Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are infectious diseases spread through sexual
contact. About 50 out of 100 new STIs happen in people ages 15 to 24.
The best way to prevent your teen from contracting an STI is to advise them to not
have any type of sexual contact with another person. But if they decide to be sexually
active, or are currently sexually active, there are several safety measures to follow.
These are advised by experts to help reduce your teen's risk of getting an STI. They
Have a mutually monogamous sexual relationship with an uninfected partner.
Use (consistently and correctly) a male latex or female polyurethane condom, even
for oral sex.
Reduce chance of HIV infections by preventing and controlling other STIs. Having another
STI makes it easier to get infected with HIV.
Strongly think about HIV prevention treatments, including:
PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis). Taking medicines to prevent HIV within 72 hours after a risky exposure.
PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis). Taking medicine regularly to prevent HIV infection if exposed at a future risky sexual
If you are going to have sex with someone who is HIV-positive, be very sure the other
person is taking their HIV medicines and that their viral load is completely under
Delay having sexual relationships as long as possible. The younger a person is when
they start to have sex for the first time, the more susceptible they are to getting
Have regular checkups for HIV and STIs.
Learn the symptoms of STIs. Get medical help as soon as possible if you have any symptom.
Don't have sex during menstruation.
Don't have anal intercourse. Don't use a male latex condom and topical microbicides.
HIV. HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, destroys the body's ability to fight off infection.
It is spread by unprotected sex with an infected person. It's also spread by contact
with infected blood or contaminated needles. People with advanced HIV infection are
very susceptible to many life-threatening diseases and to certain forms of cancer.
HPV. HPV is a common STI that can cause genital warts. These can happen on the inside or
outside parts of the genitals and rectum. They may spread to the nearby skin or to
a sex partner. HPV infection does not always cause warts. So you may not know you
are infected. Women with an HPV infection have a higher risk of cervical cancer. Regular
Pap tests can find HPV infection, as well as abnormal cervical cells. An HPV vaccine
is available to help prevent cervical cancer and genital warts. This vaccine is advised
starting at age 11. But it can be given as young as age 9. Discuss this with your child's
healthcare provider. There is treatment for genital warts. These sometimes go away
on their own. But the virus remains and warts can come back. Some types of HPV can
also cause warts (called common warts) on other body parts such as the hands. But
these do not generally cause health problems.
Chlamydia. Chlamydial infections, the most common of all STIs, can affect both men and women.
They may cause an abnormal genital discharge, burning with urination, and rectal discharge
and bleeding. In women, untreated chlamydial infection may lead to pelvic inflammatory
disease (PID). This is an infection of the uterus, fallopian tubes, and other reproductive
organs. It causes symptoms such as lower belly pain. Chlamydial infections can be
treated with antibiotics. Unfortunately, many people with chlamydial infection have
few or no symptoms. The most common and serious complications happen in women and
include pelvic inflammatory disease, tubal (ectopic) pregnancy, and trouble having
children (infertility). Men may have urinary symptoms or no symptoms at all.
Gonorrhea. Gonorrhea causes a discharge from the vagina, penis, or rectum. It also causes painful
or difficult urination or bowel movements. The most common and serious complications
happen in women. These include pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy, and
trouble having children (infertility). Gonorrhea infections can be treated with antibiotics.
Genital herpes. Genital herpes infections are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). Symptoms may
include painful blisters or open sores in the genital or rectal area. First there
may be a tingling or burning feeling in the area. The herpes sores often go away in
a few weeks. But the virus stays in the body. And the sores may come back from time
to time. There is no cure for HSV. But there are antiviral medicines that can shorten
an outbreak and reduce symptoms.
Syphilis. The first symptom of syphilis is a painless open sore. It is often seen on the penis,
in the vagina, or around either sexual organ. Untreated syphilis may go on to more
advanced stages. This includes a short-term rash. Over time, the heart and central
nervous system may be seriously affected. Syphilis infections can be treated with
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID is a serious complication women can get from some STIs, such as chlamydia and
gonorrhea. PID is an infection of the uterus, fallopian tubes, and other reproductive
organs. It can cause lower belly pain. Later on it can cause problems having children.
STIs affect men and women of all backgrounds and economic levels. But nearly 50 out
of 100 STI cases in the U.S. happen in people younger than age 25.
STIs are on the rise, possibly due to more sexually active people who have multiple
sex partners during their lives.
Many STIs cause no symptoms at first. And many STI symptoms may be confused with those
of other diseases not spread by sex, especially in women. Even symptomless STIs can
be contagious and can later cause long-term (chronic) or serious health problems.
Women suffer more frequent and severe symptoms from STIs:
Some STIs can spread into the uterus and fallopian tubes and cause pelvic inflammatory
disease (PID). This can lead to both infertility and ectopic (tubal) pregnancy.
Some strains of HPV infection in women may also be linked to cervical cancer. In both
women and men, these strains may cause anal, head, and neck cancer.
STIs can be passed from a mother to her baby before or during birth. Some newborn
infections may be successfully treated. Others may cause a baby to be permanently
disabled or even die.
Once diagnosed, many STIs can be successfully treated. Some STIs, such as herpes,
can't be completely cured and may happen again. But each recurrence can be prevented
Key ways to prevent transmission of HIV infection include PEP within 72 hours of exposure
and PrEP to prevent transmission if there is ongoing risk. Also make sure that HIV-positive
partners are under treatment and have their virus under control.