Common STDs

Please note: this is by no means a comprehensive or diagnostic list of STDs. In addition, if you suspect you have an STD, you should not attempt to figure it out by yourself. If you’re sexually active, you should be getting tested regularly for STDs. You should direct any of your questions or concerns to the healthcare professionals at Rice Health Services


What: one of the most common STDs in the U.S., is a bacterial that is passed during sexual contact. Although symptoms are usually absent, if left untreated, Chlamydia can cause serious reproductive damage and other health complications, such as infertility, penis discharge, and/or damage to a woman’s reproductive organs. It can infect the penis, vagina, cervix, anus, urethra, eye, or throat.
 How is it spread? Chlamydia can be spread by vaginal, anal or oral sex. It can also spread from a woman to her fetus during birth.
Usually, Chlamydia has no symptoms. Most people are not aware that they have the infection. However, if you do get chlamydia symptoms, they will probably appear within 1 to 3 weeks of your exposure to it/your contracting it.

When women have symptoms, they may experience

  • lower abdominal pain
  • abnormal vaginal discharge
  • bleeding between menstrual periods
  • low-grade fever or nausea
  • painful intercourse
  • pain or a burning sensation while urinating
  • swelling inside the vagina or around the anus
  • bleeding between menstrual periods
  • vaginal bleeding after intercourse 

When men have symptoms, they may experience

  • pain or a burning feeling while urinating
  • pus or watery or milky discharge from the penis
  • swollen or tender testicles  
  • swelling around the anus

Both women and men may experience:

  • anal itching and/or bleeding
  • discharge
  • diarrhea
  • eye redness, itching, and/or discharge
  • throat soreness 


  • Chlamydia is typically treated with antibiotics, either in one dose or for a short period of time. To avoid becoming re-infected, both you and your partner should be treated before having sex again. You may have to be re-tested for Chlamydia in 3 to 4 months. Please note: proper treatment for Chlamydia or any STD is determined by a health care professional, and is a decision made between you and your physician. This website is for informational purposes only. 


HPV, or human papillomavirus, is a viral infection spread during sex that can infect the genital areas, mouth, and/or throat of men and women. Though most types of HPV infections have no harmful effects or symptoms, other types of HPV can cause genital warts, while still other, high-risk strains may cause genital or throat cancers.

How does it spread?  
HPV is spread by skin-to-skin contact — usually during vaginal, anal, or oral sex.


  • There are no symptoms for HPV, even high-risk types. In addition, HPV infections can “hide” in the body for years without detection.
  • So, it’s impossible to know exactly when someone got infected, or who gave them the infection.
  • In fact, HPV is so common that most men and women who’ve had sex get an HPV infection at some point during their lives. But, because it is symptomless and, in most cases, harmless and goes away on its own, most people are unaware if that they’ve had it.
  • In cases in which HPV symptoms do appear, some of the symptoms may include:
    • Genital warts, which can appear within weeks or months after sexual contact with an infected partner. They might go away, remain unchanged, or increase in size/number.
    • Throat warts, which can sometimes block the airway, causing trouble breathing and/or  hoarse voice. 
  • High-risk types of HPV can cause cervical cancer. Other less common types of cancer caused by HPV can include cancers of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and head and neck (tongue, tonsils and throat).

The types of HPV that can cause genital warts are not the same as the types that can cause cancer. But there’s no way to know which people who get HPV will develop cancer or other HPV-related health problems.

There is currently no HPV treatment to cure HPV itself. Most HPV infections are harmless, do not require treatment, and go away by themselves. Common treatments for the abnormal cell changes in the cervix that are caused by HPV include colposcopy, cryotherapy, and LEEP.

To check for HPV, ask for your physician to test for HPV during your annual pap smear. If your pap smear results for HPV come back as abnormal, then you may have HPV. For men, there is no way to tell for certain if you’ve been exposed to HPV. However, most of the time the infection goes away and has no effects. 

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis is a viral infection of the liver. Several type sof hepatitis, the most likely to be STD is hepatitis B. very contagious and passed through an exchange of bodily fluids (such as blood, semen, or urine). Some types of hepatitis can cause very serious diseases and — in extreme cases — may lead to death.

Three types of hepatitis virus can be sexually transmitted. The type of hepatitis most likely to be sexually transmitted is hepatitis B (HBV). 

How Does It Spread? 
Hepatitis B is very contagious. It can be passed through an exchange of semen, vaginal fluids, blood, and urine by:

  • having sexual intercourse without a condom
  • having unprotected oral sex
  • sharing needles to inject drugs
  • sharing personal hygiene utensils/tools such as toothbrushes and razors
  • accidental pricks with contaminated needles in the course of health care (reword) 

Because hepatitis B often has no symptoms, most people are not aware that they have the infection. When hepatitis B symptoms do occur, they usually appear between six weeks and six months after infection.

Early hepatitis B symptoms may include:

  • extreme tiredness
  • tenderness and pain in the lower abdomen
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea, vomiting
  • pain in the joints
  • headache
  • fever
  • hives

Later hepatitis B symptoms may include:

  • more severe abdominal pain
  • dark urine
  • pale-colored bowel movements
  • jaundice — yellowing of the skin and eyes 

There is no cure for hepatitis B, but in most cases, it goes away by itself within 4 to 8 weeks. However, about 1 out of 20 people who get HBV as adults will be "carriers" and have chronic (long-term) infection with HBV. Most HBV carriers remain contagious for the rest of their lives.

HBV carriers are more likely to pass the infection to other people. Chronic HBV infections can lead to severe liver disease — including liver damage (cirrhosis) and liver cancer. About 1 out of 5 people with chronic HBV infection die from the infection.


Herpes is a very common viral infection which can infect the oral, genital, or both areas with blisters, depending on which of the two closely related viruses you contract. Oral herpes is typically caused by HSV-1, while genital herpes is typically caused by HSV-2. Regardless, herpes remains in the body indefinitely and can occasionally produce symptomatic outbreaks . However, most people have no or minimal symptoms. 

How does it spread?:
Herpes is spread by touching, kissing, and sexual contact, including vaginal, anal, and oral sex. It can be passed from one partner to another and from one part of the body to another. Brief skin-to-skin contact is all that's needed to pass the virus. Because herpes may have no symptoms for years, sometimes it is very difficult to know who passed it to whom.

Herpes is most contagious when sores are open, moist, or leaking fluid — until the scabs heal and fall off. But herpes can also be spread when no symptoms are present — most people get genital herpes from people with no symptoms.

The lining of the mouth, vagina, penis, anus, and eyes can become infected with herpes easily. Skin can be infected if it is cut, chafed, or burned, or has a rash or other sores. 

Most people experience no or minimal symptoms, but you can experience oral, genital, or both kinds of symptoms. Initial symptoms are usually worse than recurring outbreaks.  

Oral herpes symptoms include "cold sores" or "fever blisters" which show up on the lips or around the mouth. Symptoms may last a few weeks and go away. They may return in weeks, months, or years.
Genital herpes symptoms include: 

  • blisters on the vagina, vulva, cervix, penis, buttocks, or anus.
  • burning feelings if urine flows over sores
  • inability to urinate if severe swelling of sores blocks the urethra 
  • itching
  • open sores
  • pain in the infected area

During initial herpes, symptoms may also include

  • swollen, tender glands in the pelvic area, throat, and under the arms
  • fever
  • chills
  • headache
  • general run-down feelings
  • achy, flu-like feelings 
  • Recurrence of outbreak: 
    • An outbreak of herpes blisters may happen/flare up again after the initial infection. Severity and timing of the outbreak varies from person to person; while some people may not even notice their recurring symptoms, brushing them off as a skin rash or bug bites, other people experience painful, heavy sores several times within the course of a year. For more characteristics of a herpes outbreak, read below. 
  • Frequency:
    • Please note: herpes does not always recur. If it does, the frequency and severity may vary depending on the person.
    • an outbreak is most likely to recur in the first year after infection, but it may appear years after the initial symptoms  
    • typically, it appears weeks or months after the initial herpes
  • Potential causes:
    • Oral herpes recurrences may be caused by sunburn, injury to the lips, or other infections.
    • Though it’s unclear exactly what contributes to their recurrence, genital herpes outbreaks may be prompted/caused by other infections, stress, surgery, menstruation, sexual intercourse, and skin irritations.
    • Recurrences may be more frequent for people with weakened immune systems.
  • Warning signs:
    • May start a few hours or a day before the sores flare up.
    • Tingling, burning, or itching where sores were before.
  • What happens:
    • When an outbreak occurs, the blisters burst open, leaving sores that may take anywhere from 2-4 weeks to heal.
    • Symptoms are usually not as severe as those from the initial outbreak.
    • Although it varies depending on the person, the frequency and severity of outbreaks tends to decrease over time. 

There is no cure for herpes, but antiviral medications can help reduce and prevent the occurrence of outbreaks.


HIV causes AIDS. HIV, which stands for human immunodeficiency virus, breaks down the immune system – our body’s protection against disease. HIV causes people to become sick with infections that normally wouldn’t affect them. In its most advanced stages, HIV causes AIDS, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome. AIDS means that the immune system has completely broken down. 

How does it spread?  
HIV is transmitted through blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. The most common ways HIV is spread are by:

  • having vaginal or anal intercourse without a condom with someone who has HIV/AIDS
  • sharing needles or syringes with someone who has HIV/AIDS
  • being deeply punctured with a needle or surgical instrument contaminated with HIV
  • getting HIV-infected blood, semen, or vaginal secretions into open wounds or sores

Please note: HIV is not transmitted by simple casual contact such as kissing, sharing drinking glasses, or hugging. 

HIV: Though some people develop HIV symptoms shortly after being infected, it  usually takes more than 10 years. Oftentimes, these symptoms recede after a few weeks, and then the HIV remains dormant and symptomless within the body for years. 

Some HIV symptoms during the early stages may include:

  • swollen glands in the throat, armpit, or groin
  • slight fever
  • headache
  • fatigue
  • muscle aches 

AIDS: AIDS symptoms appear in the most advanced stage of HIV disease. In addition to a badly damaged immune system, a person with AIDS may also have

  • thrush — a thick, whitish coating of the tongue or mouth that is caused by a yeast infection and sometimes accompanied by a sore throat
  • severe or recurring vaginal yeast infections  
  • chronic pelvic inflammatory disease 
  • severe and frequent infections
  • periods of extreme and unexplained tiredness that may be combined with headaches, lightheadedness, and/or dizziness
  • quick loss of more than 10 pounds of weight that is not due to increased physical exercise or dieting
  • bruising more easily than normal
  • long periods of frequent diarrhea
  • frequent fevers and/or night sweats
  • swelling or hardening of glands located in the throat, armpit, or groin
  • periods of persistent, deep, dry coughing
  • increasing shortness of breath
  • the appearance of discolored or purplish growths on the skin or inside the mouth
  • unexplained bleeding from growths on the skin, from the mouth, nose, anus, or vagina, or from any opening in the body
  • frequent or unusual skin rashes
  • severe numbness or pain in the hands or feet, the loss of muscle control and reflex, paralysis, or loss of muscular strength
  • confusion, personality change, or decreased mental abilities 

There is currently no cure for HIV/AIDS. However, people living with HIV/AIDs can take treatments composed of drug combinations called “cocktails” which strength the immune system to prevent AIDs development, or reduce AIDS symptoms. However, these drugs can be very expensive, incur serious side effects, and only last for a certain period of time. However, there is hope that new research can shed light on improved treatments, preventions, and eventually, a cure. 


Gonorrhea (gon-o-RHEE-a) is a bacterial infection which can be passed during vaginal, anal, and oral sex. It’s a common STD which oftentimes does not have any symptoms. However, if left untreated, gonorrhea can pose serious health risks and complications. 

Often, gonorrhea has no symptoms. If you do get gonorrhea symptoms, they may begin in as little as 1–14 days after you got the infection. When women have symptoms, they may experience:

  • abdominal pain
  • bleeding between menstrual periods
  • fever
  • menstrual irregularities
  • painful intercourse
  • painful urination
  • swelling or tenderness of the vulva  
  • the urge to urinate more than usual
  • throwing up
  • yellowish or yellow-green vaginal discharge

When men have symptoms, they may experience:

  • pus-like discharge from the penis
  • pain or burning feeling while urinating
  • more frequent urination than usual
  • painful, swollen testicles

In both men and women: 

  • anal itching, discharge
  • painful bowel movements
  • trouble swallowing
  • itching, soreness of the throat 

Gonorrhea is easily treated with antibiotics prescribed by your healthcare physician.


Syphilis  is bacterial infection caused by contact with syphilis sores through vaginal, anal, or oral sex. It can infect the vagina, anus, urethra, or penis, as well as the lips and mouth. Though it often has no or mild symptoms, syphilis poses a serious health risk if left untreated. Potential health damages/complications from untreated syphilis include internal organ and nerve damage, as well as an increased suspectibility to HIV. 

How does it spread? 
Syphilis is spread by contact with syphilis sores, usually through vaginal, anal, or oral sex, though it can spread through kissing. Sores occur mainly on the external genitals, vagina, anus, or in the rectum, but they can also occur on the lips and in the mouth.

Often, syphilis has no or mild symptoms. Even though syphilis is spread through contact with syphilis sores, sometimes these sores are unrecognized/people are unaware of their infection, so they’re unaware that they’re transmitting their infection to other people. 

Please note: There are several stages of syphilis. Symptoms’ severity, appearance, and timing may vary depending on the person. In addition, the stages may be separated by latent stages, or times during which no symptoms are present.

Primary Stage  

  •  Marked by the appearance of one or multiple painless sores, known as chancres, which can appear on the genitals, vagina, cervix, lips, mouth, breast, or anus. You may also experience swollen glands.
  • Chancres usually appear about three weeks after infection, but may take up to 90 days. Without treatment, they last 3–6 weeks.

Secondary Stage  

  • Marked by the development of skin rash and mucuous membrane lesions. They usually appear on the palms of hands and soles of the feet, and last anywhere from 2-6 weeks.
  • Other symptoms may include: fever, fatigue, sore throat, hair loss, weight loss, swollen lymph glands, headache, and muscle pains.
  • Without treatment, the infection will progress to the latent and possibly late stages of disease.

Late Stage  

  • Occurs when syphilis is left untreated in primary and secondary stages
  • Happens when the primary and secondary symptoms disappear
  • Syphilis can remain latent in the body for years
  • Late stage symptoms can appear 10-20 years after infection was first acquired
  • During the late stage, untreated syphilis may cause serious damage to the nervous system, heart, eyes, blood vessels, liver, bones, joints, brain, internal organs, and even death.
  • Symptoms of the late stage may include difficulty coordinating muscle movements, paralysis, numbness, gradual blindness, and dementia. 

The early stages of syphilis are easily treatable with antibiotics prescribed by your healthcare physician. Your partner may also require treatment at the same time. If you get treated for syphilis, you have to abstain from sexual contact with new partners until your syphilis sores are completely healed. Please note: any damage done by untreated syphilis, particularly due to the development of symptoms from later stages, is irreparable/irreversible. If you suspect that you or a partner may be exhibiting early symptoms of syphilis, contact Rice Health Services (link) as soon as possible to begin treatment and prevent potential damage.

Molluscum contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum is a viral infection that can be transmitted by nonsexual, close contact or vaginal, anal, or oral sex. It can cause itchy growths of skin bumps which may appear on the abdomen, genitals, or thighs. 

How does it spread? 
Though most often spread through sexual contact, molluscum contagiosum can also be spread through close contact with someone who’s infected, including sharing clothes or towels. If left untreated, there’s a risk that you could spread the virus to other parts of your body or other people. 

If you have molluscum contagiosum, you may have small, waxy, round growths in the genital area or on the thighs. There is often a tiny indentation in the middle of the growth. Symptoms usually appear between two to three months after infection. Often there are no other symptoms. But sometimes the bumps may itch or feel tender to the touch. People who have weakened immune systems — from HIV, cancer, or another illness — usually have worse symptoms. If you have molluscum contagiosum already, you can spread the growths by itching, scratching, or rubbing them. 

Molluscum contagiosum can be treated in several different ways by your health care provider, including prescription medicine, freezing the growths off, or removing them with an electrical current. During treatment, make sure you manage your symptoms by keeping the treated area clean, not scratching it, and washing your hands.


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