Sexually transmitted infection

Prevention, treatment, signs & symptoms

Sexually transmitted infections are infections that are contracted through sexual activity. If you're sexually active the only way to prevent contracting an STI is by practicing 'Safe Sex', which refers to the correct us of condoms during sex. Other forms of contraception may work really well for preventing unintended pregnancy, but unfortunately they do nothing to prevent infection transmission. Even if you're not having regular unprotected sex, regular sexual health check ups are important. Not only can they pick up a sneaky STI that might be hiding without any symptoms, but they can also pick up the presence of a reproductive pathology.  Your GP can help you out, or you can visit a specific sexual health clinic - for assistance in finding a clinic visit either Family Planning Alliance Australia or the Multicultural Centre for Womens Health.

If you have contracted an STI you have a responsibilty to let your sexual partner/s know. For some advice on this, 'Let Them Know' is a great resource. 

Common STI Signs and Symptoms

Chlamydia

Most people who contract chlamydia won't present with symptoms, however one or many of those listed below may occur:

  • Change in vaginal discharge

  • Pelvic pain

  • Pain during intercourse

  • Irregular vaginal bleeding

  • Stinging or burning during urination

  • Redness at the opening of the penis

  • Clear discharge from the penis

  • Swelling of the testicles in severe cases. 

Testing: Chlamydia is diagnosed through a urine test, or a swab of the cervix or vagina

Treatment: Antibiotics 

It's recommended that you do not participate in sexual activity, even protected, until at least a week after you have finished your treatment (Health Direct, 2017). 

Herpes

As many as 1 in 8 sexually active Australians has genital herpes, which is caused by the herpes simplex virus. One the virus has been contracted symptoms can present throughout ones life in either one of two, or both forms:

  1. HS V1 - coldsores on the lips/face

  2. HSV2 - blisters or sores on the genitals or anus 

 

Testing: Herpes can be diagnosed through a swab of the blister or sore 

Treatment: Anti-viral medication

Herpes is most easily spread when active blisters or sores are present. The use of condoms or dams during sexual activity are essential at all times, even if the virus seems inactive (Health Direct, 2017). 

Genital warts/HPV

The human papilloma virus (HPV) has over 100 known variants - 40 of these are known to cause genital warts, while others are linked with cervical and anal cancers. The virus is exceptionally contagious and is spread through breaks in the skin during sexual activity. The virus may not always present with visible genital warts, however they are the main external symptom. 

Testing: Cervical Screening Tests every 2-5 years

Prevention: Condoms do aid in preventing the transmission of HPV, however this is not always effective. The HPV vaccination protects against certain strains of HPV that are linked to cervical cancer, however some strains include genital warts. 

Treatment: wart paint, cryotherapy (freezing), laser treatment, steroids (Health Direct, 2018). 

Syphilis
Gonorrhea

If left untreated, syphilis can have serious implications on the health of the heart and brain late in life. Due tothis, it's important to have a regular sexual health check up if you're sexually active. It is transmitted through skin to skin contact during sexual activity, and is preventable through the use of a condom. 

 

Testing: Pathology testing

 

Treatment: Antibiotic injection or a course of antibiotics

It is best to refrain from sexual activity until 7 days after the conclusion of treatment (NSW Government, 2019).

Gonorrhoea is an easily treated STI that is transferred through bodily fluids. Some of the symptoms can be pretty nasty, and include:

  • Pain on urination

  • Pain and redness around the urethra

  • Yellow discharge from the penis or vagina

  • Pain during sex

  • Bleeding/spotting between periods

  • Discharge ir bleeding from the anus with associated pain

Testing: Urine sample, vaginal or anal swab

Treatment: Antibiotics

It is best to refrain from sexual activity until at least a week after finishing the course of antibiotics prescribed to you.

If left untreated vaginal gonorrhoea can cause Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, which can lead to issues with fertility in women (NSW Government, 2019).

We'll add more to this page in due course, but in the meantime you can find additional information on these and other sexually transmitted infections on Play Safe, hosted by the NSW Government.

Page References

Health Direct. (2017). Chlamydia. Retrieved 7th January 2019, from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/chlamydia 

Health Direct. (2017). Genital Herpes. Retrieved 7th January 2019, from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/genital-herpes

Health Direct (2018). Genital Warts. Retrieved 9th January 2019, from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/genital-warts

NSW Government. (2019). Syphilis - Play Safe. Retrieved 9th January 2019, from: https://playsafe.health.nsw.gov.au/common-stis/syphilis/

NSW Government. (2019). Gonorrhoea - Play Safe. Retrieved 9th January 2019, from: https://playsafe.health.nsw.gov.au/common-stis/gonorrhoea/

Stephanie Says acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land on which we live - the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation. We acknowledge their Elders past, present and emerging. Always was, always will be Aboriginal land. 

Note: Stephanie Sayss is not run by medical professionals. This platform is an educational tool only, and not intended to be used for medical advice. Always seek the assistance of a doctor - this platform is intended to be used a tool to assist you in doing so.

All references are cited on the page they are relevant to. 

©2019 by Stephanie Sayss.