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Sexually Transmitted Infections

For a graph / chart of common STIs, please click here.

This page is designed to provide basic information on the most common sexually transmitted infections.  It does not attempt to list all known sexually transmitted  infections.

Sexually transmitted infections include a variety of disorders which are passed from one individual to another through intimate or direct sexual contact.  Symptoms of these infections tend to appear in the genital area.  The genitals include the labia and vagina, penis and scrotum, or the anal region.  Persons who engage in oral sex may also develop symptoms in the mouth and throat.  Other areas that may be affected include the skin of the groin and the eyes. 

Familiarity with your reproductive organs is the first step in good health care.  It is important to know how your body feels, functions, looks and smells when you are in good health.  This knowledge will help you to determine when you need to seek assistance from a health care professional. 

Remember any unusual discharge, lump, pain or discomfort in the breasts, vagina, penis or testes should be evaluated by a health care provider.  These services are available at the IU Health Center.  For an appointment, call 855-7688.

If you would like information on this topic or general information on other health topics or problems, call Health and Wellness Education at 855-7338.

No sexual contact is the only guaranteed way of preventing  sexually transmitted infections.  For individuals who are sexually active, the following recommendations may help reduce risk.

  • Mutual  Monogamy:  Two people who only have sexual contact with each other. Limiting the number of lifetime sexual partners decreases your risk of infection.
  • Condoms:  A latex sheath placed over the erect penis or a polyurethane female condom worn internally by a woman act as  barriers to the transmission of body fluids from one person to another.  Latex barriers, including dental dams, plastic wrap and non-lubricated condoms cut open, may provide some protection when performing oral sex on a woman.
  • Vaccinations:  All women and men (ages 9-26) should consider vaccination against HPV (Gardasil). Hepatitis B can be prevented by vaccination.
  • Genital Inspection: Examination of your and your partner’s genital area for any noticeable changes in texture, lumps, color, odor or discharge is important.  If you notice a change, refrain from sexual activity until the affected person can be evaluated by a trained health care provider.
  • Treatment: When drugs have been prescribed to treat a specific infection, the entire prescription should be taken even if symptoms disappear after part of the prescription is used. You should also refrain from sexual contact until advised by your provider.
  • Partner Evaluation and Treatment:  Inform all partners that you have been treated for a specific problem and that they should seek appropriate medical care.  If  partners are local, and have no health provider, they can be treated at the IU Health Center even if they are not students.
  • Communication: The ability to talk openly about sexuality will lead to safer, less stressful sexual activity.
  • Spermicides: These may increase the risk of acquiring a sexually transmitted infection by causing vaginal irritation.

These tips for reducing the risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections apply to all sexually active individuals regardless of sexual orientation.

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV), Gardnerella         Overgrowth of vaginal bacteria(F):  Vaginal discharge with odor, itching may accompany other symptoms                                                                             (M):  Generally don’t have symptomsMicroscopic examination of vaginal dischargeMetronidizole (Flagyl) or other antibiotic treatment
Bacterial InfectionCandida, a fungus(F):  White, curdy, vaginal discharge; vaginal itching and/or swelling                                                                              (M):  Most often have no symptoms, but may have itching and/or rash around genitals.  Identified by microscopic examination or culture of discharge.  Oral medication, Diflucan (Flucanazole); Vaginal cream, suppository or topical cream to relieve itching e.g. Miconazole/Clotrimazole
Monilia, “Yeast,” “Fungus,” “Candidiasis”Trichomonas vaginalis, a protozoan(F):  Vaginal discharge with odor, itching, swelling                                                         (M):  Generally no symptoms, but may have slight penile itch and clear dischargeMicroscopic exam of vaginal or penile dischargeOral medication, Metronidazole (Flagyl).  Treat partner(s)
Trichomoniasis, “Tric,” TrichomonasChlamydia bacteria, T-strain mycoplasmas(F):  Most often no early symptoms; may have abnormal discharge and/or bleeding, abdominal pain                             ( M):  Discomfort with urination and in genital area, penile discharge, sometimes no early symptoms.Swab of cervix or urethra, urine test also available; treat based on clinical symptoms or partner’s positive testAntibiotic regimen -  Doxycycline, Zithromax, Tetracycline.  Treat Partner(s)
Chlamydia, Nongonococcal Urethritis (NGU), Nonspecific Urethritis (NSU)Neisseria gonorrhea bacteria (gonococci)(F):  Most often no early symptoms; may have abnormal discharge and/or bleeding, abdominal pain                             ( M):  Discomfort with urination and in genital area, penile discharge, sometimes no early symptoms.Swab of cervix or urethra, urine test also available; treat based on clinical symptoms or partner’s positive testAntibiotic-Suprax or Ceftriaxone. Treat partner(s).
Gonorrhea, “Clap,” “V.D,” “GC”Human papilloma virus (HPV)Both sexes:  Often no symptoms; may have small growths on, in & around the genitals; (F): cellular changes on cervix detected by a Pap smear. Identified by sight, blood test to rule out syphilis; Pap smear may indicate evidence of HPV.  Can remove growths by chemical or freezing; check partner(s). If changes occur on pap smear, may require follow up testing. Vaccine  available for women.
HPV, Condyloma Acuminata, “Genital Warts”Hepatitis B Virus (HBV)Both sexes:  flu-like symptoms, fatigue, nausea, jaundiceBlood testNo treatment for acute infection. Some treatments available for chronic infection. Vaccine available to prevent infection.
Hepatitis BPhthirus pubis (pubic or crab louse)Both sexes:  small but visible lice and eggs (nits) in pubic hair, itching in pubic area Identified by sightLotion, shampoo or cream is available by prescription, or non-prescription (A-200, Nix, Rid); check partner(s)
Pediculosis Pubis, “Crabs,” “Pubic Lice”Treponema pallidum bacteriaBoth sexes:  painless sores on genitals or mucus membrane; highly variable skin rashBlood test (VDRL or RPR, FTA).  The VDRL and RPR are initial test; if positive then FTA is ordered.  Specific type and amount of penicillin or other antibiotic; treat partner(s) 
SyphilisHerpes simplex (HSV) virus types I and IIBoth sexes:  very painful sore(s) or blister(s) on and around genitals; itching, painful urination, swollen lymph nodes in groin, feverIdentified by sight; herpes culture or viral PCR test. Sometimes blood testing for antibodies.No cure but control virus symptoms with antiviral medication; keep sores clean and dry to prevent secondary infection. 
Genital HerpesHuman Immunodeficiency Virus/HIVMay have flu-like symptoms initially, then no symptoms for many years; may progress to serious illnesses and infections caused by weakened immune system (AIDS).Medical history, clinical symptoms, HIV antibody blood test available to show exposure to HIV but does not tell if and when symptoms of AIDS will develop.  Treatment for specific infection or disease, combined antiviral medications, no cure at present