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Sexually transmitted diseases (ST!s) are infections that can be transmitted through sexual contact with an infected individual. STIs can be transmitted during vaginal or other types of sexual intercourse including oral and anal sex. Most bacterial infections (like gonorrhea (PDF), chlamydia (PDF) and syphilis (PDF) are curable with antibiotics. Herpes (PDF), HIV and genital warts (HPV) (PDF) are all caused by viruses and can be treated to reduce symptoms, but there is no cure.
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You can get an STI by having sex (vaginal, anal or oral) with someone who has an STI. Anyone who is sexually active can get an STI. You don't even have to "go all the way" (have anal or vaginal sex) to get an STI, since some STIs, like herpes and genital warts, are spread by skin-to-skin contact.
Since most STIs have no symptoms at all, the only way to know for sure is to get tested. Testing is always confidential and is often free or low-cost. Many STIs are curable and can easily be treated at a clinic. If you do not get treated, you can develop permanent damage and pass your STI on to others.
The surest way to protect yourself against STIs is to not have sex. That means not having any vaginal, anal, or oral sex ("abstinence"). There are many things to consider before having sex, and it's okay to say "no" if you don't want to have sex.
Butte County Public Health Clinics in Chico and Oroville provide free or low-cost STD testing and treatment.