Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are on the rise in the United States. STIs are infections passed from person to person through sexual contact. According to the World Health Organization, each year an estimated 333 million new cases of curable STIs occur worldwide with the highest rates among those ages 20-24, followed by ages 15-19. 

STIs can significantly impact various aspects of an individual’s life, including their physical health, emotional well-being, relationships, and even socioeconomic status. Effective prevention, early detection, and comprehensive management are essential in mitigating these impacts. 

Common preventable STIs Include chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital herpes, HIV, human papillomavirus (HPV), syphilis, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and trichomoniasis. These have varying symptoms and treatment. 

Preventing STIs 

Regular screenings with a healthcare provider can detect STIs. Many STIs can be successfully treated when diagnosed early. And some STIs can be prevented through vaccines, such as the HPV vaccine, which is recommended before having sex for the first time or as soon as possible after becoming sexually active. 

Take steps to lower the risk for an STI when planning to become sexually active or if you are currently sexually active. Those include: 

  • Use barrier methods such as male or female condoms or dental dams. 
  • Prevent and control other STIs. Having one STI may increase the risk for others. 
  • Limit the number of sexual partners.  
  • Talk to your partners about your and their past STIs and HIV testing status, and whether either of you have any current STIs or genital symptoms. Have regular checkups for STIs. 
  • Learn the symptoms of STIs and seek medical help as soon as possible if any symptoms develop. 

For parents and caregivers, talking about sex early and often can help young people more easily make decisions about sex which are healthy and safe. 

What to do when diagnosed with an STI? 

When exposed to or diagnosed with an STI, meet with a health care provider right away. Ask if your partner should be tested and treated as well and what precautions you should be taking. Take the full course of medicines prescribed, and follow your health care provider’s advice. Tell your recent sexual partners so that they can get tested and treated too. Don’t engage in sexual activity while receiving treatment for an STI. Ask your healthcare provider when it is safe to have sex again. 

Many STIs can be successfully treated when diagnosed early. Engage in prevention measures, and speak with your health care provider if you notice any symptoms.  

Megan Galloway is a Certified Nurse Midwife with Barton Obstetrics & Gynecology (OB/GYN). Megan will host a free Wellness Webinar, “STI Talk: Education & Prevention,” on Thursday, June 13 at 5pm. Register in advance, or view previously recorded webinars at BartonHealth.org/Lecture. Sexual health may be discussed with an OB/GYN care provider or primary care provider. For more information or to find a provider, visit BartonHealth.org.