STD Basics

The reality is this—STDs can happen to anyone who is sexually active. AHF wants to put an end to the misinformation and confusion surrounding STDs. In addition to screening and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases like chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV, AHF Wellness Centers provide valuable information about STDs, safer sex, cryotherapy treatments for genital warts, and referrals to doctors who specialize in HIV.

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Our testing counselors can see you on a walk-in basis. You can get fast, free and accurate testing at your convenience.

A very common STD with no symptoms in the initial stages. Treatable once it’s diagnosed.
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A tenacious bacteria where symptoms can start to show one week after infection. Can be cured with the right treatment.
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HPV & Genital Warts
HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) is the most common STI with many different types.
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A highly contagious sexually transmitted bacterial infection. Can cause serious health issues if left untreated.
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Chlamydia is a bacterial infection among sexually active people. You can contract chlamydia by having vaginal or anal sex without a condom or oral sex with someone who has it. You can get chlamydia even if your sex partner does not ejaculate. People with chlamydia may have no symptoms or only mild ones, and can spread it without knowing they have an infection.

A full course of antibiotics (all the pills prescribed) will stop the infection and can decrease your chances of having problems later.


Common Symptoms:

If there are symptoms, they can include:

  • pain or burning while urinating
  • unusual discharge (milky, watery, yellowish, strong-smelling) from the penis or vagina
  • swelling of the anus, testicles, or vagina
  • bleeding between periods
  • pain during vaginal sex
  • lower abdominal pain


Gonorrhea (sometimes called “the clap” or “the drip”) is a bacterial infection of the penis, urethra, anus, throat, cervix, or vagina. It’s similar to chlamydia in that it infects particular parts of the body and may not have symptoms. Gonorrhea spreads through anal, oral, or vaginal sex. Semen doesn’t need to be present to pass gonorrhea, so oral sex without a condom is a risk even if ejaculation happens outside the mouth. If you give a person oral sex who has gonorrhea, you can develop the infection in your throat.

Due to its prevalence, gonorrhea has gradually begun to outsmart most of the antibiotics prescribed to treat it. ARG, or “antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea” refers to a particular strain that is immune to the effects of its medicine; particularly among gay and bisexual men. The right treatment can cure gonorrhea. A doctor may prescribe two antibiotics simultaneously to stop the infection.

Untreated gonorrhea can cause serious and permanent health problems.


Common Symptoms:

If symptoms do show up, they can include:

  • frequent urination
  • sharp pain in the lower abdominal
  • burning during urination or ejaculation
  • increased, greenish, or yellowish discharge from the penis or vagina
  • bleeding between periods
  • anal discharge or bloody bowel movements
  • itching around the anus

HPV & Genital Warts

It is most frequently spread during vaginal or anal sex. It also develops through close skin-to-skin touching during sex. In most cases, HPV goes away on its own within two years without health problems. But when HPV does not go away, it can cause serious complications like genital warts and cancer. A sexually active person can develop symptoms years after having sex with someone who has the infection. This makes it hard to know when you first got it.

If you’re a smoker or have a weak immune system, genital warts are more likely to appear and to reoccur. There’s no cure for HPV, but warts can be removed in multiple ways, including cryotherapy – freezing them off.

HPV Symptoms for Women:

If symptoms do show up, they can include:

  • pain during sex
  • genital warts on vulva
  • pain in the pelvic region
  • abnormal discharge from the vagina
  • unusual bleeding, such as after sex

HPV Symptoms for Men:

Growth or warts on the following:

  • penis
  • testicles
  • anus
  • groin and thighs
  • tongue and top of the mouth


You can come down with syphilis by having direct contact with a syphilis sore during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. And having syphilis once does not make you immune to getting it another time. Even after a successful treatment, you can succumb to syphilis once again.

It is uncommon to spread syphilis through kissing. Gay and bisexual men make up a large proportion of those who contract syphilis.

Syphilis is a bacterial infection that causes sores and rashes and can do serious harm if left untreated. People get syphilis during anal, vaginal, or sometimes oral sex. Rarely can it be spread through kissing. Gay and bisexual men make up a large proportion of those who contract syphilis: according to the Centers for Disease Control, 72% of reported U.S. cases in 2011 were in gay or bi men.

According to the CDC, in 2020, 133,945 cases of all stages of syphilis were reported, including 41,655 cases of primary and secondary (P&S) syphilis, the most infectious stages of the disease. Since reaching a historic low in 2000 and 2001, the rate of P&S syphilis has increased almost every year, increasing 6.8% during 2019–2020. Although rates of P&S syphilis are lower among women, rates have increased substantially in recent years, increasing 21% during 2019–2020 and 147% during 2016–2020. Rates increased among both males and females and in three regions of the United States (Midwest, Northeast, and South).

Stages of Syphilis:

Syphilis is a bacterial infection that develops in stages: primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary.

  • The Primary Stage - This first stage of syphilis, you may notice a single sore or multiple sores. These sores typically appear in, on, or around the penis, vagina, anus, rectum, and lips or in the mouth.
  • The Second Stage - More often than not, this stage begins with a rash so faint, it could go unnoticed on one or more areas of your body.
  • The Latent Stage - At this point in time, there are no visible signs or symptoms of syphilis. Without treatment, the syphilis infection can remain in your body for years.
  • The Tertiary Stage - Tertiary syphilis is the most severe and occurs 10–30 years after your virus began. During this stage, syphilis may cause injury to your internal organs and can result in death.

Why should I care about STDs?

While many STDs are fairly common and the first symptoms may be mild, the consequences of leaving STDs untreated can threaten your health on many levels. Chlamydia and gonorrhea can lead to epididymitis – an inflammation of the tube connected to the testicles – or pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which affects the uterus and fallopian tubes. Either can be painful and cause infertility. Gonorrhea can also lead to ulcers in the throat or rectum. Syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia can be passed to a child during pregnancy or birth. And having another STD can put you at greater risk of getting HIV.

With the right antibiotics, you can recover from Gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis. Regular testing, depending on your risk level, lets you get proper treatment and avoid any long-term health consequences.

Get tested regularly, and encourage your partners to do the same. The U.S. has the highest rate of STD infection in the industrialized world.

Reasons You Should Care About Testing for STDs:

  • There are more than 20 STDs
  • STDs are on the rise in the U.S.
  • You may have an undiagnosed STD, and unintentionally cause your partner to get it
  • Many STDs can be asymptomatic after transmission
  • STDs can negatively impact your future health
  • You respect yourself and your partner

How to Prevent STDs

While humans are considered sexual beings by nature, abstinence is the most effective way to avoid exposure to an STD. And condoms have proven to be successful against the spread of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. Condoms will also reduce your risk of catching or spreading HPV. Now, warts can still show up on areas of the genitals or mouth. If you notice you have a wart, you can lessen the chance of spreading HPV by covering it and keeping your partner out of contact with it. Vaccines are available to prevent the strains of HPV commonly linked to genital warts and cancer. In addition to using condoms, you can keep your sex safer by having fewer partners, talking with them openly and honestly about your STD status and sexual history, and getting tested regularly.


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