STIs are diseases that are most commonly passed during vaginal, anal or oral sex. STIs can lead to serious health problems, including problems with pregnancy and fertility.
STIs are common.
There are more than 20 different STIs. Millions of Americans get an STI every year – many are younger than 25 years old. Anyone who is sexually active can get an STI.
STIs often have no symptoms.
But they can still harm your body. And, you can still pass the STI to any sex partner. If you are sexually active, get regular STI tests.
Medications can cure some STIs, but you can get the infection again if you don’t take steps to prevent it.
STIs can cause serious health problems.
- Putting you at higher risk of HIV (the virus that causes AIDS).
- Chronic pelvic pain.
- Infertility (not being able to have children).
STIs & Related Conditions include:
- Bacterial Vaginosis
- Hepatitis, Viral
- Herpes, Genital
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
Pregnancy & Infertility
How HIV is transmitted
To become infected with HIV, infected blood, semen or vaginal secretions must enter your body. You can't become infected through ordinary contact — hugging, kissing, dancing or shaking hands — with someone who has HIV or AIDS. HIV can't be transmitted through the air, water or via insect bites.
You can become infected with HIV in several ways, including:
- During sex. You may become infected if you have vaginal, anal or oral sex with an infected partner whose blood, semen or vaginal secretions enter your body. The virus can enter your body through mouth sores or small tears that sometimes develop in the rectum or vagina during sexual activity.
- Blood transfusions. In some cases, the virus may be transmitted through blood transfusions. American hospitals and blood banks now screen the blood supply for HIV antibodies, so this risk is very small.
- Sharing needles. HIV and some Hepatitis infections can be transmitted through needles and syringes contaminated with infected blood. Sharing intravenous drug paraphernalia puts you at high risk of HIV, Hepatitis and other infectious diseases.
- From mother to child. Infected mothers can infect their babies during pregnancy or delivery, or through breastfeeding. But if women receive treatment for HIV infection during pregnancy, the risk to their babies is significantly reduced.
The symptoms of HIV and AIDS vary, depending on the phase of infection.
The majority of people infected by HIV develop a flu-like illness within a month or two after the virus enters the body. This illness, known as primary or acute HIV infection, may last for a few weeks. Possible symptoms include:
- Muscle soreness
- Sore throat
- Mouth or genital ulcers
- Swollen lymph glands, mainly on the neck
- Joint pain
- Night sweats
Although the symptoms of primary HIV infection may be mild enough to go unnoticed, the amount of virus in the blood stream (viral load) is particularly high at this time. As a result, HIV infection spreads more efficiently during primary infection than during the next stage of infection.
Clinical latent infection
In some people, persistent swelling of lymph nodes occurs during clinical latent HIV. Otherwise, there are no specific signs and symptoms. HIV remains in the body, however, as free virus and in infected white blood cells.
Clinical latent infection typically lasts 8 to 10 years. A few people stay in this stage even longer, but others progress to more severe disease much sooner.
Early symptomatic HIV infection
As the virus continues to multiply and destroy immune cells, you may develop mild infections or chronic symptoms such as:
- Swollen lymph nodes.
- Weight loss.
- Cough and shortness of breath.
Progression to AIDS
If you receive no treatment for your HIV infection, the disease typically progresses to AIDS in about 10 years. By the time AIDS develops, your immune system has been severely damaged, making you susceptible to opportunistic infections — diseases that wouldn't trouble a person with a healthy immune system. The signs and symptoms of some of these infections may include:
- Soaking night sweats.
- Shaking chills or fever higher than 100 F (38 C) for several weeks.
- Cough and shortness of breath.
- Chronic diarrhea.
- Persistent white spots or unusual lesions on your tongue or in your mouth.
- Persistent, unexplained fatigue.
- Blurred and distorted vision.
- Weight loss.
- Skin rashes or bumps.
When to see a doctor
If you think you may have been infected with HIV or are at risk of contracting the virus, seek medical counseling as soon as possible.
HIV (link to HIV Fact sheet)
National HIV and STI Testing Resources
North Dakota Disease Control
For additional information, please go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at:
PrEP 101 (HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis)
What is AIDS
AIDS is a chronic, potentially life-threatening condition caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). By damaging your immune system, HIV interferes with your body's ability to fight the organisms that cause disease.
HIV is a sexually transmitted disease. It can also be spread by contact with infected blood, or from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding. It can take years before HIV weakens your immune system to the point that you have AIDS.
There's no cure for HIV/AIDS, but there are medications that can dramatically slow the progression of the disease. These drugs have reduced AIDS deaths in many developed nations. But HIV continues to decimate populations in Africa, Haiti and parts of Asia.
Scientists believe a virus similar to HIV first occurred in some populations of chimps and monkeys in Africa, where they're hunted for food. Contact with an infected monkey's blood during butchering or cooking may have allowed the virus to cross into humans and become HIV.