Sexually Transmitted Infections

What is a Sexually Transmitted Infection?

A sexually transmitted infection (STI) is a bacterial or viral infection passed from one person to another through vaginal, anal, or oral contact. STIs can be transmitted whether this contact was consensual or not.


STIs can infect a person of any age or gender. Although the signs may vary, when an STI starts showing symptoms, it’s called a sexually transmitted disease, or STD.

What if I’m concerned about having an STI or STD?


  • If you want to be tested, you may need to ask. Not all healthcare professionals automatically test for STIs after a sexual assault. Even if you agree to a sexual assault forensic exam, it may not include these tests. Be aware that there may be necessary follow-up testing.
  • You may not show symptoms. Some STIs won’t show symptoms right away, but left untreated they can worsen. Testing is the best way to diagnose and treat the infection when there are no symptoms. You can be tested at any time, no matter how much time has passed since the event.
  • You can get help. Most STIs and STDs are curable with antibiotics that you can get by visiting a healthcare professional. STIs caused by a virus, like herpes, can often be managed over time with the help of medications.

Where can I learn more and get help?

You can be tested for STIs and STDs by visiting a healthcare professional or a clinic. Find a free or low-cost clinic near you by checking out the CDC database. You may also be eligible for support from your state’s Crime Victim Compensation Program to help with the costs of tests and treatment.


You can learn more about STIs and STDs including signs, symptoms, and possible treatments from the Mayo Clinic, the NIH, and the CDC.

To speak with someone who is trained to help, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or chat online at

Please note that content on this site does not constitute medical advice and RAINN is not a medical expert. If after reading this information you have further questions, please contact a local healthcare professional or hospital.

Related Content

Receiving Medical Attention

After sexual assault, a medical exam can check for help check for injuries, even those you may not be able to see.

Read More

What Is a Sexual Assault Forensic Exam?

During a sexual assault forensic exam, a trained healthcare professional can collect DNA evidence from your body, clothes, and other personal belongings.

Read More

Self-Care After Trauma

Whether it happened recently or years ago, self care can help you cope with the short- and long-term effects of a trauma like sexual assault.

Read More

Free. Confidential. 24/7.

Get Help

More than 87 cents of every $1 goes to helping survivors and preventing sexual violence.

Donate Now