STI stands for a Sexually Transmitted Infection. STIs have also been referred to as STDs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases) or VDs (Venereal Diseases) but these terms are used less often nowadays.

An STI is any infection which is passed from one person to another person during sexual activity. Sexual activity can include oral, vaginal sex, anal sex, and mutual masturbation.

You can have an STI and not know it. Even if you don’t notice any symptoms it can still cause damage to your health and you can pass the infection onto other people.

If you think you may have an STI you should visit your local STI clinic for a full screening. In this section you will find information on a number of STIs.

BACTERIAL VAGINOSIS

Bacterial Vaginosis or BV is a condition caused by the overgrowth of normal vaginal bacteria. Its not known what causes it but it seems to affect women with many sexual partners and women with new sexual partners. Using an intrauterine device (IUD – see section on contraception) may also trigger BV.

What Symptoms should I look for?

In lots of cases there may be no symptoms but some women may experience an abnormal vaginal discharge and a strange smell. BV may also cause itching in the genital area.

Is there any cure?

BV is treated with antibiotics. If it is not treated it can lead to PID (Pelvic Inflammatory Disease) and can also lead to complications during pregnancy.

CHLAMYDIA

Chlamydia is a very common sexually transmitted bacterial infection. Chlamydia can infect the penis, vagina, cervix, anus, urethra, or eye. If left untreated Chlamydia can cause infertility.

How is it transmitted?

Chlamydia is spread by oral, anal, and vaginal sexual contact. Chlamydia can also be spread from a mother to her infant at birth. In some cases, an infected person can spread the bacteria to their eyes from secretions on their genitals.

What Symptoms should I look for?

Usually, chlamydia has no symptoms. It is often called the silent infection. Up to 85 percent of women and 40 percent of men with Chlamydia have no symptoms.

When women have symptoms, they may experience:

  • Bleeding between menstrual periods.
  • Vaginal bleeding after intercourse.
  • Stomach Pain.
  • Painful Intercourse.
  • Fever.
  • Painful urination.
  • The urge to urinate more than usual.
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge

When men have symptoms, they may experience:

  • Pus or milky discharge from the penis.
  • Pain or a burning feeling while urinating.
  • Swollen or tender testicles.

In women and men, chlamydia may cause the rectum to itch and bleed. It can also result in a discharge and diarrhea.
If it infects the eyes, chlamydia may cause redness, itching, and a discharge.

Is there any cure?

The infection is curable. It is treated with antibiotics. It is best that Chlamydia is treated early so that it doesn’t get a chance to damage fertility.

GENITAL HERPES

Herpes is an infection caused by two different but closely related viruses – herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2).

Both types are very infectious. Both have similar symptoms. When the infection is on the mouth, it is called oral herpes, if it is on or near the sex organs it is called genital herpes. Touching, kissing, and sexual contact, including vaginal, anal, and oral intercourse can spread herpes. It can be passed from one partner to another or from one part of the body to another.

What Symptoms should I look for?

The most common symptom of oral herpes is cluster of blistery sores around the mouth. The most common symptom of genital herpes is a cluster of blistery sores on the sex organs or rectum (back passage). Symptoms may last several weeks, go away, and then return – weeks, months, or years later. There may be some early warning signs before and outbreak occurs. These warning signs can include itching tingling and burning where the sores were before. The warning signs may start a few hours or a day before the sores flare up. You should stop having sexual contact and consult your doctor if you feel one of these warning signs.

Is there a Cure?

There is no cure for Herpes. Treatments are available to ease discomfort during an outbreak and to speed up the healing process.

GENITAL WARTS

Genital warts are caused by the human papiloma virus (HPV ). Genital warts present as white cauliflower shaped lumps on the penis, testicles, or anus.

How are they Transmitted?

Genital warts are highly infectious and are very easily transmitted through close bodily contact.

What Symptoms should I look for?

Cauliflower shaped lumps on the penis or testicles. Anal warts usually cause itchiness.

Is there a Cure?

Genital and anal warts can be successfully treated but this usually requires making a number of trips to a sexual health clinic. The virus which causes genital warts can stay in a persons system so the warts sometime reoccur after treatment.

GONORRHOEA

Gonorrhoea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a bacteria.

How is it Transmitted?

Gonorrhoea is spread by oral, anal, and vaginal sexual contact. Gonorrhoea can also be spread from a mother to her infant at birth. In some cases, an infected person can spread the bacteria to their eyes from secretions on their genitals.

What Symptoms should I look for?

Like other STIs there are often no symptoms. In men, there is usually a yellowish discharge from the penis. Urination can be painful and there might be an urge to go to the toilet more frequently. In women the infection can be so mild that it goes unnoticed. Symptoms can include a vaginal discharge, abnormal menstruation (periods), pain when peeing, and stomach pain. With infection via oral sex, symptoms can include a sore throat and tonsillitis. Gonorrhoea can also infect the eye.

Is there a Cure?

Gonorrhoea can be cured. It is treated with Antibiotics. It is very important that it is treated early so that it doesn’t cause infertility.

HEPATITIS A

Hepatitis A is a serious viral disease that attacks the liver.
Hepatitis A is often sexually transmitted.

How is it Transmitted?

Hepatitis A can be spread through sexual contact with an infected person or through an exchange of body fluids such as blood, saliva, or urine.

What Symptoms should I look for?

There may be flu like symptoms e.g. tiredness, and pain in the joints. There may also be a noticeable yellowing of the skin and darkening of the urine.

Is there a Cure?

There is no specific medical treatment for Hepatitis A. A healthy diet and rest can help with recovery. Usually requires two to three months for a full recovery. A vaccine is available to prevent Hepatitis A.

HEPATITIS B

Hepatitis B is a serious viral disease that attacks the liver.
Hepatitis B is often sexually transmitted. The virus is 100 times more infectious than HIV and is found in blood, semen and vaginal fluids.

How is it Transmitted?

Hepatitis B can be spread through sexual contact with an infected person or through an exchange of body fluids such as blood, saliva, or urine. It is perfectly safe to visit someone with Hepatitis – the virus is not transmitted through casual contact.

What Symptoms should I look for?

There may be flu like symptoms e.g. tiredness, and pain in the joints. There may also be a noticeable yellowing of the skin and darkening of the urine. Like other STIs it is also possible that there will be no symptoms.

Is there a Cure?

There is no specific medical treatment for Hepatitis B. A healthy diet and rest can help with recovery. A person who is not clear of the virus in six months is chronically infected. A vaccine is

HIV

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is the virus that can lead to AIDS. AIDS Stands for Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome: Acquired means you get it from someone else. Immunodeficiency means that your body cannot defend itself against certain diseases. Syndrome means a collection of symptoms.

How is it Transmitted?

Hiv is passed from one person to another through the exchange of blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. HIV is not transmitted by day-to-day contact in the workplace, schools, or social settings. HIV is not transmitted through shaking hands, hugging, or a casual kiss. You cannot become infected from a toilet seat, a drinking fountain, a door knob, dishes, drinking glasses, food, or pets. HIV is not an airborne or food-borne virus, and it does not live long outside the body.

What symptoms should I look for?

You may be HIV positive and not know it; you may look and feel healthy. Your sex or drug partner may be HIV positive and not know it. The only way to know for sure whether you are infected is to be tested for HIV infection. You cannot rely on symptoms to know whether or not you are infected with HIV.

For most people HIV antibodies take 3 months to develop. Antibodies are a part of the body’s defense system. To get an accurate test you must wait at least 3 months after the risk activity to get tested. This is referred to as the window period. Some test centres may recommend testing again at 6 months, just to be extra sure.

It is also important that you are not at risk of further exposures to HIV during this time period. Most importantly you should continue to practice safe sex and not share needles.

Is there a Cure?

There is no cure available for HIV. Drugs keep the virus under control and these drugs are improving all the time.

PUBIC LICE

These lice are wingless insects with six legs and a square body. They look like sea crabs, which is why they are often referred to as “the crabs.” The lice cling to pubic hair and feed on blood. The female of the species lays about 50 eggs, called nits, and attaches them to the base of a hair strand. The average life-span is 25 to 30 days. It’s easier to get lice than any other STI. From just one sexual encounter with an infested person, you have a 95 percent chance of picking them up.

How are they Transmitted?

Lice are transmitted through body contact with a person who has them. The lice can live away from their host for 24 to 48 hours, so there are other possible modes of transmission such as sheets and towels (but not toilet seats).

What Symptoms should I look for?

You will know if you have contracted pubic lice because you can see them. You may also see little bluish marks in the pubic area or thighs where they’ve bitten you. The lice often cause itching, which is thought to be from an allergic reaction to their bites. Although crabs are found most often in the pubic area, they can be found on any other hairy part of the body, such as the chest, armpits, beard, and eyelashes. They normally leave the hair on the head to their cousins, head lice.

Is there a Cure?

You can get over the counter preparations from the chemist to treat this or you can see your doctor.

SCABIES

Scabies is caused by a parasitic mite.

How is it transmitted?

Scabies is passed on through close bodily contact with an infected person. In rare cases it can also be passed on through the sharing of clothes or bed linen.

What Symptoms should I look for?

Intense itching, silvery lines on the skin, and between the fingers. If a person scratches at the itcy areas sores can develop which can become infected.

Is there a Cure?

The infection is treated with lotions. If it is not treated it spreads and the infection can get worse.

SYPHILIS

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease caused by bacteria.

How is it transmitted?

Syphillis can be spread through kissing, oral, vaginal, and anal sex. Syphilis can be passed to other sexual partners during the first two years after the disease is contracted. After two years, the disease is unlikely to be transmissible to sex partners but can be passed from a woman to her unborn child.

What Symptoms should I look for?

The first sign of syphilis infection, is usually a small painless sore on the sexual organs. This sore, called a chancre, appears two to thirteen weeks after infection. This sore can last for up to five weeks and then disappears. Following this a rash may appear on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. Syphillis may show no symptoms for many years after this but if it is left untreated it can cause very serious damage to your health. Heart disease, blindness, deafness, skin lesions, and paralysis may develop.

Is there a Cure?

Syphillis is curable. It is treated with a course of Antibiotics.