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Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and How to Prevent Them

Talking with your partner about STIs

STI Facts

Testing options


STI Facts

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and how to prevent them:

What are STIs?

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are passed through certain body fluids (most commonly vaginal secretions, semen, blood, breast milk). A common myth is that the only way to get an STI is by having sexual intercourse - this is not true! Some STIs can be transmitted without having intercourse - for example, skin-to-skin contact or genital rubbing can transmit HPV and herpes. In addition, many times people who have an STI don’t show symptoms. Therefore, it is important to get tested!

If you do have an STI, don't feel ashamed, embarrassed, or guilty. STIs are common, particularly among college-aged individuals. Still, there are many reasons to protect yourself! When diagnosed early, the majority of STIs can be cured or treated to alleviate symptoms. If left untreated, some STIs can lead to serious health conditions such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), cervical cancer, infertility, and can even be fatal. Emory Student Health Services offers STI testing, and every month the Office of Health Promotion partners with the Dekalb County Board of Health to offer free, confidential HIV testing.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adolescents (10- to 19-year-olds) and young adults (20- to 24-year-olds) are at higher risk for acquiring STIs for many reasons: they might be more likely to have multiple sexual; they may be more likely to engage in unprotected sex; and their partners may be involved in higher-risk sexual activities. Some statistics relevant to college students suggest that:

  • 2/3 of all STIs occur in people 25 years of age or younger.
  • 1/4 of new STI infections occur in teenagers.
  • By the age of 25, 1 in 2 sexually active people will have contracted an STI.
  • The highest rates of genital HPV infections are found in adults between the ages of 18 to 28.
  • Among women, 15- to 19-year-old women had the highest rate of gonorrhea compared to all other age categories. In addition, 20- to 29-year-old women had the highest rates of primary and secondary syphilis.
  • Among men, 20- to 24-year-old men had the highest rate of gonorrhea and 4th highest rates of primary and secondary syphilis.

(Sources: American Social Health Association, Centers for Disease Control, Planned Parenthood.)

(Adapted from Brown University Health Promotion) 

STI vs STD - What's the Difference?

You may see both STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection) and STD (Sexually Transmitted Disease) and be unsure of the difference. The term STI is broader and more encompassing because some infections are curable and may not cause any symptoms. If the infection results in altering the typical function of the body, and is not curable, it is then called a disease. The term STI is technically more accurate, and also encompasses the fact that there are often no symptoms, thus the importance of getting tested.

(Adapted from Brown University Health Promotion:

Talking with your partner about STIs

Talking with your partner(s) about getting tested for STIs may seem overwhelming, but it is very important! The most common symptom of an STI is no symptom at all, so communicating with your partner(s) about getting tested is a great way to start the conversation! Check out this link for some ways to start the conversation about STIs and getting tested, as well as how to talk with your partner(s) if you test positive for an STI. Most STIs are curable and all are treatable, so it is important to protect yourself and your partner(s)!!

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and how to prevent them: STI Fact Sheets

Below are links to fact sheets for different types of STIs. There are 2 main types of STIs: bacterial and viral. A third type is parasitic, and Trichomoniasis falls into this category. Bacterial STIs, such as gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydia, are often cured with antibiotics. However, viral STIs, such as HIV, HPV (genital warts), herpes, and hepatitis have no cure, but their symptoms can be eased with treatment. Getting on, and sticking with, medication is important, because treatment also reduces the risk of your partner(s) becoming infected.

(links to CDC fact sheets for the following STIs)









Testing Options

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and how to prevent them: STI Testing

**STI testing is available at Student Health Services (fees vary depending on type of insurance and type of test), and the Office of Health Promotion sponsors free HIV testing once a month in the DUC!**

Sexually transmitted infections are common, but the types of STI testing you need may vary by your risk factors. Find out what's recommended for you.

If you're sexually active, use protection (condoms) and make sure you get tested!

This is important because a person can have an STI without knowing it. In many cases, no signs or symptoms occur.

In general, how often should you get tested? 

-         Once a year, OR

-         When you have a new partner, OR

-         When you exhibit symptoms

Don't assume that you're receiving STI testing every time you have a gynecologic exam or Pap test. If you think you need STI testing, request it from your doctor. Talk to your doctor about your concerns and what tests you'd like or need.

HIV Testing

Free, confidential HIV tests are offered through the Office of Health Promotion and the Dekalb County Board of Health every month in the DUC! These rapid tests are quick and painless – they take about 20 minutes to produce results!

You may be more at risk for HIV if you:

  • Have had more than one sexual partner since your last test
  • Use intravenous (IV) drugs
  • Are a man who has sex with men
  • Are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant
  • Have been forced to have intercourse or engage in sexual activity against your will

If so, talk with your doctor about being tested for HIV. To find out when the next free HIV testing event at the DUC will be, email In addition, find an HIV testing site near you by typing in your zip code here:


Certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) can cause cervical cancer while other varieties of HPV can cause genital warts. Most sexually active people become infected with HPV at some point in their lives, but never develop symptoms. The virus often clears on its own within two years.

The test: No HPV screening test is available for men, in whom the infection is diagnosed only by visual inspection or biopsy of genital warts. In women, HPV testing involves:

  • Pap test. Pap tests, which check the cervix for abnormal cells, are recommended every three years for women between ages 21 and 65.
  • HPV test. Women over 30 may be offered the option to have the HPV test along with a Pap test every five years if previous tests were normal. Women between 21 and 30 will be given an HPV test if they've had abnormal results on their Pap test.

HPV has also been linked to cancer of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and mouth and throat. Vaccines can protect both men and women from some types of HPV, but they are most effective when administered before sexual activity begins.

Cost of STI testing

  • Depending on your insurance, certain tests may be covered at annual visits. However, this may not be the case. Always talk to your insurance to see what they cover
  • If cost is a concern, look for local clinics that provide free or low cost STI testing here
  • **Free HIV testing is offered through the Office of Health Promotion and Dekalb County Health Department once a month in the DUC**

Adapted from:



Pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV, also known as PrEP, is available at Student Health Services.  PrEP may be appropriate for some students at higher risk for contracting HIV. PrEP consists of a once-a-day medication; regular condom use; and routine medical visits with labs (usually every three months).

Emory University Student Health Services offers two types of visits regarding PrEP:

  1. Interest Visit - Patients interested in PrEP screening to possibly begin treatment will meet with a clinical provider at SHS and receive a referral to the Infectious Diseases Clinic at Emory Midtown.
  2. Follow-Up Visit – For patients already established on PrEP. Most patients already on PrEP will have been seen for a minimum of 2 visits at the Emory Infectious Diseases Clinic at Emory Midtown or by a prescribing provider elsewhere. These visits at SHS are 90 minutes in length and include time with a health educator and a clinical provider, as well as lab tests.

Both interest and follow-up visits can be scheduled on Your Patient Portal or by calling 404-727-7551. There is no co-pay for office visits at SHS for enrolled/registered students but there will be charges for laboratory fees. The cost of the Truvada® prescription depends on one’s health insurance coverage for prescription medications.

To learn more about PrEP, please visit

Revised 11/4/2014