STI/STDs in Men: Questions and Answers

        Although sexually transmitted infections or STIs (which can develop into sexually transmitted diseases or STDs) are associated with hormonal teenagers, anyone who has sexual contact can get an STI. This is regardless of age, gender, race, and according to the Center for Disease Control, there are approximately 20 million new STDs diagnosed per year in the United States alone. Having an understanding of the multiple risks, signs, and symptoms of STIs that lead to STDs is critical for sexually active men.

Question: Is an STI only contracted through sexual intercourse?

        Answer: The term STI may be a bit of a misnomer, since there are multiple ways you can contract one outside of sex. You can contract an STI through kissing, oral-genital contact, and sharing sex toys. Many of these infections spread through contact with body fluids such as blood, vaginal fluids, or semen, which you can be exposed to during any type of sexual intercourse (anal sex may cause bleeding).

        However, you can get an STI through things that have nothing to do with sex. Sharing needles or syringes run the risk of using infected fluids. Infections such as pubic lice and scabies can be considered STDs as well.


Question: What are the most common STDs among men?

        Answer: The most common STDs in men are human papillomavirus (HPV), chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost every sexually active man and woman will contract at least one strain of HPV. Don’t let this scare you, since most people with HPV never develop symptoms or health problems. HPV may lead to genital warts and cancers, but there is a vaccine to protect from the infection itself.

        Most people know of chlamydia. Chlamydia usually goes undetected in men around 25-50% of the time because men rarely show symptoms. While chlamydia does not make men sterile, it may infect the tube that carries sperm to the testicles.

        The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that every year, there are an estimated 820,000 new gonorrhea infections in the United States. Most men with gonorrhea (or “the drip”) do not show symptoms. Although if paired and complicated with epididymitis, this STD can cause scrotal or testicular discomfort.

        Syphilis is the least common STD on this list, but it is more common among men, particularly men who have male partners. Syphilis arrives in four stages, each with different symptoms. It may first appear as a tiny sore on the genitals, then develop into a full-body rash. In the later stages, syphilis has the capability to damage internal organs and complicate muscle movements.

        **Men who have male partners should also know about HIV/AIDS. HIV is short for human immunodeficiency virus. When left untreated, this virus leads to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS. HIV is chronic once you have it, and attacks the body’s immune system, specifically by depleting the T cells that help the immune system ward off infections. Like syphilis, HIV has stages, most poignantly the infection, clinical latency, and AIDS. The good news is that medicines such as antiretroviral therapy prevents HIV from reaching the third stage of AIDS.


Question: What are the symptoms of an STI or STD in men?

        Answer: There are multiple symptoms men can experience. Remember though, the absence of symptoms doesn’t mean you aren’t infected. Even without symptoms, if you’re sexually active, with or without symptoms, it’s time to get tested.

        A few of the regular symptoms revolve around urination. Discomfort or burning sensation after urination is one of the most common signs of an STD in men. More frequent urination can be a sign of gonorrhea or chlamydia.

        Take a closer look at the next time you use the bathroom. Green or yellow discharge, internal itching, or any blisters/warts/or sores on the penis are all symptoms of an STD. Testicular pain, tenderness, and inflammation might be signs as well. If you participate in anal sex, and experience anal discharge, bleeding, or general pain, you should be concerned.

        Other symptoms don’t relate to the genitals at all. If you have a sore throat a few days after giving oral sex, you might not want to ignore it. Flu symptoms such as fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, sore muscles and joints, are also symptoms of HIV or Hepatitis C.


Questions: I think I have an STI/STD. How can it be treated?

        Answer: Most STDs can be treated with antibiotics. A single dose of antibiotics can cure multiple of these infections. For men, treatment is usually directed towards the organisms responsible.

        Additionally, antiviral drugs can lessen recurrences and infection. These drugs are mostly used for herpes and HIV. The sooner you begin your treatment, the more effective it will be. It is crucial to take your medications exactly as instructed for the best results.


Question: How do I tell my husband or wife I have an STI or STD? Or what if I think he or she has one?

        Answer: Honesty is key between partners, and that should include honesty about sexual activity. You want to ensure a healthy sexual relationship for the both of you (or if you’re in a polyamorous relationship, however many of you). Opening up about having an STD may feel embarrassing or nerve-wracking, but just know that you are not alone, for hundreds of people are diagnosed with one.

        Have you and your partner(s) sit down and talk somewhere quiet and private. Ask them if they know about STDs/STIs. Whether you have one or you suspect they have one, have been exposed to one, or is expecting symptoms of an STD, be direct. Remember to stay calm, breathe, and reassure them you both (or all) can get through this. Then schedule an appointment with your health provider, such as an urologist or gynecologist.


Question: Can I do anything to prevent getting an STD in the future?

        Answer: Most obviously, the best and 100% guaranteed way of prevention is abstinence. However if you and your partner(s) consider sex as an essential part of your relationship, always practice safer sex. This involves protection, limitation, and visitation.

        You know how the saying goes: protect yourself before you wreck yourself. Always wear a condom to prevent the passing of potentially infected body fluids. If you are allergic to latex, seek alternative materials such as a polyurethane condom. Use a water-base lubricant to reduce the chance of the condom breaking.

        More partners mean more problems. Limit the number of your sexual partners to lessen the risk of being exposed to an STI. Do not have sex with anyone who shows external signs of an STI.

        Visit the doctor to get checked out for an STI before having sex. Have your partner get checked out as well. Get vaccinated for Hepatitis B and HPV if you haven’t already. Thoroughly sanitize any and all sex toys, needles, and syringes before using them.

        If you are sexually active, knowing and understanding STIs/STDs is a must. If you have any other questions about them, don’t hesitate to ask your health professional. Even though sex ed was way back in high school, it is still relevant to men over age twenty-five.