive accurate results.

 

  1. What should I expect for treatment?

Since most STIs are asymptomatic, folks can be unaware they have an STI. If left untreated, this can have a negative impact on you or your partner’s health and fertility.

But good news – bacterial STIs, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea, can be cured with medication. Viral STIs, including herpes, cannot be cured, but can be managed with medication. No matter what, most adults with STIs continue to lead normal lives.

 

  1. What can I do to keep myself healthy?

We love this question! Here are a few ways:

  • Get tested! After every new sexual partner, get tested.
  • Have conversations with new partners about STI history and when you’ve both last been tested.
  • Use a condom or dental dam, whether engaging in oral, anal or vaginal sex. Using a condom or dental dam correctly significantly decreases your risk of contracting an STI.
  • Get the Gardasil vaccine. This vaccine series is highly effective in preventing HPV, which can lead to cancer. Read more about it here!
  • If you’re at high risk for contracting HIV, consider taking PrEP, a medication that decreases the likelihood that you’ll contract HIV. Questions? Come see us!

 

Phew, that was a lot of information! We hope you learned at least one new thing about sexually transmitted infections.

Still have questions? Or want to schedule an appointment for screening? Give us a call at 406-587-0681 or schedule an appointment online at Bridgercare.org/schedule. We would be happy to chat with you and answer any questions you might have.

 

Written by Mettalise Bracht-Bedell, 2020-2021 Bridgercare Intern