Key Points for Providers and Clients
  • People with sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV, can use most family planning methods safely and effectively.
  • Male and female condoms can prevent STIs when used consistently and correctly.
  • STIs can be reduced in other ways, too—limiting number of partners, abstaining from sex, and having a mutually faithful relationship with an uninfected partner.
  • STIs often have no signs or symptoms, particularly in women. People should seek care if they think that they or their partners might have an STI.
  • Some STIs can be treated. The sooner treated, the less likely to cause long-term health problems, such as infertility or chronic pain, or to infect a sexual partner or a fetus.
  • In most cases vaginal discharge comes from infections that are not sexually transmitted.

Family planning providers can help their clients in various ways to prevent STIs, including infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Program managers and providers can choose approaches that fit their clients’ needs, their training, and resources, and the availability of services for referral.

What Are Sexually Transmitted Infections?

STIs are caused by bacteria, viruses, and parasites spread through sexual contact. Infections can be found in body fluids such as semen, on the skin of the genitals and areas around them, and some also in the mouth, throat, and rectum. Some STIs cause no symptoms. Others can cause discomfort or pain. If not treated, some can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, chronic pelvic pain, and cervical cancer. Some STIs can also greatly increase the chance of becoming infected with HIV.

STIs spread in a community because an infected person has sex with an uninfected person. The more sexual partners a person has, the greater his or her risk of either becoming infected with STIs or transmitting STIs.