The Basics

In the United States, an estimated 20 million new sexually transmitted infections are diagnosed each year – over half of which occur in people ages 15-24. (1)This costs the U.S. health care systems about $17 billion per year. With more than a dozen different STDs, several of which are chronic and life-long, it is important to not only get tested regularly, but to prevent these infections in the first place.

What are STDs?

Sexually transmitted diseases are diseases passed from person to person during sexual activity (e.g. vaginal, oral and anal sex, outer course or mutual masturbation). STDs can be transmitted through bodily fluids and, in some cases, skin-to-skin contact.

Although not everyone who has an STD will experience symptoms, an STD can still be transferred to a partner without your knowledge. If you have an STD, you are always contagious and can spread the disease at any time, even if you aren’t experiencing symptoms.

STDs and STIs…What’s the difference?

The terms STD (sexually transmitted disease) and STI (sexually transmitted infection) are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference.

The term “STI” (sexually transmitted infection) is used to describe the presence of an infection in the body, which may or may not be accompanied by symptoms. On the other hand, the term “STD” (sexually transmitted diseases) describes an infection that has caused damage in a person’s body — though, like STIs, an STD may or may not be accompanied by symptoms.

In general, an STI is the broader of the two terms. All STDs are STIs, though not all STIs become STDs.


Condoms are not as effective as you might think when used to prevent sexually transmitted infections. Using a condom during sex can reduce the risk of transmitting or contracting certain STIs, but a condom never eliminates the risk entirely. There are vaccinations that exist for some STIs, but not all. The only sure way to avoid all sexually transmitted infections is to abstain from any sexual activity.

Facing the uncertainty of a sexually transmitted infection can be scary. If you think you may have an STI, give us a call to talk to one of our peer counselors, who can then refer you to a testing center in your community. Just remember, no matter the diagnosis, you are never alone.


Early detection is key when it comes to treating STIs effectively. Some STIs can be treated and cured with medications; however, some cannot be cured at all. For those infections that are incurable, symptoms can still be managed by other medications and treatments. Getting tested for an STI is easy and painless, and will ultimately benefit your health and safety.

This information is intended for education purposes and is not a substitute for professional counseling and/or medical advice.

(1)”STD Trends in the United States,” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last modified March 2013,

Please call us to receive a referral to a STD/STI testing center near you.