Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are passed from person to person through sex, including vaginal, anal or oral sex. STIs are sometimes called sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Many people with an STI have no signs or symptoms. You can feel healthy and not know that you have an STI. The only way to know if you have an STI is to get tested.
If symptoms are present, they may include:
- Discharge from the penis
- Unusual vaginal discharge
- Burning during urination
- Intense itching
- Sores on or around the vagina, penis or anus
- Stomach cramps unrelated to menstrual cycle
Sex is safer and more enjoyable when you and your partner(s) know that you do not have an STI. If you are having sex, here are some tips for preventing STIs:
- Use condoms as often as possible. Condoms are effective at preventing many STIs, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and HIV. Condoms can prevent STIs during vaginal, anal and oral sex.
- Consider PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) to prevent HIV. PrEP is a pill you take daily to reduce the risk of HIV infection. Talk to your health care provider, or find one of the many clinics with experience providing PrEP in NYC.
- Take emergency PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) if you are exposed to HIV. PEP can stop HIV infection if started within 36 hours (but not beyond 72 hours) of exposure. Go to an emergency room, clinic or NYC Sexual Health Clinic and ask for emergency PEP to prevent HIV, or call the NYC PEP Hotline at (844) 3-PEPNYC (844-373-7692).
- Get vaccinated. Some STIs can be prevented with a vaccine, including HPV (human papillomavirus, a virus that can cause cancer and genital warts), hepatitis A and hepatitis B (viruses that can cause liver cancer).
- Get tested regularly.
When to Get Tested
Do not wait until you experience symptoms to get tested for STIs. Many infected people with STIs do not feel sick or experience any symptoms.
- Sexually active women under 25 years old should be tested annually for chlamydia and gonorrhea.
- Sexually active gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men should be tested annually for HIV, syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea.
- This group should be tested every three to six months if they have multiple or anonymous partners.
- Pregnant persons should be tested for syphilis, HIV and hepatitis B early in pregnancy.
For more information, see the CDC's STI and HIV screening recommendations.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Your doctor may order urine, throat or anal tests to diagnose an STI.
Many STIs can be cured, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis.
STIs that are caused by viruses cannot be cured, such as HPV, genital herpes and HIV. There are medications you can take to manage symptoms and complications of these STIs.
Why to Get Treatment
STIs can have lasting effects on your body. Some infections can cause damage to your vision, hearing, brain and cardiovascular system. They can make you more likely to get or spread HIV. Many STIs can cause infertility. Some infections can also be passed to a baby during pregnancy, leading to birth defects or stillbirth.
Sexual Health Clinics
The Health Department's Sexual Health Clinics provide low- to no-cost confidential services, including testing, treatment and prevention. Anyone 12 years and older who wants testing for HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea or syphilis can receive these services at our clinics, even if they have no symptoms.