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Be Safe Prevent Sexually Transmitted Infections

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are infections you can get or give someone by having sex while you or your partner are infected.


What's Important to Know?

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), often referred to as Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), are infections you can get or give someone by having sex while you or your partner has an infection. STIs are the same thing as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Many STIs do not have symptoms. You and/or your partner can have an STI and pass it on without knowing it. Some STIs can cause organ damage and infertility. Having one STI may raise your risk for getting other STIs. Some examples of STIs are chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, trichomonas, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is the most common STI in the United States and can cause cervical and anal cancer. Recently, mpox has been identified as a STI, though it can also spread through other modes such as skin to skin contact, contact with contaminated materials or infected animals.  If you or your partner have skin sores or blisters, this could be a sign of mpox or another infection.

You can get STIs from any sexual activity, whether it involves the mouth, anus, vagina, penis, or sex toys. Some STIs can pass from a pregnant woman to their baby before or during the baby’s birth. Most STIs can be treated and cured. Some cannot be cured but can be managed by taking medicines. If you are treated for an STI, your sex partner(s) may also need to be treated to prevent you from being re-infected.

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The spread of some STIs can be reduced by using new, lubricated latex condoms every time you have sex for the entire sex act and by reducing your number of sex partners. For those allergic to latex, polyurethane and polyisoprene condoms offer protection from STIs but may break more easily. Lambskin condoms and birth control pills can help prevent pregnancy, but they will not protect you from STIs.  Research is ongoing and new methods of prevention may become available so talk to your health care team if you are interested.

Vaccines are available through VA that can help prevent you from getting certain STIs.  These are:

  • HPV
  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Mpox

Multiple medications are available to protect yourself against HIV infection. HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a medication (oral medication or injection) that is highly effective at preventing HIV infection for people at risk. It can lower your risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99% when taken correctly. HIV post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is medication taken to prevent HIV in emergency situations after a possible exposure. It must be taken within 72 hours of exposure.

Getting tested and knowing your status is also an important part of reducing the spread of STIs. If you are at risk for one STI, you are at risk for all STIs!

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Want to Know More?

If you want to learn more about STIs or think that you may have one or have been exposed to one, you can talk with your VA health care team. They can help if you have questions about testing or treatment.

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