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Division of HIV and STD Programs
600 S. Commonwealth Ave., 10th Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90005
Phone:(213) 351-8000
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 STD Information

Here you will find general information about STDs including testing and treatment options. For disease specific information, please go to our For You section.

STD Facts

  • The term "sexually transmitted diseases" or "STDs" represents a group of more than 25 different diseases that can be passed from one person to another through sexual contact.

  • An STD is a disease/infection you can get or give to someone else by having oral, vaginal or anal sex; foreplay; or sharing personal items with blood on them, such as needles, razors, and toothbrushes.

STD Symptoms

It is possible to have an STD but not have any symptoms. Having symptoms is a good thing because they let you know that something is wrong. If you notice anything different than what is normal for you in your genital area, it is very important to go to a doctor as soon as possible.  When they do occur, typical STD symptoms for women may include unusual vaginal discharge (flow), sores, bumps, burning when urinating, and redness or itching around the vaginal area. Typical symptoms for men may include discharge from the penis, burning when urinating, and sores, bumps, or redness on or around the penis.

STD Complications

If you are sexually active, have a new partner, or more than one partner, it is important to get tested. If you ignore an STD, you might develop other health problems later. These problems can include heart, brain, or liver damage; infertility; cancers in your reproductive organs; and even death. Having an STD also makes it easier for you to become infected with HIV.

STD Testing

The best way to know if you have an STD is to go to a doctor and get tested. If you live in Los Angeles County and are at least 12 years old or older, you can call the STD Hotline at (800) 758-0880 to find out where you can get tested and treated for free. The hotline can also help you with telling your partner(s).  For more information on free testing locations near you, see our STD clinics page.

STD Treatment

Bacterial STDs like Chlamydia, Gonorrhea and Syphilis, can be easily treated and cured. Viral STDs like Herpes, genital warts, and HIV are incurable, but there are treatments available to lessen the severity of the disease. Vaccines are available to prevent the onset of certain STDs such as Hepatitis B and HPV. For vaccines to be effective, a person has to be vaccinated before they are exposed to the infection. For this reason, it is recommended that most people get vaccinated against these infections at an early age.

If you think you have an STD, see a health care provider immediately. Seeking treatment early will help to minimize the long-term effects of most STDs. For Gonorrhea and Chlamydia infections, avoid sexual contact until you are cured. Make sure your partner(s) get tested and treated too. Otherwise, you can get re-infected. Some clinics can give you medication to take home to your partner(s). Viral STDs such as Herpes and genital warts are not curable but medications are available for their treatment and management. For STD clinic locations in Los Angeles County, call the Los Angeles STD Hotline at (800) 758-0880 or visit our STD clinics section. For all other areas, contact your local or state health department for a clinic near you. Most STD clinics provide services for free or at low cost.

STD Prevention

  • The best way to prevent STDs is by not having sex (abstinence) or waiting to have sex. If you have sex, use a latex condom correctly each time. You can also use other barriers like polyurethane (plastic) condoms, female condoms, or dental dams. Birth control methods like the pill, depo provera, or diaphragms DO NOT protect against STDs.

  • Talk to your partner(s) about safer sex before having sex. Try to select a setting that is neutral and non-sexual. Discuss your sexual histories including past sex partners and STDs.

  • Before you have sex, check yourself and your partner for any signs of STDs, such as discharge, sores, or bumps in the genital areas. If you notice any signs, do not have sex. Go to a doctor or a clinic to get tested. Keep in mind, however, the many STDs do not show any signs or symptoms.

  • Limit your number of sex partners. The more people you have sex with, the greater your chances of getting an STD. A monogamous relationship — where you and your partner only have sex with each another — is safest.

  • Go to a clinic for an STD checkup every six months if you change partners, have more than one partner, or if you think your partner may be having sex with anyone else.

  • Get vaccinated. Vaccines are available for HPV, hepatitis A and B. Talk to your doctor or go to a clinic to find out if these vaccines are suitable for you. For more information on where to get Hepatitis vaccine in L.A. County, click here. 

  • If you have an STD, make sure both you and your partner(s) get treated. Do not have sex again until both you and your partner(s) complete treatment.

  • Do not share needles for tattooing, body piercing, and injecting drugs/hormones. If you do share, see below for how to clean them properly. Ask your sex partner(s) about any past needle use.

  • How to clean your Needles and syringes

    • Step 1: Water -- Do Step 1 three times.

      1. Fill syringe to the top with clean water.

      2. Shake the syringe.

      3. Squirt out. Repeat.

    • Step 2: 100% Bleach -- Do Step 2 three times.

      1. Fill syringe to the top with clean, 100% bleach.

      2. Shake the syringe. Leave the bleach in for at least 30 seconds.

      3. Squirt out. Repeat.

    • Step 3:  Water -- Do Step 3 three times.

      1. Fill syringe to the top with clean water.

      2. Shake the syringe.

      3. Squirt out. Repeat.

  • If you are pregnant, seek pre-natal care early. Early detection and treatment of STDs is important to prevent transmission or development of complications in your baby.

HIV and STD Information

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