Sexually Transmitted Infections

Anyone who is sexually active is at risk for contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

Let's look at some statistics provided by the CDC:

  • Nearly half of the 20 million new STIs diagnosed each year are among young people aged 15 to 24 years.
  • About one in four of all new HIV infections is among youth ages 13 to 24 years.
  • By the age of 24, one in three sexually active people will have contracted an STI.
  • The highest rate of genital HPV infections are found in adult between the ages of 18 to 28.

What is a Sexually Transmitted Infection?

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are infections that are transmitted through sexual contact. You can contract an STI by penetrative sexual intercourse (i.e., vaginal, oral, anal sex) or by making contact with bodily fluids such as sperm, saliva, blood, and vaginal discharge. Some STIs can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact.

There are two main types of STIs: bacterial and viral. As the name applies, bacterial STIs are caused by bacteria and viral STIs are caused by viruses. Bacterial infections are often cured with antibiotics. Viral infections have no cure, but symptoms caused by the infection can be alleviated with treatment.

Common Symptoms of STIs

It is important to know that you could have an STI and be asymptomatic. This means that you may not have any signs of symptoms. Even if you do not have symptoms, you are still at risk of transmitting the infection to your sex partner. That is why it is important to practice safer sex every time you engage in sexual activity.

Below is a list of common STI symptoms. This list is not exhaustive and should not replace consultation with your medical provider.

  • Itching on or around genitals
  • Discolored discharge from urethra or vagina
  • Sores, lesions, or growths on or around genitals
  • Burning sensation during urination or ejaculation
  • Pain during intercourse

You should consult with a medical provider if you are experiencing these symptoms. IUP students can make an appointment with IUP Health Service. Please visit their website for more information.

Remember: You can have a STI and be asymptomatic. Regular STI screenings can help detect an infection if no symptoms are present.

Common Bacterial STIs

Bacterial STIs are caused by bacteria and often cured with antibiotics.

Click on a specific STI below to learn more.

Common Viral STIs - The Four H's

Viral STIs are caused by viruses. While they do not have a cure, their symptoms can be alleviated with treatment. If you contract a viral STI, there are ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle and reduce the risk of transmitting the infection to your partner.

Click on a specific STI below to learn more.

STI Testing

The only way to know if you or your partner has contracted an STI is to get tested.

If you are sexually active, it is best to receive regular STI screenings. You should also get tested for an STI if:

  • You have unprotected vaginal, anal, and/or oral sex
  • A condom breaks
  • Your partner has or has had an STI
  • You or your partner is an IV drug user
  • You have a new sex partner
  • You have had more than one sex partner in the past six months
  • Your partner has or had sex with another person
  • You have sex under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol
  • You were forced to engage in a sexual activity against your will

Types of STI Tests

There is no single test that can screen for all STIs. Below are examples of STI test.

  • Physical exam — your medical provider may examine you for any signs of infection. For women, this can be similar to a pelvic exam.
  • Urine sample — your medical provider may collect a urine sample to test for infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhea.
  • Discharge, tissue, cell, or oral fluid sample — your medical provider may use a swab to collect samples that will be looked at under a microscope to determine if infections such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, or herpes are present.
  • Blood sample — your medical provider may take a blood sample to test for syphilis, herpes, or HIV.

It's important to understand that you may not receive results right away. Sometimes a diagnosis can be made based on a visual exam, by symptoms provided by the patient, or after completing a physical exam. In this case, treatment could be prescribed the same day. Other times, your medical provider may need to send samples away to a lab for further analysis. Waiting for lab results can be a stressful time. During this time it is best to refrain from sexual activity, in order to reduce the risk of transmitting a potential STI. If you choose to engage in sexual activity, it is best to practice safer sex techniques (i.e., using a condom). You should always follow up with your medical provider, even if “you're feeling better.” It is better to know if you have contracted an STI so that you can receive treatment to cure or alleviate the infection. Don't assume your results are negative if you don't hear from your medical provider. If you are concerned, simply call your medial provider to get more information about your results.

Testing Locations

IUP Health Service provides STI tests to IUP students. For more information about these services, visit the Health Service website.

IUP Health Service considers Adagio Health and the IRMC OB-GYN Center as partners in the provision of care to IUP students. These facilities offer high-quality, cost-effective contraceptive services as well as STI screenings at low or no cost for men or women. The Pennsylvania Department of Health provides free HIV testing to students and community members. Contact IUP Health Service or Health and Wellness Promotion for more information about these services. IUP Health Service offers IUP students transportation to these locations at no cost to the student.

Looking for a location outside of Indiana, Pa? Use the information below, provided by ItsYourSexLife.

Finding a testing center near you is quick and easy. Just enter your zip code in the testing center locator, or text your zip code to GYTNOW (498669) on your mobile phone.* You will get a text message back with information about the nearest testing center to you. Simple.
*Message and data rates may apply. Text STOP to 498669 to opt out, or text HELP to 498669 to get help.

Cost of Testing

The cost of an STI test can vary by location and which test you receive. Many health centers and clinics offer low-cost or no-cost testing. Some locations even offer tests on a sliding scale. This means your test is based on what you can afford to pay. If you have health insurance, contact your provider to determine your anticipated out-of-pocket cost for a sexual health exam. If you are uninsured or prefer not to use your health insurance for a STI test, you can talk to your medical provider about payment options. Be sure to ask about cost when you call to make your appointment.

Understanding Your Results

Getting tested for an STI can potentially be a stressful time full of various emotions. STI results will either be negative or positive.

If you test negative, realize that most results are highly accurate. However, some infections (HIV, syphilis, and Hepatitis) may take up to three months to show on a blood test. An initial negative result is great news, but you may need to do a follow-up test to be sure you have not contracted an infection. This is something your medical provider should discuss with you during your appointment. If they don't mention this, don't be afraid to ask. After a negative result, it is important to start or continue practicing safer sex to reduce your risk of contracting an STI in the future.

If you test positive for an STI, the next stop is to get treatment as recommended by your medical provider. It is important that you inform your sex partner(s) so that he/she can get tested and receive treatment if necessary. Early medical intervention will allow you and your partner (if they are also infected) to take measures to maintain your health and well-being. Bacterial STIs such as chlamydia and gonorrhea can be treated with antibiotics. Viral infections such as HIV and HPV can be managed to decrease symptoms and reduce the risk of transmission. Remember, if you test positive for an STI, you can make changes so that you can live longer, healthier, and happier.

Sources: Love Is Respect, Planned Parenthood, Women's Health, CDC, MayoClinic

Disclaimer: This site is a resource for IUP students. It is not intended to replace consultation with your medical providers. IUP Health Service staff members are available to treat and give medical advice to IUP students. Visit the IUP Health Service website for more information.

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