What are sexually transmitted infections (STIs)?

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) can make you very sick. They can damage your health permanently. You can get STIs from vaginal, oral, and anal sex. Get more information on STIs.

If you have an STI, you could give it to your sexual partner(s). You could also give it to your baby if you give birth. Having an STI while you are pregnant can cause serious problems for the baby. If you think you have been exposed to an STI, you should get tested right away, especially if you may be pregnant.

What should I do if I think I might have an STI?

First, you should go see a medical provider and get tested right away. It is also probably a good idea to stop having sexual contact with anyone until you know whether or not you have an STI.

Is HIV different from other STIs?

HIV is an Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) but, unlike most STIs, it does not have a cure. HIV can cause a person to get AIDS, which people can die from. Although HIV/AIDS does not currently have a cure, it can be treated.

People with HIV can still live healthy and full lives thanks to advances in medicine.

New drugs can help prevent HIV if you have unprotected sex or are forced to have sex against your will with someone who has HIV or AIDS. These drugs must be taken within 72 hours, so call your healthcare provider or clinic right away if you suspect you’ve had unprotected sex with someone who has HIV. You don’t need your parents’ permission to get these drugs, and your health care provider won’t tell your parents unless you give her permission.

You can also take PrEP, “pre-exposure prophylaxis,” which helps keep HIV-negative people from becoming infected with HIV.

How do I protect myself from HIV?

PrEP, or “pre-exposure prophylaxis,” is daily medicine that keeps HIV-negative individuals from becoming infected with HIV. PrEP works by stopping HIV from taking hold and spreading throughout the body.

Taking PrEP daily reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by more than 90%. The risk of getting HIV from sex can be even lower if PrEP is used along with condoms and other prevention methods. Among people who inject drugs, PrEP reduces HIV risk by more than 70%.

How can I get PrEP?

PrEP is available by prescription from a health provider or online PrEP service.

California’s state Medicaid program, MediCal, covers the cost of PrEP. Most private health insurance also cover PrEP. Learn more about paying for PrEP.

How do I protect myself from STIs?

There are four primary ways you can protect yourself from Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).

1. Use condoms

Only condoms can protect you from HIV and other STIs. Use a condom or a dental dam every time you have sex, even oral sex. But remember, no type of STI protection (even condoms) works all the time!

You should get tested for STIs if you are sexually active. It’s important to get tested because you could have an STI and not have any symptoms. If you don’t get tested, you could accidentally pass that STI on to your partner without realizing it.

Before you have sexual contact with a new partner, both you and your partner should get tested (and treated, if needed) for STIs. You can do this at:

  • a doctor’s office,
  • ​a family-planning clinic like Planned Parenthood, or
  • another clinic in your community.
  • Find a clinic here

If you are 12 or older, you can be tested and treated for STIs, HIV, and other communicable diseases without your parents’ knowledge or permission.

3. Talk to your partner

If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your partner about STIs, you may want to think about whether you are ready to have sex with him or her.

4. Get vaccinated

One type of STI is called HPV. It has no symptoms and can cause cancer when you get older. Young women and men can get the HPV vaccine without their parents’ permission. Ask your health care provider about the HPV vaccine.