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Sexually transmitted disease (STDs) ?

What are sexually transmitted diseases (or STDs)?

Sexually transmitted diseases—often called STDs—spread from person to person through contact with genital fluid or through skin-to-skin contact. HIV is considered an STD if someone gets or transmits it through sex. Some of the most common STDs include gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, trichomoniasis, human papillomavirus (HPV), genital herpes, and hepatitis.

What we know about STDs:

Many people with an STD may not know they have one because they don't have symptoms. Some common symptoms include

  • Discharge from the vagina, penis, or anus.
  • Pain or burning sensation when urinating or having a bowel movement.
  • Sores or ulcers on your penis, vagina, or anus.

The only way to know for sure if you have an STD is to get tested. There are vaccines to prevent some STDs like hepatitis A and B viruses and HPV. There are no vaccines to prevent HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, genital herpes, and hepatitis C.

Using condoms can reduce your chances of getting or transmitting STDs that spread through genital fluids, such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, and HIV. But condoms are less effective at preventing STDs that can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact if there are sores or cuts on the skin, like human papillomavirus or HPV, genital herpes, and syphilis.

What you can do

Nine colored condoms in wrappers on a table

Finding out if you have an STD and getting treatment can lower your chances of getting or transmitting HIV and other STDs. If you're sexually active, you and your partners should get tested for STDs (including HIV if you're HIV-negative) regularly, even if you don't have symptoms.

Always use a condom the right way every time you have sex to protect yourself from STDs that can be transmitted through genital fluid. Here are some tips for learning to use a condom the right way. +

If you've never had hepatitis A or B or HPV and haven't been vaccinated, talk to your health care provider to see if vaccination is right for you. CDC recommends that everyone born from 1945 to 1965 get tested for hepatitis C at least once. Based on your age and other risk factors, your health care provider may recommend that you get tested for hepatitis C and can refer you for care if you learn that you're positive.

Visit CDC.gov or call 1-800-458-5231 to find places near you that offer confidential HIV testing and STD testing and treatment. Or you can send a text message from your mobile phone with your ZIP code to KnowIt (566948) and receive a return text with a testing site near you. Some sites may offer free tests.