New York State Department of Health Promotes Positive Sexual Health and Raises Awareness for Sexually Transmitted Infections during STI Awareness Week

Prevention, Testing, and Treatment are the Best Defense Against Contracting and Spreading STIs

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 12, 2023) – The New York State Department of Health is promoting positive sexual health and encouraging New Yorkers to know their status and prevent sexually transmitted infection during STI Awareness Week, which is observed from April 9-15. STI awareness is the first step toward ensuring healthy behaviors, which can lead to good overall sexual health and eliminate stigma among individuals who often face discrimination around sex and sexuality, including individuals in LGBTQIA+ communities, women, individuals of color, and those who experience poverty. April is also STI Awareness Month.

"Sexual health is not just about preventing the spread of sexually transmitted infections, it is also a normal, healthy, and positive aspect of human life," Acting State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. "During STI Awareness Week, and all year round, I encourage New Yorkers to take an active role in your sexual health and to protect yourself and your partners. Getting screened, taking a vaccine, or getting treatment should never come with stigma or judgement, and I'm committed to continued awareness and education to keep everyone healthy and free from preventable illness."

Sexual health is a state of physical, emotional, mental, and social well-being in relation to sexuality. This includes knowing that sexuality is a full and natural part of life; being aware of and recognizing the sexual rights everyone shares; engaging in behaviors that reduce rates of STIs and unplanned pregnancies; and knowing when to seek care and treatment.

There are more than 30 infections that are spread through vaginal, anal, and oral sex. Some STIs can also spread through the blood by sharing intravenous drug equipment such as needles. According to the 2020 STI Surveillance Report, the highest rates of STIs in New York are among young people, non-Hispanic Black individuals, and those who identify as men who have sex with men, including nonbinary individuals and transgender men.

Prevention, testing, and treatment are the best defense against contracting and spreading STIs.


Sexual health literacy and talking with sexual partners and a health care provider about sexual health, including the signs and symptoms of STIs, are proven components of STI prevention.

Prevention can include abstaining from sexual activity if there is a risk of infection, reducing the number of sexual partners, using condoms, getting vaccinated, and taking Pre Exposure Prophylaxis, or PrEP, to prevent HIV. PrEP prevents those who do not have HIV from contracting the virus, and is one of the three main pillars in New York State's plan to End the AIDS Epidemic and to maximize the availability of life-saving treatment, guiding state efforts through 2024 and beyond. Individuals who may be exposed to HIV take a daily pill that contains HIV antiretroviral medication to reduce their risk of transmission. PrEP studies show significant reduction in HIV acquisition among HIV-negative persons who use PrEP and are also offered a package of prevention, care, and support services.

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. Over 40 types of HPV can infect the genital area, anus, mouth, or throat. If left untreated or undiagnosed, it can cause HPV-related cancers. Vaccines are available to protect against the human papillomavirus (HPV). The HPV vaccine is safe and effective and is given in a series of two or three shots, depending on the age of the patient when the series is started.

Mpox is the latest communicable disease to be added to the list of STIs in New York, allowing individuals under the age of 18 to obtain the vaccine without consent from a parent or guardian. While mpox is rarely fatal, it can cause painful lesions and permanent scarring. Mpox can be prevented by getting the JYNNEOS vaccine, which is currently available to individuals who are at risk of contracting mpox, including gay men and communities of men who have sex with men, transgender men, nonbinary individuals and members of gender non-conforming communities.


Getting tested and knowing one's STI status is a critical step in stopping STI transmission. It is possible to be exposed to more than one STI at the same time without knowing it, because there may not be signs or symptoms of the infection(s).

Anyone who thinks they may have been exposed to an STI should inform all sexual partners and visit a health care provider. Testing for HIV should be done at least once a year. All persons who are sexually active, especially those who engage in sexual behaviors that could place them at risk for infection, including new sex partners or a sex partner who has an STI or shares injection drug equipment, should be tested for Hepatitis, HIV, syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia frequently (ideally every three to six months).


Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis can be cured with antibiotics from a health care provider. However, if left untreated these infections can cause permanent damage.

In Expedited Partner Therapy (EPT), a clinicalhealth care provider who treats infected individuals also provides them with medication or a prescription to deliver to their sexual partner or partners as presumptive treatment for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis, without completing a clinical assessment of those partners. Follow up testing for partner or partners who are prescribed EPT is highly recommended.

If STIs are not treated, other harmful effects can occur.

Untreated chlamydia and gonorrhea can increase the risk of being infected with other STIs, like HIV, can lead to sterility (inability to make sperm) in males, and can increase a person's chance of getting pelvic inflammatory disease (an infection of the female reproductive organs), which can make it difficult to get pregnant or carry a baby to full term.

Some STIs can cause lifelong complications and even death if left untreated. Stage 4 syphilis, or late syphilis, can cause blindness, threaten the bones and heart, lead to permanent mental illness and paralysis, and even lead to loss of life. Individuals who are pregnant with untreated syphilis (regardless of disease stage) may transmit the disease to the unborn child, which could result in death, physical deformities, or brain and nerve problems, such as blindness or deafness of the child. Penicillin is the first-choice treatment for every stage of syphilis and usually cures the disease. Individuals who are pregnant with a history of allergic reaction to penicillin should undergo penicillin desensitization followed by appropriate penicillin therapy. A baby born with the disease needs daily penicillin treatment for ten days.

There are resources that can help individuals get the care that they need to be safe. Partner services is a free and confidential program through the Department that assists in linking individuals diagnosed with STIs and their partners to testing, treatment, medical care, and other services to improve health outcomes and reduce the risk of transmission to others.

Sexual health consultation is also available by sending an email to

The Provider Directory can assist with finding several sexual health and other related services.