Sexually transmitted infections (STI)

Recognize. Treat. Protect yourself.

Source: © Bundeszentrale für gesundheitliche Aufklärung (BZgA), Cologne

Sex and health

For many people sex is one of the most beautiful and exciting things in life. But sometimes diseases can be transmitted during sex.
These diseases are called STI (Sexually Transmitted Infections). They used to be called “venereal disease”.

If you have been infected with a sexually transmitted infection (STI), there is nothing to be ashamed of. However, it is important that you go to a doctor. STIs can seriously damage your health in the long term if they are not treated. They also increase the risk of HIV infection.

If you get diagnosed with an STI by your physician, you should talk to your partner who should also be tested.

STI – FAQ (en)

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can be passed on mainly during sex. They are infectious diseases like other ones. And just as anyone can get a flu or a cold, anyone can get bacteria, viruses or parasites that cause STIs. These pathogens are sometimes transmitted very easily during sex.
A sexually transmitted infection (STI) is nothing to be ashamed of. The important thing is that you get treated. Because if treated in time, most STIs can be completely cured without harming your health.
Many people think: "This doesn't concern me!" But unfortunately this is not true, because many people become infected with a sexually transmitted infection (STI) during their lifetime. This is because STIs can sometimes be transmitted very easily during sex. Worldwide, approximately one million people contract STI every day - regardless of whether they live in Germany or the rest of the world, whether they are old or young, man or woman, homosexual or heterosexual.
There are many different signs of disease that indicate a sexually transmitted infection (STI). If you notice one or more of the following signs, you should have a check-up:
  • unusual discharge from the vagina, penis or buttocks and intermediate bleeding
  • Itching, rashes and redness of the skin - especially in the genital area
  • Urge to urinate, pain and burning sensation while passing urine
  • skin changes and weeping skin areas, especially blisters, warts or ulcers
  • Pain during sex and swelling of the genital area
  • Fever and flu-like signs
  • Loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhoea
Unfortunately, the signs of a sexually transmitted infection (STI) are not always clear. Sometimes there are even no signs at all. And with some STIs, the symptoms disappear over time - but the pathogens can still be in your body and damage your health. So only a doctor can tell you for sure whether you have an STI or not.
This can greatly reduce the risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs):
  • Use condoms during vaginal sex (penis in vagina) and anal sex (penis in buttocks) - even if the penis only briefly penetrates the vagina or buttocks.
  • Use condoms when sharing sex toys. Use a new condom before each sharing.
  • Do not touch any skin changes or weeping skin; this applies especially to herpes blisters, genital warts and syphilis ulcers.
  • You can also be vaccinated against HPV, hepatitis A and hepatitis B. Ask your doctor about this.
This way you can greatly reduce your risk of infection. But even then there is no 100% protection. Therefore, take care of your body and do not postpone a visit to the doctor for long if there are any signs.
Unfortunately, some sexually transmitted infections (STI) can be contracted during oral sex (sex with the mouth). However, this risk is very small. And you can reduce it even further with the right vaccinations for you. If you have skin changes, especially herpes blisters, genital warts and syphilis ulcers on your penis, vagina, buttocks or mouth, you should avoid oral sex for the time being. You can also use condoms or dental dams (licking tissues) for oral sex.
Sexually transmitted infections (STI) can be treated well and can often be completely cured. So, if you are diagnosed with an STI, there is no reason to panic! The best thing to do is not to postpone your visit to the doctor for too long and do not to try treating yourself based on tips from friends or the internet. You should also take the medication prescribed by a doctor for as long as you are told to - even if your symptoms have disappeared before.
If you are diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection (STI), you should tell everyone you have had sex with recently. They should also be examined and treated. You can also prevent you from infecting each other again and again.
Since sexually transmitted infections (STI) are sometimes very easily passed on during sex, you should refrain from having sex until you are completely healthy again. It is best to ask your doctor.
Without treatment, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can have serious consequences. They can not only cause pain during sex, but can also lead to infertility, for example, so that it is no longer possible to have children naturally. STIs also increase the risk of contracting HIV during unprotected sex.
Only a doctor can determine whether or not you have been infected with a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Specialists in skin and sexually transmitted diseases are well versed in treating STIs. Girls and women can also go to their gynaecologist, boys and men to their urologist. And your family doctor will also be able to help you.
If you have any questions or if you are unsure, you can contact the telephone and online counselling service of the Federal Centre for Health Education (BZgA) or the counselling service of the German AIDS-Hilfe  (DAH) personally - and anonymously if you wish.
Depending on what your symptoms look like and which sexually transmitted infection (STI) is suspected, a test can be performed in different ways: Often it is enough for the doctor to take a close look at suspicious skin areas. However, it is also possible that your blood, urine or other bodily fluids are examined. And sometimes a smear is taken of the affected mucous membrane, such as the vagina, penis, buttocks or mouth. Such examinations are quite normal - so there is no need to be embarrassed.
If you want to know more about sexually transmitted infections (STIs), you can find a lot of information on the Internet at There you can also order further brochures for free. You can also contact the telephone and online advice service of the Federal Centre for Health Education (BZGA) in person - or anonymously if you prefer - by calling 0221-892031 or via the Internet at