Most Common STDs in the U.S.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are common in the United States. Around 20% of people in the United States had an STD on a given day in 2018. The most common STD is human papillomavirus (HPV).

STIs are also called sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The difference lies in whether an infection progresses to disease. Most of the time, STIs never move to the disease stage because they are treatable. However, the terms are used interchangeably.

This article explains HPV symptoms, causes, treatment, and prevention.

Woman discussing the most common STD

Pornpak Khunatorn / Getty Images

HPV Symptoms

HPV does not always have STI symptoms. That's why people often do not know if they have it. Most of the time, HPV clears on its own. But when an infection persists, it can lead to genital warts, which appear as a small lump or a group of bumps on the genitals.

However, genital warts are a common STI symptom and not a reliable indicator of HPV. The only way to know what is causing genital warts is to get tested.

HPV infection can lead to some kinds of cancer, including:

If you or your partner notice signs of genital warts, it's essential to get evaluated.

HPV Testing

All genders can be tested for HPV. However, routine screening (performed during a routine pap smear) is recommended only for those with a cervix who are over 30.

HPV Causes

More than 200 related viruses are responsible for causing HPV. Some of these viruses pose a higher risk of developing cancer than others. High-risk HPV strains can infect cells and lead to changes that cause cancer.

You can get HPV through various forms of sexual contact, including:

  • Penetrative sex (vaginal or anal)
  • Oral sex
  • Skin-to-skin genital touching

HPV is so prevalent that every sexually active person will contract it at some point in their life if they are not vaccinated.

HPV Treatment and Prevention

An HPV infection itself is not treatable. However, treatments for precancerous cell changes from high-risk HPV strains are available. Some treatment options include:

Get Vaccinated

The best way to prevent HPV is to get vaccinated. Everyone should receive an HPV vaccine starting at 11 or 12 years old. If you didn't receive HPV vaccination as a child, you could still get vaccinated up to 26 years old. However, it is not recommended to get the vaccine after 26 unless your healthcare provider recommends it.

Reduce Your Risk

In addition to getting vaccinated, you can reduce your risk of HPV infection by using condoms and other barriers (like dental dams) correctly every time you have sex.

The fewer sexual partners you have, the less likely you are to contract HPV and other common STIs. Those in monogamous relationships are at the lowest risk of spreading HPV and other common STDs.

Get Tested

Routine testing can ensure you catch STIs early, when they are most treatable. HPV is screened for with a pap smear or anal smear. However, other tests require only a blood draw or urine culture.

You should get screened for STIs if:

  • You are or have ever been sexually active
  • You have a new sexual partner
  • You develop symptoms
  • You are intimate with someone with an STI

Routine screenings vary based on risk factors, but most people should be screened annually for the most common STIs. HPV is screened every three to five years.

Other Common STIs in the United States

In addition to HPV, there are many other common STIs in the United States. In order of prevalence (new and existing infections), the most common STDs include:

  1. HPV
  2. Herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2)
  3. Trichomoniasis
  4. Chlamydia
  5. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
  6. Gonorrhea
  7. Syphilis
  8. Hepatitis B (HBV)

In 2018, 68 million people were infected with an STI (42.5 million had HPV). Half of new STI infections were among young people aged 15 to 24.


HPV is the most common STI in the United States, infecting 42.5 million people in 2018. About every person will become infected within a few years of becoming sexually active without vaccination. Other common STIs include herpes, trichomoniasis, chlamydia, HIV, gonorrhea, syphilis, and hepatitis B. Vaccination is the best way to prevent HPV infection.

A Word From Verywell

Many people fear an HPV diagnosis, which is understandable since some high-risk strains can cause cell mutations that lead to cancer. Rest assured, most of the time, HPV clears on its own within a couple of years without complications. It's good to reduce your risk by getting vaccinated, practicing safer sex, and getting tested. In addition, routine screening for common STIs can help you know if you or your partner are at risk of spreading infection.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is more common, chlamydia or gonorrhea?

    Chlamydia is more common than gonorrhea. In 2018, there were about 4 million new chlamydia infections and 1.6 million new gonorrhea infections.

  • What is the most common STI in men?

    HPV is the most common STI among all genders. It accounted for 42.5 million new and existing infections in the United States in 2018.

  • Can chlamydia be mistaken for a UTI?

    Since chlamydia and urinary tract infections (UTIs) share some symptoms, like painful urination, people may mistake chlamydia for a UTI. However, other symptoms, like discharge, genital pain and swelling, and painful sex, are clues the infection is chlamydia. In addition, a urinary culture can determine the cause for sure.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually transmitted infections prevalence, incidence, and cost estimates in the United States.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Genital HPV infection - Fact sheet.

  3. National Cancer Institute. HPV and cancer.

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Which STD tests should I get?.

By Kathi Valeii
As a freelance writer, Kathi has experience writing both reported features and essays for national publications on the topics of healthcare, advocacy, and education. The bulk of her work centers on parenting, education, health, and social justice.