Sexually Transmissible Infections or STIs are common all over the world. You can’t tell by looking at someone if they have an STI and everyone, including yourself, is at risk of catching one if they are sexually active and do not practice safe sex.
Sometimes mistakenly called STDs, Sexually Transmissible Infections may be caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites and include chlamydia, herpes, gonorrhea, syphilis, genital warts (HPV), scabies, pubic lice (crabs), hepatitis and HIV (the virus that causes AIDS).
If you think you may have been exposed to or have an STI, even if you don’t have any symptoms, it’s a good idea to have a chat with your doctor or visit your local sexual health clinic. Remember not all genital symptoms are caused by an STI, so have a check-up with an expert.
STIs spread through all types of unprotected sex; vaginal, anal, oral and oral-anal and you only have to have contact with an STI once to get it.
There are many different kinds of STIs and many different symptoms, but sometimes there are no symptoms at all. You’ll find that STIs which do cause symptoms those symptoms will usually appear on or near the genitals.
• Unusual discharge from the vagina, penis or anus
• Pain during sex or peeing
• Sores, ulcers, blisters, rashes or warts in the genital area
• Itchiness and irritation in the genital area
• Persistent diarrhea
• Fever or flu symptoms
• Abnormal vaginal bleeding especially after sex
• Pain in scrotum or testes for men
• Lumps or bumps on genitals.
Remember many people who have an STI do not have any symptoms at all.
They may not be aware that they have an infection that can be passed on to their sexual partners, which is why it is really important to have regular sexual health check-ups.
The only way to be certain you have an STI is to have a sexual health check-up with a doctor or head to your local sexual health clinic. Both your doctor and sexual health clinics deal with STIs on a daily basis and have chosen to study and work in this area, so don’t be embarrassed to pay them a visit and ask lots of questions! 😉 Check out YEAH’s website to find your closest sexual health clinic.
Testing is very simple and usually only requires a urine sample. Results can be ready in as little as a day but sometimes it can take up to a week.
If you have any of the symptoms mentioned previously, head to your doctor as soon as you can, if you have no symptoms, getting a check-up depends on how sexually active you are and whether you consistently use condoms, female condoms or dams. It is recommended to get tested;
• After unprotected sexual contact with a new or casual partner
• After unprotected sex if you know or suspect your partner has had sex with other people
• After any unwanted or non-consensual sexual contact
• After any sexual contact in countries where HIV and STIs are common
• If a partner tells you they may have an STI or have been diagnosed with an STI
If you are a gay man, or a man that has sex with men it is recommended you get tested for STIs, syphilis and HIV at least once year, if you have multiple partners aim for a check-up every three months.
When used correctly and every time you have sex, barrier methods of contraception such as condoms, female condoms and dams are excellent for preventing the spread of STIs.
Once diagnosed, most STIs are easily treatable, treatments for the following types of infections include the following;
Bacterial infections– These include chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis and require antibiotics
Parasite infections– These include pubic lice and scabies and require treatment with medicated shampoos
Viruses– These include genital herpes, HIV, hepatitis B and human papilloma virus (HPV) these do not have a cure but in most cases their symptoms can be managed.
If you are diagnosed with an STI it is really important to let you sexual partners know so that they can have a check-up too and get treatment if they need it.
Your doctor or sexual health clinic can give you advice on how you can go about telling partners. You can also let people know anonymously by using this site which sends an email or text letting them know that they have been in sexual contact with someone with an STI.
For information on specific STIs check out these fact sheets;
Genital Warts and HPV
Hepatitis A, B and C
Pubic Lice (Crabs) and Scabies