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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 in guys or girls, 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 guys get these bacterial infections, if they have symptoms, it hurts when they pee. They may experience swelling of the testicles or discharge from the penis. Girls can have pain when they pee 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 it 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. And, even if you’ve been treated and cured of chlamydia or gonorrhea once, you can still get it 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 in guys and infertility in girls, meaning they’ll be unable to have children down the road. A health care provider tests for chlamydia or gonorrhea in the anus or genitals, by swabbing the anus, cervix or urethra (in a male). 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 and to get tested with a partner before having any kind of sex.

If you’re sexually active, it’s recommended you get tested for gonorrhea each year, just to be safe and sure. 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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