The Most Common STI You’re Not Aware Of

No matter how good (or not so good) your high school sex ed was, there’s likely one sexually transmitted infection you don’t know much about but should: trich.

According to new research from the American Sexual Health Association (ASHA), trichomoniasis (trich) is the most common curable STI—yet only one in five women are familiar with it.

“Trich is a sexually transmitted germ that comes from a group of organisms living in the vagina or male reproductive tract,” says J. Dennis Fortenberry, M.D., a professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine and member of the Board of Directors for the ASHA. “And because the STI generally has no signs or symptoms, many people who have it don’t know they are infected.”

Sometimes the infection can have very troublesome and irritating symptoms such as vaginal discharge, itching, burning, and pain during intercourse for women. But for men—and some women—there may be no signs at all. “If someone is infected with trich, it can be hard for doctors to detect how long the patient has had it because of the lack in symptoms,” Dr. Fortenberry says. “Which is all the more reason to be proactive in asking your doctor about being tested for it.”

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Trich causes a lot of inflammation in the female reproductive tract, which increases the risk of contracting other STIs, including HIV. Research has shown that trich can also increase the risk of a premature delivery in pregnant women, so the sooner you find it and treat it, the better.

The testing procedure is simple: A doctor takes a quick swab of the inside of the vagina and sends the sample off to the lab. If the results come back positive, don’t fret. This STI is curable with a simple antibiotic—just be sure your partner gets treated as well. “If you contracted trich from your partner and you take meds and treat it but your partner doesn’t, you can quickly get it again,” Dr. Fortenberry says.

To keep trich at bay, of course use a condom. And if you like to use sex toys with your partner, clean them before switching between the two of you or even consider putting condoms on them.

“It’s easy to be trich-free, especially because it’s curable,” Dr. Fortenberry says. “But you have to be knowledgeable about it first.”

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