Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are caused by infections that are passed from one person to another during sexual contact. Sometimes these infections do not cause symptoms. Infections are only called diseases when they cause symptoms, which is why STDs are often referred to as sexually transmitted infections, or STIs. There are many kinds of sexually transmitted diseases and infections.

In Wisconsin, there are currently five reportable STDs:


Most people who have chlamydia often don’t know it since the disease often has no symptoms.

Chlamydia is the most commonly reported STD in the United States. Most people who have chlamydia are unaware that they have it as it often has no symptoms. Chlamydia is easy to cure, but can impact a woman’s fertility if left untreated. Chlamydia is also preventable. See “Prevention of STIs” for more information.


Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection that affects both men and women. Symptoms differ depending on gender and what part of the body is infected. Gonorrhea can affect the anus, eyes, mouth, genitals, or throat. Anyone who is sexually active can get gonorrhea. Gonorrhea, if untreated, can lead to infertility.

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)

Genital human papillomavirus (or HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection. There are over 40 types of HPV that can infect the genital areas of both males and females. HPV can also infect the mouth and throat.

HPV can cause serious health problems, including genital warts and certain cancers. There is no certain way to tell who will develop health problems from HPV and who will not. In most cases HPV goes away by itself before it causes any health problems, and most people who become infected with HPV do not even know they have it.

Anyone who is having (or has ever had) sex can get HPV. HPV is so common that nearly all sexually-active men and women get it at some point in their lives.Back to Top HPV is passed on through genital contact, most often during vaginal and anal sex. HPV may also be passed on during oral sex and genital-to-genital contact. Most infected persons do not realize they are infected, or that they are passing HPV on to a sex partner. A person can still have HPV, even if years have passed since he or she has had sexual contact with an infected person. It is also possible to get more than one type of HPV.

Most people with HPV never develop symptoms or health problems. Most HPV infections (90%) go away by themselves within two years. But, sometimes, HPV infections will persist and can cause a variety of serious health problems. Health problems that can be caused by HPV include:

• Genital warts

• Recurrent respiratory papillomatosis (RRP), a rare condition in which warts grow in the throat

• Cervical cancer

• Genital cancers

• Throat cancer


There is a vaccine to help prevent against the most common types of HPV that can lead to disease and cancer. This vaccine is a series of three shots over six months. It’s important to get all three doses to get the best protection. It is best to get the vaccine before becoming sexually active, but can be given through age 26. Boys and girls at ages 11 or 12 are most likely to have the best protection provided by HPV vaccines, and their immune response to vaccine is better than older women and men.