Sexually transmitted infections are passed from person to person through intimate or sexual contact with an infected individual. There are many different kinds of STIs, but the most common include:
• Hepatitis B and C
• Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
The most reliable way to prevent STIs is to abstain from having sex, but there are other ways to minimize your risk of infection:
• Vaccination – for those infections that have a vaccine, such as hepatitis B and HPV.
• Monogamy – committing to one, uninfected person will reduce your exposure to STIs.
• Practice safe sex – use condoms during any sexual encounter to prevent the spread of STIs.
Even though it may be uncomfortable, it’s important to discuss STIs with your partner to prevent the spread of infection. In North Carolina, uninsured partners of patients that test positive for an STI can request screening and treatment from the same physician.
Most STIs are asymptomatic, or don’t have many symptoms, which is why regular testing is recommended. Individuals with gonorrhea, chlamydia or trichomoniasis may experience penal or vaginal discharge, and women may experience abdominal pain and fever and should alert their primary care physician right away. Women are examined and tested during their annual exam with their gynecologist, but men should schedule an appointment to be screened regularly. STIs can lead to serious medical conditions and infertility if not treated, which is why screening is so important.
Dr. Carolyn Harraway-Smith is an OB/GYN at Cone Health’s Center for Women’s Healthcare. Harraway-Smith received her Doctor of Medicine at University of Iowa School of Medicine in 1993. She completed a residency in family medicine at the Medical College of Virginia in 1996 and a residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Union Memorial Hospital in 2000.