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What’s the difference between parasitic, bacterial and viral STIs?

There are 3 main categories of STIs: parasitic, bacterial, and viral.

  • Parasitic: Two well-known parasites are public lice (crabs) and scabies. Though these are uncomfortable and still require a prescription medication to treat, there are little to no long term health effects from having these. These infections are also not limited to the genital area and can appear almost anywhere on a person.
  • Bacterial: Common bacterial infections are gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis. Generally, bacterial infections are easy to treat with moderate negative health outcomes in left untreated. Gonorrhea and chlamydia often do not have symptoms, are easy to treat, and have moderate side effects if left untreated. When left untreated, gonorrhea and chlamydia have been known to lead to infertility in both women and men. Syphilis is unique in that it typically has symptoms (a sore at the site of infection and unique rash on hands and feet) soon after infection, but then they subside. If a person has untreated syphilis, the infection can become fatal. Syphilis is incredibly easy to treat once detected.
  • Viral: Viral infections are typically more serious infections with higher rates of negative health outcomes. Common viral STIs include HIV, Herpes, HPV, and Hepatitis. Though a cure for Hepatitis C is available, there are currently no other viral STI cures. When someone has a viral STI, it is recommended to increase monitoring to catch any negative outcomes early on and use management medication when possible.
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