What is an STI?


STI means sexually transmitted infection. Did you know HIV is a sexually transmitted infection?

You get an STI from having sex with somebody carrying a germ — usually a virus or bacteria — that causes the infection.

The good news is that you can protect yourself from these infections, and if you get an infection, you can get treatment.

We’ll break down some of the most common STIs (including their symptoms and treatments), how you can protect yourself, and how you can get tested for free.

How to be the boss of your body and deal with STIs

Circle Health Services started Be Boss to help young people like you make a promise: You can’t control everything in life, but you can be the boss of your body.

And one of the best ways to Be Boss of your body is to learn the facts about STIs.

Getting an STI is nothing to be ashamed of. It happens to the best of us.

But it’s nothing to ignore either. An STI can cause pain, burning, fever, rashes, and sometimes lead to other serious health problems. It’s best to get tested regularly, so you can get treatment ASAP if you need to!

Let’s walk through the kinds of STIs most likely happening to people you know:

Be Boss HIV & STI testing in CLE


HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is caused by a viral infection that cannot be cured — but it can be controlled with anti-retroviral medications. If you take your HIV meds exactly like your doctor says, you can live a long, healthy life. If you don’t take the meds, you can develop AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).

There’s absolutely no reason to freak out if you get HIV. You just have to be the boss of your body to fight it off with the right meds. People with HIV live about as long as everybody else does if they stay on their meds.


  • For some people, the initial infection can feel like a severe case of the flu.
  • If left untreated, people who are living with HIV may get rare cancers like Kaposi’s sarcoma, which causes dark, odd-shaped blotches on the skin.
  • Left untreated, HIV eventually leads to AIDS. But getting on treatment and staying on treatment prevents AIDS.

The problem is that a lot of people who are infected with HIV don’t have any symptoms in the beginning. So the only way to know whether or not you have the virus is to get tested regularly.


Be Boss of Your Body.
Take control. Get tested. It’s confidential and free.
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Be Boss HIV STIs testing in CLE


Herpes is a virus that infects the mouth and the genitals. You can carry herpes for months and not know you’re infected, and you can carry the herpes virus all your life if you get infected. Usually, the best way to know if you’re infected is to get tested.

Symptoms: Small blisters on or near the genitals, rectum, or mouth. If you’ve had herpes for a while, you may also feel genital pain, or tingling or shooting pains in the legs, hips, or buttocks. For some people, these symptoms will show up again and again throughout their life, but can be manged with medication.

Treatment: Herpes can’t be cured, but you can treat its symptoms with anti-viral medications that reduce the risk of infecting somebody else.

There’s a lot more to learn about herpes. Click this link for more crucial facts.


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Chlamydia is the most common STI in the United States. It’s caused by a bacteria and is curable with antibiotics. Women who have chlamydia may have a hard time having kids if they don’t get treated.

Symptoms for men:

  • Liquid discharge from the penis
  • A burning sensation when urinating
  • Pain and swelling in testicles (less common)

Symptoms for women:

  • An abnormal vaginal discharge
  • A burning sensation when urinating

Symptoms if infection happens during anal sex:

  • Rectal pain
  • Discharge
  • Bleeding

In terms of treatment, doctors will give you a prescription to clear chlamydia up. It’s crucial to take all of the medication you are prescribed. Remember, the treatment cures the disease but it does not make you immune: you can be infected again if you’re not careful.

Get more facts on chlamydia.



Be Boss HIV and STI testing in CLE


This bacterial infection has a nickname: the clap. Antibiotics will cure it. Gonorrhea used to be a dreaded disease, but these days it’s more of an annoyance. But if you don’t take meds to treat it, you can have serious health problems.

Symptoms for men:

  • A burning sensation when urinating
  • A white, yellow, or green discharge from the penis
  • Painful or swollen testicles (less common)

Symptoms for women:

  • Painful or burning sensation when urinating
  • Increased vaginal discharge
  • Vaginal bleeding between periods

Symptoms if infection happens during anal sex:

  • Discharge
  • Anal itching
  • Soreness
  • Bleeding
  • Painful bowel movements

In terms of treatment, antibiotics can cure gonorrhea. But keep this in mind: antibiotics can’t fix any damage done by the disease. That’s why it’s so crucial to take the meds and get the disease out of your body.

Get more facts on gonorrhea.



Be Boss HIV STI Testing in CLE


Talk about old-school: Syphilis has been around for thousands of years. It’s another bacterial infection that is curable. And it can cause serious health problems if it doesn’t get treated.

Symptoms: Syphilis looks different as it advances in four stages.

  • Primary stage: sore or multiple sores at the sight of the infection
  • Secondary: skin rash, fever, swollen lymph nodes
  • Latent: symptoms go away in this stage
  • Tertiary: severe medical problems in the heart, brain, and other organs

Syphilis is easy to cure with antibiotics. It’s vital that you take all the meds your doctor prescribes to you. Don’t leave any extras in the bottle.

Get more facts on syphilis.


Protecting your body from STIs

If you’re having sex, you’re at risk for catching an STI. But you can make sex safer and reduce the odds of catching something.

Wearing a condom when you have sex prevents most STIs. A lot of people have a lot of excuses when it comes to condoms — but the good news is there are a lot of different types that can make sex even more fun while keeping you safe! Different materials, textures, and even flavors — you can experiment on what works best for you.

You can also prevent certain STIs ahead of time. For example, there is a vaccine for a common STI called HPV (human papillomavirus). There’s also a daily prescription medication called PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) that can help seriously decrease your chances of getting HIV. (Don’t worry, we’ll talk more about that in a later blog!)

Another great way to protect yourself and your partner is to get tested regularly. You’ll both feel better if you know for sure that you’re in the clear! And if one or both of you test positive for something? You get on treatment and relax knowing that you took care of it.

If you think you have an STI:
  • Contact your doctor or local clinic as soon as possible. Doctors see STIs every day and know exactly what to do.
  • Stop having sex until you know for sure. Doctors can give tests that’ll show what you’ve got, if anything.
  • If you test positive, you should inform any sex partners you think you might have gotten it from or given it to. Nobody likes doing this but it’s better than people finding out from somebody else.
  • Get on treatment and take any medication just like your doc told you to.
It’s no fun having an STI or having to tell your partners you’re infected, but it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Millions of people deal with STIs every day. You can, too.


Be Boss HIV STI Testing in CLE


You’re the Boss of your body. If you have a question or concern please contact us for information about STI testing and treatment or other health services.

HIV walk-in testing hours:
Mon – Thurs 1 pm – 7 pm
HIV Services (216) 707-3448

STI walk-in medical testing:
Wed  11 am – 3:30 pm
Thurs 9 am – 11:30 am

PrEP or STI medical testing by appointment:
(216) 721-4010

Testing Location:
Circle Health Services
12201 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, Ohio 44106



Please visit www.circlehealthservices.org for more information or e-mail info@circlehealthservices.org.