Sexually Transmitted
Infections (STIs)

ASU Stats

  • Stats to be added soon
  • Stats to be added soon

STI Basics

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), formerly known as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), "are infections acquired by sexual contact" and may be transmitted via blood, semen, or vaginal fluids.  

  • How are STIs transmitted?
    • Exchanging bodily fluids, like blood, semen, or vaginal fluids through activities like oral, anal, and vaginal sex, may lead to the transmission of STIs. [22]
  • What are common symptoms associated with STIs?
    • Some people do not feel symptoms for long periods of time.  Each STI has its own set of symptoms, but most of them can go undetected or are mistaken for other diseases.  That is why it is important to get tested for STIs if you suspect that you may have been exposed to an STI even though you may not be experiencing any symptoms. [22]
  • How do I protect myself form STIs?
    • Condoms are the best form of protection during sex.  It is important that you always use condoms, even during anal sex. [22]

Common Questions and Misconceptions about STIs

  • What are female condoms and how do they differ from male condoms?
    • Female condoms look similar to male condoms but they are wider and longer.  They can be inserted up to 8 hours before having sex. [9]
    • However, a female condom should not be used with a male condom. [9]  The use of two condoms could cause one of them to rip and also lead to discomfort.  So just use one or the other! [9]
    • Female condoms are more expensive than male condoms.  They are available at Planned Parenthood or online ranging in price from $3.60 to $21.13 for multi-packs.
    • Comparison of a female condom (left) to a male condom (right)
             
      Picture source [9]            Picture source [10]
  • How common are STIs?
    • An estimated 1 in 4 college students have had or do have an STI [28]
    • According to a 2007 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) STI survey, women between 20 and 24 years of age have the second highest incidence of Chlamydia (2,949 per 100,000) than any other age group [30]
  • What are some unexpected, long term possible health effects of common STIs?
    • Unfortunately, women may have many long term health effects following an STI.  According to the CDC, these effects may include "pelvic inflammatory disease, tubal scarring, ectopic pregnancy, and chronic pelvic pain." [29]
    • Additionally, people who have an STI are 2 to 5 times more likely to get HIV if they are exposed to the virus than an uninfected person. [29]
  • How can I tell if I have an STI?  Do they all look the same?
    • The only way to tell with certainty is to be tested.  STIs can come in many forms and some may remain asymptomatic for long periods of time.  You may not know that you have an STI and are spreading it to your sexual partner(s). [22]
  • Are anal and oral sex the safest ways to have sex?
    • Unfortunately, STIs can be transmitted through anal and oral sex.  The anus is very vascualr, which means that there are a lot of blood vessels that may tear during anal sex. [12]  Additionally, "the lining of the rectum is not as heavy as the lining of the vagina, so it is more susceptible to tears." [23] STIs may also be transmitted through oral sex because there is a chance either person can have a mouth sore or small cut that could expose both people to an infection. [11]
  • Will having sex in a pool or hot tub kill the organisms that cause STIs and therefore be safe?
    • Unfortunately, having sex in a pool or hot tub will not prevent STI transmission any more than having sex in any other location.  "Hot tub and pool water alike does not kill or immobilize sperm when ejaculation occurs inside or on the genitals, so not only can STIs transfer in water but women can become pregnant through intercourse in water." [13]  Having sex in water can also contribute to condoms breaking more easily.  [13]
  • Can I have more than one STI?
    • It is possible to have multiple infections at the same time.  It is possible that the infected person does not feel any symptoms and does not know that he/she is infected.  Additionally, once you have treated a treatable STI, you can be re-infected with the same type of infection. [13]
  • Can you only get herpes when your partner has an outbreak?
    • According to the CDC, the herpes viruses are "released from the sores that the viruses cause, but they also are released between outbreaks from the skin that does not appear to have a sore." [3]  Therefore, it is possible to become infected with one of the herpes viruses even when your partner does not have any visible sores.  Some people may not even be aware of the fact that they are infected with the virus. [3]
  • Does a regular physical exam at my doctor's office include an STI test?
    • You must ask your doctor for an STI test because these tests are not a part of a regular physical exam, a pap smear, or a blood draw. [6]
  • Can men get the human papillomavirus (HPV)?
    • Even though the human papillomavirus rarely causes serious health problems in men, it is as common in men as in women.  Despite the lack of health issues due to the virus, men can still pass the virus to their sexual partners (through vaginal, anal, and oral sex). [21]

Statistics

According to the CDC, 

  • "more than 700,000 persons in the U.S. get new gonorrheal infections each year" and only about half of those are reported [25]
  • in 2008 the reported cases of STIs in the U.S. for people age 15 to 24 were as follows:
    • Chlamydia: 1,210,523 [24]
    • Gonorrhea: 336,742 [26]
    • Syphilis: 13,500 [27]

      It should be noted that many people are not aware that they have an STI and therefore many cases of STIs go unreported.

About 1 in 6 Americans between the ages of 14 and 49 is infected with herpes simplex virus type 2. [19]

The CDC explains that this type of virus "is a lifelong and incurable infection that can cause recurrent and painful genital sores." [19]  Herpes appears to be one of the most common STIs in the U.S. as reported by the CDC. [19]

Viral vs. Bacterial STIs

  Viral STIs
Bacterial STIs
Examples
Genital herpes/herpes simples virus, genital warts/human papillomavirus (HPV), HIV/AIDS [32]
Syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea [32]
Where is it typically found?
Although it varies by STI, generally these types of viruses are found in locations like the genitals, rectum, vagina, and penis.  HIV/AIDS is present in blood, semen, cervical and vaginal fluid, and breast milk. [33]
Although it varies by STI, generally these types of baceria are found in locations like the vagina, cervix, urethra, mouth, throat, penis discharge, rectum, and anus. [33]
How can it be spread?
Although it varies by STI, generally the viruses may be speard via oral, anal, and vaginal sex, contact with infected skin, mother to child, and IV drug use. [33]
Although it varies by STI, generally the bacteria may be spread via oral, anal, and vaginal sex, and mother to child.  Syphilis may be spread via contact with sores. [33]
What are the treatments?
Viral STIs, like the ones listed here, have no cure.  Treatment and control of symptoms is the goal with viral STIs. [33]
Bacterial STIs can generally be treated with antibiotics, but it should be noted that in many cases permanent damage may have occurred prior to treatment. [33]

  

For a more detailed comparison of viral and bacterial STIs, visit the following website.

For more detailed information regarding specific STIs, click the link of the STI that you would like to learn more about.

Resources

  • STI Testing Locations and Costs
    Please note that only a few select locations are listed here and many other locations around ASU exist that provide similar services.
    • ASU Health Services
      • Cost with most insurance: Same as the insurance co-pay
      • Cost without insurance: $100 plus visit costs
      • Location: ASU Tempe Campus
      • Phone: 480-965-3346
    • Planned Parenthood
      • Cost with most insurance: Same as the insurance co-pay
      • Cost without insurance: $168
      • Location: 1250 E. Apache Blvd Suite 108, Tempe, AZ 85281
      • Phone: 480-967-9414
    • Maricopa County Health Department
      • Cost with or without insurance: $20 (usually includes treatment)
      • Walk-ins only
      • Location: 1645 E. Roosevelt Street, Phoenix, AZ 85006
      • Phone: 602-506-1678
      • According to one student, this is "the best option if you do not want to use your insurance."
    • Guadalupe Family Health Center
      • Cost with insurance: Same as the insurance co-pay plus possible lab fees
      • Cost without insurance: Depends - a financial counselor is available during business hours ot assist with various options
      • Location: 5825 E. Calle, Guadalupe, Guadalupe, AZ
      • Phone: 480-344-6000
    • Looking for other testing centers?  MTV's It's Your Sex Life website offers a search engine that helps you find STI testing locaitons near you.  You can type in your zip code on the right side of the page.

 

 

Content Development: Catherine Hernandez, Jelena Peric, Renee Maman, Hannah Felix, Dana Dooley, Anthony Msowoya, Zaib Ali, Amy McCutcheon, Cristina Ramirez, Pinitorn Iamrod, Christa Lee