STDs/STIs caused by bacteria or parasites can be treated with antibiotics. These antibiotics are most often given by mouth (orally). However, sometimes they are injected or applied directly to the affected area.
The treatments, complications, and outcomes for viral STIs depend on the particular virus (HIV, genital herpes, human papillomavirus, hepatitis, or cytomegalovirus). Treatments can reduce the symptoms and the progression of most of these infections. For example, medications are available to limit the frequency and severity of genital herpes outbreaks while reducing the risk that the virus will be passed on to other people.
Individuals with HIV need to take special antiretroviral drugs that control the amount of virus they carry. These drugs, called highly active antiretroviral therapy, or HAART,1 can help people live longer, healthier lives and can prevent onward transmission of HIV to others. If a woman with HIV becomes pregnant, these medicines also can reduce the chance that her fetus or infant will get the infection.
The Types and Treatments page of this website provides some general information about treatments for certain STIs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website also provides more specific information about treatments for STIs.
Getting tested and treated for STIs is especially important for pregnant women because some STIs may be passed on during pregnancy or delivery. Testing women for these STIs early in their pregnancy is important so that steps can be taken to help ensure delivery of a healthy infant. The necessary treatment will depend on the type of STI involved.
Whatever the infection, and regardless of how quickly the symptoms resolve after beginning treatment, the infected person and their partner(s) must take all of the medicine prescribed by the health care provider to ensure that the STI is completely treated. Likewise, they should follow health care provider recommendations about how long to abstain from sex after the treatment is completed to avoid passing the infection back and forth.