SERC Tips of the Week

I’ve heard that STIs can’t be cured…is this true?

This is an excellent question, one with an answer that many people struggle to understand.  An STI (short for sexually transmitted infection) is an infection that you can get from having any kind of sex (oral, anal, vaginal) with an infected partner.  An STI can be caused by bacteria, parasites, or a virus.  Some STIs can be cured, while others cannot.

An STI that is caused by bacteria or parasites can be cured.  This means that an individual can receive treatment (e.g. antibiotics) that will make the infection go away.  Examples of bacterial or parasitic STIs include chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and pubic lice (crabs).  Be careful though – even if you’ve received treatment for a curable STI, you can be re-infected with the same STI.  That’s why it’s important to always practice safer sex!

An STI that is caused by a virus cannot be cured.  This means that the virus lives in the body of an infected person forever.  Examples of viral STIs include genital herpes, HPV and genital warts, and HIV.  Treatment is available for the symptoms associated with viral STIs, however once a viral STI is contracted there is nothing a person can do to rid their body of the virus.  That’s why it is very important to use preventative measures (e.g. always using condoms).

Stay tuned for next time when we’ll address some of the ways that STIs can be contracted!

Information provided by the Sexuality Education Resource Centre.  Do you have questions about sexuality?  Send them to

The information provided in this article is not intended as medical advice.  Should you have any questions, please contact your health care provider.

Republished from The Quill print edition, Volume 103, Issue 16, January 8, 2013.