STI Screening, Treatment and Counseling

Sexually-transmitted infection is an emotional topic, but is more common than many people realize. Even though the subject is often taboo, it is important to speak frankly if there are any concerns about these diseases.

Remember that examination, testing, and treatment for sexually transmitted infections (STI) are always confidential. We offer testing for sexually transmitted infections during your annual checkup, if desired, regardless of marital status.

The term STI refers to infections that are transferred from one person to another during sexual contact including oral, vaginal, or anal intercourse; kissing; or mouth to genital (penis, vulva, or vagina) contact. You may also have heard other terms for these infections: sexually transmitted diseases, or their older name, venereal diseases.

Nearly half of all STIs occur among adolescents and young adults aged 15 to 24 years, but it is now being seen in older adults as well. Some -- Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and Syphilis -- are caused by bacteria. One common STI, trichomoniasis, is caused by a parasite. Because antibiotics kill both bacteria and parasites, these STIs can many times be cured. Others -- genital herpes, human papillomavirus (HPV), hepatitis, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) -- are caused by viruses. Because there are no current medications that are able to kill these viruses permanently, these STIs can be treated and managed, but not cured.

Some sexually transmitted infections can cause symptoms, but it is possible, and even common to have STIs without noticing anything out of the ordinary.

You don’t want to contract any STIs, but here are some that have special concerns for women including Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Syphilis, and HPV.

  • Chlamydia: This STI infects the cervix (mouth of the uterus) and the urethra (tube that leads urine out of the bladder when you urinate), but can also live in the throat or rectum. The infection can be found in the lining of the uterus, ovaries, and tubes, causing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), and can lead to chronic pelvic pain, a tubal pregnancy, or infertility (inability to become pregnant). Chlamydia can usually be cured with an antibiotic to help prevent tubal blockage, and infertility. Up to four out of every 10 women who have gonorrhea also have Chlamydia, so women diagnosed with or suspected of having gonorrhea are usually treated for Chlamydia as well. Gonorrhea is typically treated with an injection (shot) of an antibiotic, plus pills to treat possible Chlamydia.
  • Syphilis: Syphilis is spread by bacteria that get into the bloodstream through breaks in the skin. While it is less common in women than Chlamydia or gonorrhea, it is detrimental to infected pregnant women, who can pass syphilis on to their babies, causing death or serious birth defects. Over many years, untreated syphilis can infect the brain, heart, and other internal organs. Syphilis may be curable with penicillin injections.
  • HPV: This STI is caused by a virus and should be of particular concern to women since some strains of the virus cause cervical cancer. Fortunately, Papanicolaou (Pap), smears can detect HPV and abnormal cells that can develop into cancer. Treatment prevents the abnormal cells from turning into cancerous cells. Women with HPV should have regular Pap smears to avoid the development of invasive cervical cancer.

Women need to rely on themselves for STI protection. If you choose to have sex with another person, deciding to protect yourself from STIs should be part of the choice.