It doesn’t matter if you’re straight, lesbian, gay, transgender, or questioning (LGBTQ); if you have one or multiple sexual partners; or if you have vaginal, oral or anal sex. If you or your partner(s) have unprotected sex, you can get a sexually transmitted infection (STI). While not all STIs have a cure, they all can be treated. However, if left untreated, STIs may cause serious health problems – including life-threatening infections and infertility.
STIs are very common. So with that in mind, protect yourself and your partner(s). Know the facts. Know your options. And help prevent the spread of STIs.
Whatever your age, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation, if you have unprotected sex, you can get a sexually transmitted infection (STI). The more people you have unprotected sex with, the greater your chances of picking up an infection.
There are many easy and effective ways to protect yourself from STIs, starting with using either a male condom or a female condom during vaginal or anal sex. Male condoms and dental dams also offer protection during oral sex.
Whether you're male, female, straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning, protect yourself by using a condom. Condoms can reduce the risk of spreading STIs during all types of sex. Using a condom correctly every time you have sex can help you to protect yourself and your partner/s from STIs. If you and your partner share sex toys, use a condom and change the condom each time you move the toy from one area of the body to another.
If you've had unprotected sex and/or are not sure if you or your partner(s) has an STI, get tested. Be sure to ask your health care provider to test you for STIs - asking is the only way to know whether you are receiving the right tests. Unfortunately, not all STIs show symptoms.
A big part of prevention means making sure that your past partner(s) know that you have an STI. You should also let future partner(s) know if you are currently being treated for an STI, or have an STI that can't be cured (e.g., HIV, herpes, HPV).
Whether it's with a past, present or future partner(s), it's never an easy conversation to have. But keeping quiet isn't the answer, and there is support available.
If you're concerned about telling your partner that you have an STI, talk to a health care provider or someone at a sexual health clinic. They can offer resources, advice and the help you need.
It's natural to feel nervous at the thought of discussing your infection with your partner(s). The health of your partner(s) may be at risk, so they need to know what's going on. Here are some good reasons to have a conversation about STIs:
Every situation is different. How you approach it comes down to your comfort level. Here are some ideas for handling the conversation:
In many cases, STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhea and HIV, don't show or have any symptoms at all-at least at the beginning. And while you may feel perfectly fine, you could still pass an STI on to someone else if you have unprotected vaginal, oral or anal sex.
Some STIs show signs like unusual discharges, burning while you urinate or genital warts. But other STIs don't have obvious symptoms. You can have an STI without knowing it.
If your partner tells you he or she has an STI, ask for the name of the infection. Then visit your health care provider or sexual health clinic for testing and treatment. Testing is easy and free of charge.
Breathe a sigh of relief. Most STIs can be treated. But the best solution is to prevent getting an infection in the first place.
Visit your health care provider or sexual health clinic if you notice:
If you've had unprotected sex, including oral sex, see your health care provider or go to a sexual health clinic to get tested. Once you know what you have, you can get the right treatment. It's also worth knowing so you don't pass along a sexually transmitted infection (STI) to someone else.
Whether you're lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, straight, or questioning, testing is important for your health. Get the quality health care you need from a sexual health clinic in your community. Confidentiality is assured.
Testing is easy and free of charge - see your health care provider or sexual health clinic for details.
Be sure to ask your health care provider to test you for STIs - asking is the only way to know whether you are receiving the right tests.
Some of the most commonly reported STIs can be treated and cured. Potentially serious STIs like chlamydia and gonorrhea can be cured by antibiotics. Treatment can also help to reduce symptoms, or future outbreaks (e.g., antivirals for herpes and HPV). There are also medications available to help people with HIV live longer and healthier lives.
If you test positive for an STI, you must take action. It's important to tell your partner(s) from the past and present, or even future ones, depending on the infection. Ideally, they should be treated at the same time you are. That way they can prevent re-infecting you - and others.
If you have concerns about telling your partner(s), contact a public health nurse. The public health nurse can suggest ways to handle the situation or they will contact your partner(s) for you. Your name will be kept confidential. If you decide to talk to your partner(s) yourself, learn how to talk comfortably about it.
Get the information you need about sexually transmitted infections, their symptoms, how to get tested and treatment options.