Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are infections that are passed from one person to another through sexual contact. They are usually spread during vaginal, oral, or anal sex. 


Also referred to as Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), some STIs are transmitted from one person to another through infected blood. For example, a mother may infect her child during pregnancy, childbirth or nursing. People who share infected drug needles are also prone to infection.

However, STDs are not spread through casual contact. Shaking hands and sharing clothes and toilet seats, for example, would not lead to STDs.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there are 30 different bacteria, viruses and parasites known to be transmitted through sexual contact.


The apex health agency also listed the eight pathogens linked to the “greatest incidence of STIs,” adding that four are curable while the others are incurable.

The curable diseases:

  • Syphilis
  • Gonorrhea
  • Chlamydia
  • Trichomoniasis

The incurable viruses:

  • Hepatitis B
  • Herpes simplex virus (HSV)
  • HIV
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)


  • Gonorrhea: Caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae, gonorrhea can infect the genital tract, rectum, and throat. However, some people with gonorrhea experience no symptoms when infected which makes it much easier to spread to others unknowingly. According to a study, gonorrhea occurs mostly among young people aged 15-24.
  • Syphilis: This STI is caused by a bacterium known as Treponema pallidum. Syphilis progresses through four stages and can cause serious health complications if left untreated. Treatment for syphilis involves the use of an antibiotic called penicillin. The medicine kills the syphilis bacteria to cure the body of the infection. Antibiotics work during any stage of the disease, however, later stages may require more intensive therapy.
  • Trichomoniasis: This is the most common curable STI which is more prevalent in women than in men. However, older women are more likely to get infected. In 2018, 2 million people were diagnosed with trichomoniasis in the United States. The infection is caused by a parasite known as Trichomonas vaginalis. Just like gonorrhea, no symptoms are noticed making it easier to pass to others. Medication is used to cure trichomoniasis.
  • Chlamydia: This is caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. Symptoms may include abnormal discharge, painful urination, and abdominal pain. Antibiotics are effective in treating chlamydia, but early detection is crucial to prevent complications.


  • Hepatitis B: Hepatitis B is caused by the hepatitis B virus. Aside from sexual activities, it can also be spread from mother to child during birth or by sharing needles. When contracted through sex, it impacts liver function and can further cause liver cancer. While there is no cure for hepatitis B, there is a vaccine that can help prevent it. All adults aged 18-59 should receive the vaccine and get screened at least once in their lifetime.
  • Herpes: Herpes is a very common STI with over 500 million people estimated to have it worldwide. Many people with herpes may not know they have it because they show no symptoms. However, when there are symptoms, they come in the form of painful sores around the genitals or anus. Herpes can be managed using the right antiviral medications.
  • HIV: Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a chronic STI. When the virus attacks the body, it begins attacking the immune system. While there is no cure, it is highly manageable through medications. The main treatment for HIV is called antiretroviral therapy. These drugs reduce the amount of HIV in the blood to undetectable levels. However, if HIV is left untreated, it can develop into acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).
  • HPV: Human papillomavirus is extremely common, about 9 out of 10 sexually active people will contract it. However, unlike other viral STIs, HPV does not stay in the body for life. About 90% of these infections go away within two years of detection. But when HPV does not go away, it can cause health problems like genital warts and cancer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that preteens receive HPV vaccine at around age 11 or 12 years old to ensure they’re protected against HPV before they’re likely to have exposure to the virus. Vaccination can be received until age 45.


  1. Have safe sex
  2. Use condoms and use them correctly
  3.  Access reliable sexual health education
  4. Seek timely testing and treatment if you are at risk
  5. Talk about the potential risk of acquiring STIs with your partner
  6. Make sure your partners get treated to prevent reinfection


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