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
Most people who contract chlamydia won't present with symptoms, however one or many of those listed below may occur:
Change in vaginal discharge
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
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).
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:
HSV1 - coldsores on the lips/face
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).
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).
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
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).