Real talk: Fear of judg­ment and rejec­tion pre­vents peo­ple from talk­ing about STIs.

But that doesn’t stop peo­ple from shar­ing them.

This is where you can find out every­thing about STIs, from symp­toms, to treat­ment, to pre­ven­tion methods.

What are STIs 

Peo­ple catch infec­tions – like colds or flus – all the time. These are usu­al­ly caught through casu­al con­tact with friends, fam­i­ly mem­bers, or peo­ple at work. Infec­tions trans­mit­ted through sex­u­al con­tact are called sex­u­al­ly trans­mit­ted infec­tions,’ or STIs.

Sex­u­al­ly trans­mit­ted infec­tions used to be called sex­u­al­ly trans­mit­ted dis­eases (STDs). The name has changed because dis­eases always have symp­toms (changes to your body that you will notice), where­as infec­tions do not need to have symp­toms — and STIs often don’t cause symptoms.

The truth is, any­one can get an STI, and 15 to 24 year olds are the fastest grow­ing group of peo­ple get­ting STIs. You can’t tell by look­ing at some­one if they have one, and it’s eas­i­er than you think to pass it on to some­one. Some are spread through the trans­fer of flu­ids (blood, semen, vagi­nal flu­ids) that hap­pens dur­ing sex­u­al activ­i­ty, and oth­ers are spread sim­ply by touch­ing an infect­ed area.

Most STIs can be cured and all can be treat­ed to ease symptoms.

Pre­vent­ing STIs 

We all take risks. It’s up to us to decide just how risky we want to be. If you decide you want to have sex with a part­ner, it’s pos­si­ble to give or get an STI. When you have safer sex,’ it means that you’re cut­ting down your chances of get­ting or giv­ing an STI.

If you’re sex­u­al­ly active, the best way to stop spread­ing an infec­tion is by putting some kind of bar­ri­er between you and your part­ner. You can use male con­doms, female con­doms, and den­tal dams to pro­tect your­self. (See the Con­doms page for more information)

Before you start a new sex­u­al rela­tion­ship, you and your part­ner should get test­ed for STIs. Because STIs don’t always cause symp­toms, you or your part­ner could be car­ry­ing an infec­tion from a past rela­tion­ship and not even know it. For more infor­ma­tion on test­ing, see the Test­ing page.

Final­ly, by know­ing your part­ner and their sex­u­al his­to­ry before you start hav­ing sex, you can have a gen­er­al idea as to how risky your sex­u­al activ­i­ty may be. You can also talk with your part­ner about ways to be sex­u­al­ly inti­mate that do not involve the risk of trans­mit­ting an infection.

Com­mon STIs and their symptoms 

To learn more about spe­cif­ic STIs, click on one of the links below and infor­ma­tion will pop up.

Bac­te­r­i­al STIs

Bac­te­r­i­al STIs can be cured with antibi­otics. If left untreat­ed, though, some bac­te­r­i­al STIs can cause a seri­ous con­di­tion called Pelvic Inflam­ma­to­ry Dis­ease (PID), a long-term and seri­ous infec­tion of the uterus, fal­lop­i­an tubes, and/​or ovaries, which can cause infer­til­i­ty (not being able to get preg­nant). In Cana­da, 75% of PID cas­es occur among those aged 25 years and younger.

Viral STIs

Viral STIs can­not be cured by med­ica­tion. Med­ica­tion can only slow them down. Viral infec­tions can either be killed off by the body’s immune sys­tem (e.g. cer­tain cas­es of hepati­tis) or they may con­tin­ue to live with­in the body (e.g. her­pes). Some can be pre­vent­ed by immunization/​shots (e.g. hepati­tis B, HPV).

Par­a­sitic STIs

Par­a­sitic STIs are small organ­isms that can be killed off with anti-par­a­sitic medications.

Fun­gal STIs

Fun­gal STIs can be cured with anti-fungals.

Get­ting tested 

There’s noth­ing wrong with get­ting test­ed or ask­ing your part­ner to get test­ed. Because STIs are often hard to detect, you might think that you don’t have one when real­ly you do. Test­ing can pro­tect your part­ner from get­ting an STI, and get­ting test­ed and treat­ed ear­ly can also increase the chances you’ll be able to get rid of it.

For infor­ma­tion on get­ting test­ed, see our Test­ing page.

What do I do if I caught an STI

Many peo­ple feel embar­rassed, ashamed, or guilty when they dis­cov­er they have an STI. The phrase sex­u­al­ly trans­mit­ted’ can make peo­ple feel uncom­fort­able and this makes it hard to talk about STIs. Humans are sex­u­al beings and sex­u­al­ly trans­mit­ted infec­tions are in many ways the same as infec­tions any­where else – you get them from con­tact with oth­er people.

If you’ve been diag­nosed with an STI, what hap­pens next will depend on what infection(s) you have. You can click on spe­cif­ic STIs (above) for more infor­ma­tion on how they’re treated.

Relat­ed Links