The longer you leave an STI untreated, the more damage it can do. STIs have been associated with pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, pregnancy complications, cancer, and enhanced transmission of HIV. While some people may experience an unusual discharge from the vagina or penis, pain or bleeding in the genital region, or flu-like symptoms as the result of an STI; the only definite way to know if you are infected is to get tested. Most clinics or your doctor can carry out testing which may involve a physical examination of the genitals, a urine or blood test, or swabs being taken from the vagina, penis or mouth. Some STIs, such as HIV, syphilis or hepatitis may require a blood test.

Unfortunately, the only truly effective way to protect against STIs is abstinence, unless both partners are in a monogamous relationship and have been tested and found to be free of STIs. And that means abstinence from kissing and skin-to-skin contact as well, since syphilis, herpes, and some other infections can be transferred through saliva and HPV through close skin contact. Ensure you get tested for STIs regularly, especially before entering a new relationship. And insist any new partner gets tested too.

Practicing safe sex, while not eliminating the possibility of STIs, does greatly reduce your risk! Be sure to wear a condom and practice other barrier methods to keep yourself safeguarded (ie. dental dams for oral sex and wearing gloves or finger cots while penetrating with the fingers or hand).