Sexually transmitted diseases can affect males and females of all ages, sexual orientation and backgrounds. Protect yourself by learning the facts about STDs, how they are spread, symptoms, treatment and how to reduce your risk of getting one.

General facts about STDs

How do STDs spread?
STDs are spread from person to person through anal, oral, or vaginal intercourse. Some, like herpes or genital warts, are spread by skin-to-skin contact with an infected area or sore. Other STDs such as HIV and Hepatitis B can also be transmitted by sharing drug injection equipment.
STDs spread easily because it’s difficult to tell when someone has an infection. In fact, you may not know you have an STD which makes it easy to pass on an infection to a sex partner.

Activities that increase your chance of getting an STD

  • Sexual activity at a young age – The younger you are when you start having sex, the greater your chance of getting an STD.
  • Multiple sex partners – If you have sexual contact — not just intercourse, but any form of sexual activity — with different partners you are more at risk than those who stay with the same partner.
  • Unprotected sex – Latex condoms are the only form of birth control that also reduces risk of getting an STD.

Most people who have an STD have no symptoms. A test from your health care provider may be the only way to know for sure if you’re infected. If you do become infected, symptoms may show up right away, or they may not show up for weeks, months or even years.


  • Sores, bumps or blisters near your genitals, anus or mouth.
  • Burning or pain when you urinate.
  • Itching, bad smell or unusual discharge from your vagina or anus.
  • Pain in abdomen or lower stomach.
  • Bleeding from your vagina between your periods.


  • Sores, bumps or blisters near your genitals, anus or mouth.
  • Burning or pain when you urinate.
  • Drip or discharge from your penis.
  • Itching, pain or discharge from your anus.

Not all genital infections are caused by STDs. You can have symptoms similar to those of STDs, even if you’ve never had sex. For women, a yeast infection can easily be confused with an STD. Men may worry about bumps on the penis that turn out to be pimples or irritated hair follicles. That’s why it’s important to see a health care provider if you ever have questions about your sexual health.

It’s much easier to prevent STDs than to treat them. The only way to completely prevent STDs is by not having any type of sexual contact. If you have sex, the best way to reduce the chance of getting an STD is by using a condom. Another way to lessen your risk is to be in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner.

Visiting your health care provider for a medical exam is another opportunity to reduce your risk getting an STD. During your exam, your provider can discuss STDs and how to protect yourself and test for STDs if you are already sexually active. Make sure you tell your provider if you are thinking about having sex or if are currently sexually active. This includes all types of sex — oral, vaginal, and anal.

Don’t let embarrassment stop you from going to your provider. Waiting may just let a disease get worse and cause more damage. If you think you may have an STD, or if you have had a partner who may have an STD, you should go to a clinic as soon as you can. If you don’t have a health care provider or prefer not to see your provider for this service you may be able to find a clinic in the area where you can get an exam confidentially.

Most STDs are curable by taking medicine. Other STDs are treatable, to make the symptoms go away or easier to live with. Even when someone takes a medication to cure an STD they are able to get it again, and even though someone is being treated they can pass it on.

If untreated, some STDs can cause permanent damage, such as infertility (not able to get pregnant), lifetime health effects, cervical cancer and even death.

If you test positive for an STD you will be asked to give information about your sex partners over the past 60 days.  It is important that all sex partners of infected people are also treated to prevent re-infection or passing the infection to new partners. The Health Department receives notification of cases of sexually transmitted diseases and may contact you to help with partner notification.  All notification is strictly confidential and your name is never given as the person who may have exposed them.  If you are named as a contact of someone who has tested positive the health department can offer you screening and treatment.

Expedited Partner Treatment (EPT)

What is EPT?
Expedited Partner Therapy is a special program provided by the State Department of Health for partners of patients who test positive for Chlamydia or Gonorrhea. If it is not possible to schedule an exam for sex partners named as contacts the treatment can be offered without requiring partners to be tested or seen by a health care provider.

Where can I get tested for STDs?

  • Most health care providers provide testing and care .
  • If you are seeking birth control our Family Planning Clinic offers STD screening as part of the routine physical. The Health Department does not offer clinics just for STD screening but if you want to be tested you can make an appointment for our family planning clinic.
  • Grays Harbor County Health Department  STD clinic.  For more information about clinic times, fees, etc contact the clinic at (360) 532-8665.
  • Clatsop County Health Department STD clinic. For more information about clinic times, fees, etc contact the clinic at (503) 325-8500.