Sexually Transmitted Disease Program
Congenital Syphilis is back in Humboldt County after disappearing for more than 10 years.
Health officials are encouraging anyone that has been sexually active to get a sexually transmitted infection (STI) test at least once a year.
Congenital syphilis (CS) is a preventable disease that occurs when a pregnant person with syphilis passes the infection on to the baby during pregnancy. CS can lead to low birth weight, premature birth, birth defects, miscarriage, stillbirth or infant death.
The Public Health Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) program works together with local health care partners, county residents and other organizations to help keep residents healthy and safe from STIs. Most STIs do not have symptoms. The STD program is designed to help reduce and manage the spread of infections by locating and interviewing contacts to diagnose cases of select STIs and to ensure that appropriate care and treatment are provided. All STD program services are conducted with respect for patient privacy.
STI/HIV Testing Services
What does an STI test consist of?
Many people mistakenly think an STI test only requires a urine sample. However, STIs can affect other parts of the body. A full test should consist of:
- A urine sample
- A blood draw – Syphilis can only be detected this way
- An oral and/or rectal swab (if those body parts are used for sex)
It is important to ask your provider to test you for STIs with a blood draw and swab, if you are not offered these during your visit. Most STIs are either treatable or curable.
Testing Options in Humboldt County
Open Door Community Health Centers
707-269-7073 (for members services to establish care)
HSU Student Health & Wellbeing Services (for HSU students only)
Our Public Health Sexual Health Clinic is currently unavailable due to staff being redirected to COVID-19 efforts. If you think you have been exposed to an STI, call the Public Health Clinic at 707-268-2108 to talk about testing options or contact one of the providers listed above.
Tell a partner anonymously
Informing your sexual partners they have been exposed to an STI is the responsible and moral thing to do. It may be difficult, but our team can teach you or do it for you. It is 100% anonymous. No names, no locations, no hassle.
Just call 707-268-2197 or 707-268-2182 and ask to speak to a Communicable Disease Nurse. You can also visit tellyourpartner.org to send an anonymous email or text to let your partner know they should get tested.
PrEP is a once a day pill that is effective to prevent HIV. Ask your health care provider about PrEP or try an online resource.
STI vs. STD - What is the difference?
The term sexually transmitted disease (STD) suggests some obvious signs or symptoms; however the truth is many STDs or STIs (sexually transmitted infections) often have no signs or symptoms but can still result in “disease” as well as be transmitted during sex. Given possible misperceptions and concerns about the stigma many people feel regarding having a “disease”, many Public Health officials have shifted to use of the term sexually transmitted “infection”.
Myth: Only irresponsible or people who engage in “casual” sex get Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).
Fact: STIs do not discriminate.
Whether you have 1 partner or 10, catching an STI can happen within your first exposure. STIs also affect people regardless of age, race, gender, profession, etc. Stigmatizing people for getting an STI promotes the spread of STIs because it scares people from getting tested and treated.
Myth: I can see if my partner or I have an STI.
Fact: STIs more often do not cause visible symptoms.
You can still spread STIs without symptoms. Relying only on our eyes to spot STIs does not work. Even medical providers often cannot tell if someone has an STI just by looking. Testing involving blood work, urine tests and swabs are required.
Most STIs are easily curable or treatable. If left untreated for too long, STIs can cause permanent damage to the heart, liver and eyes and can cause birth defects and infertility.
Myth: I can avoid STIs by having oral/anal sex.
Fact: The only way to eliminate all risks for STIs is to never have any kind of sexual contact.
You can catch STIs in your mouth and anus. A urine test will not reveal STIs in those two areas. If you use those body parts during sex you will need to test those areas with a swab.
Routine testing is encouraged as well as talking to sexual partners about the last time they were tested before engaging in sex.
Myth: If people just used condoms, they would not get STIs.
Fact: Condoms should be used, but do not stop the spread of all STIs.
Condoms mostly help in preventing STIs that are transmitted through sexual fluids, like gonorrhea, chlamydia and HIV. STIs that are spread though skin contact like syphilis, genital herpes and warts can still be spread because the skin that is not covered by the condom may contain the virus/bacteria.
Myth: If I get treated for an STI, I cannot get it again.
Fact: You can catch an STI like chlamydia, gonorrhea or syphilis even after you have been treated before.
People are often re-infected by their partners if they are not treated at the same time or treated before having sex again. This is why it is important to notify any recent sexual partners you have had, to get tested and treated. If you are nervous or uncomfortable with doing that, Public Health offers free anonymous notification. Just call 707-268-2197 or 707-268-2182.
STI/HIV Information for Healthcare Providers
- All health care providers and laboratory personnel are required by law to report to Public Health any communicable diseases diagnosed through their facilities.
- All cases of syphilis (including congenital syphilis) should be reported via telephone or electronic submission or fax within one working day of identification.
- All cases of HIV/AIDS should be reported via telephone or electronic submission electronic submission or fax within one working day of identification.
- Public Health can help. Call to speak to a Public Health Nurse for guidance on syphilis staging, STI treatment and follow-up including partner notification and treatment.
STD Program Staff: 1-707-268-2197
Public Health Communicable Disease Prevention
Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Main Phone: 1-707-268-2182
Confidential Fax: 1-707-445-7346
- Expanded Syphilis Screening Recommendations from CDPH
- CDC STI Treatment Guidelines, 2021
STI Treatment Guidelines (cdc.gov)
- CDC STDs During Pregnancy
- California Prevention Training Center STI Clinical Trainings
- STD Clinical Consultation Network-National Network of STD Clinical Prevention Training Centers
- National Clinician Consultation Center – management of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, PEP, PrEP, substance use disorder
National Clinician Consultation Center (ucsf.edu)
- Quick Clinical Guide: HIV PrEP from the AIDS Education & Training Center cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DOA/CDPH%20Document%20Library/QuickClinicalGuide_PrEP_ADA.pdf
- Truvada and Descovy Side-by-Side comparison: