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I’ve heard chlamydia and gonorrhea are curable with antibiotics, so what’s the big deal if I get it?

Chlamydia and gonorrhea are common, curable infections caused by bacteria. But just because they are common and curable doesn’t mean they aren’t a big deal.

The thing with chlamydia and gonorrhea is that they often have no symptoms, so it is often impossible to know if you have them or if your sexual partner has them, unless you are both tested. They can be transmitted through vaginal, anal and—although less likely—oral sex.

When a person with a penis gets these bacterial infections, if they have symptoms, it hurts when they pee. They may experience swelling of the testicles or discharge from the penis. For a person with a vulva, there can be pain when peeing and an unusual discharge from the vagina. While not as common, it is possible to get chlamydia or gonorrhea in the throat if you give oral sex to an infected person. It’s also possible to get these infections in the anus or rectum through anal sex.

Both chlamydia and gonorrhea can be cured with antibiotics; however, a person can transmit them to a partner until they have finished taking all of their antibiotics. Also, even if you’ve been treated and cured of chlamydia or gonorrhea once, you can still get them again if you have sexual contact with an infected partner.

If left untreated, they can cause severe infections in the reproductive system and can even cause sterility and infertility, meaning a person would be unable to become pregnant or contribute to a pregnancy down the road. A health care provider tests for chlamydia or gonorrhea in the anus or genitals, by swabbing the anus, cervix or urethra at the tip of a penis. Health care providers can also do urine tests and look for traces of discharge in the urine.

The best way to avoid chlamydia and gonorrhea—and any STD—is to always use a condom and other safer sex methods when you have sex, communicate openly and honestly with your partner and get tested with a partner before having any kind of sex.

Most clinics and hospitals offer free or low-cost STD testing. Find a clinic near you or locate a Planned Parenthood near you by calling 1-800-230-PLAN (7526).

Have more questions? You can learn more at the website for the American Sexual Health Association.

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