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Most STIs are Asymptomatic

By Emma Smith (she, her, hers), Mabel Wadsworth Center, Intern

Did you know that most STIs are asymptomatic? This means that many sexually transmitted infections(like chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, HIV, HPV, syphilis, et al) usually don’t cause any noticeable symptoms, meaning that outwardly, a person and their partner(s) have no way to tell if there is an infection. Just like with the flu, transmission of STIs usually happens when people are unaware they have an infection at all, unaware how to properly prevent the spread of the infection, and/or their prevention methods fail. This means that proper STI prevention must include regular screenings from healthcare professionals. 

STIs are much more common, as well as treatable and manageable, than many would think. What is concerning is that the prevalence of these preventable infections is on the rise; with the CDC estimating in 2018 that 1 in 5 people in the United States had an STI, totaling nearly 68 million infections. Regardless of how many partners a person has, the most important type of harm reduction a person can do is having honest conversations with their partner(s) and healthcare provider(s) about risk assessment (like if you’ve had unprotected sex in the past or have shared needles) and how to best protect yourself and others in future sexual activities. 

Practicing safe sex with harm reduction in mind is the best way to protect yourself from STIs. And if an STI is contracted, it’s absolutely not the end of the world – or your sex life. Preventative measures and treatments can be provided for the continuance of a fulfilling and pleasurable sex life.