Sexually Transmitted Infections
Thurston County Public Health and Social Services does not offer testing services.
Sexually transmitted Infections (STIs) are very common. STIs pass from one person to another through vaginal, oral, and anal sex. They also can spread through intimate physical contact like heavy petting, though this is not very common.
STI's don’t always cause symptoms or may only cause mild symptoms. Therefore, it is possible to have an infection and not know it. That is why getting an STD test is important if you are having sex. If you receive a positive STI diagnosis, know that all are treatable with medicine, and some are curable entirely. STIs are preventable. If you have sex, know how to protect yourself and your sex partner(s) from STIs. (CDC)
Chlamydia is a common STD that can cause infection in both men and women. It can cause permanent damage to a woman’s reproductive system, which can make it difficult or impossible to get pregnant later. You can get chlamydia by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has chlamydia; you can still get chlamydia even if your sex partner does not ejaculate (cum). A pregnant person with chlamydia can give the infection to their baby during childbirth.
Even when chlamydia has no symptoms, it can damage a woman’s reproductive system. Women with symptoms may notice.
- An abnormal vaginal discharge; and
- A burning sensation when peeing.
Symptoms in men can include.
- A discharge from their penis
- A burning sensation when peeing; and
- Pain and swelling in one or both testicles (although this is less common).
See a healthcare provider if you notice any of these symptoms. You should also see a provider if your partner has an STD or symptoms of one.
Gonorrhea is an STD that can cause infection in the genitals, rectum, and throat. It is very common, especially among young people ages 15-24 years. You can get gonorrhea by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has gonorrhea. A pregnant person with gonorrhea can give the infection to their baby during childbirth.
Most women with gonorrhea do not have any symptoms. Even when a woman has symptoms, they are often mild and can be mistaken for a bladder or vaginal infection. Symptoms in women can include:
- Painful or burning sensation when peeing;
- Increased vaginal discharge; and
- Vaginal bleeding between periods.
Men who do have symptoms may have:
- A burning sensation when peeing;
- A white, yellow, or green discharge from the penis; and
- Painful or swollen testicles (although this is less common).
See your healthcare provider if you notice any of these symptoms. You should also see a provider if your partner has an STD or symptoms of one. Symptoms can include an unusual sore, a smelly discharge, burning when peeing, or bleeding between periods.
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It weakens a person’s immune system by destroying important cells that fight disease and infection. There is currently no effective cure for HIV. But with proper medical care, HIV can be controlled. Some groups of people in the United States are more likely to get HIV than others because of many factors, including their sex partners and risk behaviors. Today, more tools than ever are available to prevent HIV. You can use strategies such as abstinence (not having sex), never sharing needles, and using condoms the right way every time you have sex. You may also be able to take advantage of HIV prevention medicines such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). If you have HIV, there are many actions you can take to prevent transmitting HIV to others.
HIV (WA DOH)
HPV (Human Papillomavirus) is the most common STI. Many people in their late teens and early 20s get HPV infections. There are many different types of HPV, some can cause health problems, including genital warts and cancers. You can get HPV by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the virus. It is most commonly spread during vaginal or anal sex. It also spreads through close skin-to-skin touching during sex. A person with HPV can pass the infection to someone even when they have no signs or symptoms.
There is no test to find out a person’s “HPV status.” Also, there is no approved HPV test to find HPV in the mouth or throat. There are HPV tests that can screen for cervical cancer. Healthcare providers only use these tests for screening women aged 30 years and older. HPV tests are not recommended to screen men, adolescents, or women under the age of 30 years.
Most people with HPV do not know they have the infection. They never develop symptoms or health problems from it. Some people find out they have HPV when they get genital warts. Women may find out they have HPV when they get an abnormal Pap test result (during cervical cancer screening). Others may only find out once they’ve developed more serious problems from HPV, such as cancers.
Herpes simplex virus (HSV) is a lifelong virus that is categorized into two distinct herpesvirus species, herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2). HSV-1 is typically transmitted by oral-oral contact to cause oral herpes but can also cause genital herpes through oral-genital contact. HSV-2 is typically sexually transmitted and causes genital herpes but can also cause infections in the mouth. Importantly, both types of virus can cause herpes disease in newborns and infants and can appear anywhere on the body.
In newborn infants, HSV infections are often severe and result in high rates of mortality and morbidity. Every precaution needs to be taken to prevent infants from being exposed to the herpes virus and appropriate hand hygiene should be done before holding the infant.
Genital Herpes (CDC)
Mothers with HSV (CDC)
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can cause serious health problems without treatment. Infection develops in stages (primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary). Each stage can have different signs and symptoms.
Trichomoniasis (or “trich”) is a very common STD caused by infection with Trichomonas vaginalis (a protozoan parasite). Although symptoms vary, most people who have trich cannot tell they have it. About 70% of people with the infection do not have any signs or symptoms. When trich does cause symptoms, they can range from mild irritation to severe inflammation. Some people get symptoms within 5 to 28 days after getting the infection. Others do not develop symptoms until much later. Symptoms can come and go.
Men with trich may notice:
- Itching or irritation inside the penis;
- Burning after peeing or ejaculating; and
- Discharge from the penis.
Women with trich may notice:
- Itching, burning, redness or soreness of the genitals;
- Discomfort when peeing; and
- A clear, white, yellowish, or greenish vaginal discharge (i.e., thin discharge or increased volume) with a fishy smell.
Having trich can make sex feel unpleasant. Without treatment, the infection can last for months or even years.