Chlamydia, gonorrhea and more: A guide to the most prevalent STIs

December 6, 2023

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are more common than you might realize. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were over 2.5 million reported cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis between 2020 and 2021 alone, and the numbers show no signs of slowing.


Despite how common they are, it can be difficult to talk about STIs, let alone seek a diagnosis.


“Getting tested for STIs can feel vulnerable, but your health matters,” says Irene Cheung, a family nurse practitioner. “There is no shame in being responsible and proactive about your sexual health. Putting your health first is something to be proud of.”


To start taking control of your sexual health, the first step is to arm yourself with knowledge. Here’s what you need to know about the most common STIs, plus your options for STI testing and prevention.


What are the most common STIs?

Of the STIs tracked by the CDC, chlamydia is currently the most commonly reported. Both men and women can contract chlamydia, and symptoms are similar between the two (e.g., abnormal discharge from the vagina or penis, burning sensation when peeing). However, these symptoms are often mild or nonexistent, making it hard to know when you have a chlamydia infection. If left untreated, chlamydia can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), infertility and chronic pelvic pain.


Gonorrhea is another common STI that, much like chlamydia, can be easy to miss. The symptoms are typically mild or easy to mistake for a bladder infection (e.g., painful urination, unusual discharge). Like chlamydia, untreated gonorrhea can also cause complications like PID, infertility and long-term pelvic pain.


While more common among females than males, trichomoniasis is another STI to have on your radar. The complications are not as severe as those associated with chlamydia and gonorrhea, but a trich infection can still cause uncomfortable symptoms like genital irritation, urinary discomfort and abnormal genital discharge. Much like chlamydia and gonorrhea, trichomoniasis often has no signs. The symptoms may come and go, which makes diagnosis difficult.


Other common STIs in the U.S. include syphilis, human papillomavirus (HPV), HIV/AIDS and herpes.


How often should I get tested for STIs?

Being sexually active means taking the proper steps and precautions to keep both yourself and your sexual partner(s) safe and healthy. Your provider can also help answer any questions you may have about STI testing.


The CDC notes that STI testing is important for anyone who is sexually active, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.


Specifically, the CDC emphasizes recommendations for annual chlamydia and gonorrhea testing for:

  • All sexually active women younger than 25 years
  • Women 25 years and older with risk factors such as new or multiple sex partners or a sex partner who has an STI
  • All sexually active gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men

Additional STI screening recommendations include:

  • Testing for syphilis, HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C for those who are pregnant
  • HIV testing for all adults and adolescents from ages 13 to 64 at least once
  • Annual syphilis, HIV and hepatitis C testing for all sexually active men who have sex with men
  • More frequent STI testing (i.e., every 3-6 months) for syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea and HIV for all sexually active men who have sex with men (multiple or anonymous partners)


With Labcorp OnDemand’s STI Test you can stay on top of STI screenings for chlamydia, gonorrhea and trichomoniasis.


STI prevention: From safe sex practices to STI test options

Aside from abstinence, there are plenty of ways to practice safe sex and lower your risk of STIs.


In addition to using condoms and being mindful about sexual partners, vaccines are recommended to prevent certain infections, such as hepatitis B and HPV.


One of your best tools for STI prevention is STI testing. While bringing up the topic of STI testing with your provider may feel uncomfortable, it is vital for protecting your health.


You can also purchase a test online for privacy and convenience. Labcorp OnDemand’s Chlamydia, Gonorrhea and Trichomoniasis STI Test can help you screen for three of the most common STIs without a visit in-person. Simply purchase your test online, visit one of the 2,000 Labcorp locations to collect your sample and access your results online within just a few days.


STIs can be scary, but convenient and confidential STI testing can help you feel more empowered. Take control of your sexual health today and learn more about Labcorp OnDemand’s Chlamydia, Gonorrhea and Trichomoniasis STI Test.