The SEXtember guide to STIs

SO what are Sexually Transmissable Infections (STIs or STDs) and why are we harping on about them this Sextember? Monique Edwards gives you the lowdown on what can happen, well, down low and what you can do about it.STD STI Sexually Transmitted disease infection

Safe sex is smart sex. It prevents several unhealthy and dangerous infections from happening to you or your partner.

Protection and precaution are key ways to prevent STIs. If you think you might have any symptoms that match one of the STIs mentioned below, contact a health care professional as soon as possible and get tested. It’s also very important to let your sexual partners know if you’ve contracted an STI in order to prevent it from spreading.

While some STIs such as Chlamydia are treatable, other STIs such as HIV include a lifetime of treatment and other potential complications. It is vital to recognise safe sex and lifestyle choices in order to avoid STIs altogether.

Without further ado, here are seven common Sexually Transmissable Infections (STIs) – or Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) and what you can do to prevent them.

Chlamydia

What it is
The Australian Government’s health website describes Chlamydia as the “most common notifiable STI among young people in Australia.” Chlamydia is caused by a bacterium called Chlamydia trachomatis, which spreads when people have unprotected sex.

Symptoms
For women, symptoms include bleeding after sex and pain when urinating. Men, on the other hand, may find discharge or experience pain. And if left untreated, Chlamydia can lead to even more complications like the Pelvic Inflammatory Disease.

What to do
Having safe, protected sex using a condom is the key to preventing Chlamydia. But if it’s too late for that, this infection can still be treated with antibiotics – though sometimes symptoms may go unnoticed. So if you think you might have an infection, it’s best to go to a doctor to seek advice.

More information can be found here.

Gonorrhoea

What it is
Gonorrhoea is another common STI in Australia. It’s a bacterial infection of the genitals, caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Sexual Health Australia explains gonorrhea can grow and multiply and effect women’s and men’s reproductive organs. It can also infect other parts of the body including the eyes and throat.

Symptoms
While sometimes no symptoms occur, men might notice discharge or swollen testicles, while women may also experience discharge or pain while urinating.

What to do
As people may not experience any immediate symptoms or warning signs, it’s important to seek advice from a health professional to prevent a possible infection from worsening or spreading to other individuals. Using a condom during sex will help with prevention.

More information on Gonorrhoea here.

Hepatitis B

What it is
Hepatitis B is an inflammation of the liver caused by the Hepatitis B virus (HBV) which “lives in blood, semen and vaginal fluids.” It can be contracted through unprotected sex, use of non-sterile needles or sharing items that may contain another person’s blood (i.e. razors).

What to do
Hepatitis B can be diagnosed by a blood test and treated with a vaccination over several months. But there is currently no cure for the virus. Prevention includes using a condom during sex, not sharing personal items such as razors or toothbrushes, and being careful that needles are sterilized when getting body piercing or tattoos.

More information on Hepatitis here.

Herpes

What it is
Herpes are painful blisters caused by the Herpes simplex virus. More than 1 in 10 Australians carry the virus responsible for genital herpes.

Symptoms
Herpes causes gential sores and also cold sores on the face, spread by kissing.

What to do
Using condoms is only half-preventative when it comes to Herpes. The best – and perhaps most obvious- way to avoid Herpes altogether is to not have sex with someone who has blisters.

While there are medications to help with treatment for genital herpes, there is no cure. Without treatment, this infection could lead to other serious health problems including meningitis, or it could increase your chances of contracting Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).

More information on Herpes here.

HIV

What it is
HIV is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system and its ability to protect itself from other infections and illnesses. According to AVERT, an international HIV and AIDS charity, HIV is “found in blood and other body fluids such as semen and vaginal fluids.”

Two common ways of contracting HIV include having unprotected sex or sharing needles and syringes.

Symptoms
Symptoms of HIV may go unnoticed for years, but can include mouth ulcers, extreme fatigue, and flu-like symptoms.

What to do
HIV is detected by a doctor through a blood test and although there is no cure, HIV is treated by antiretrovirals in order to help prevent further damage to the immune system. If left untreated, HIV could lead to AIDS (Autoimmune Deficiency Syndrome).

Using condoms during sex is an important way to avoid contracting HIV. It is important to get tested for HIV in order to prevent the virus from worsening and also to avoid spreading it to other individuals.

For more information about HIV go here.

HPV

What it is
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a type of virus that results in warts, including genital warts. If left untreated, genital HPV could lead to other complications, including cervical cancer.

Symptoms
Genital warts vary in size and shape, but they can be inspected by a doctor in order to make a proper diagnosis.

What to do
Women can also ask a doctor for a Pap smear test, which can determine whether HPV is present. HPV warts can be treated with creams or removed, and sometimes they will naturally clear up overtime.

Using a condom during sex is one way to help prevent HPV. But if other unprotected areas of skin come into contact with the virus, this may still lead to an infection.

More information here.

Syphilis

What it is
Syphilis is caused by a type of bacterium called Treponema pallidum and is contracted during unprotected sex, or from direct contact with an infected sore.

Symptoms
Symptoms include: “a painless ulcer which can develop into a rash across the whole body, flu-like symptoms and swollen glands”.

What to do
A doctor will diagnose the infection via a blood or swab test and penicillin is used for treatment. If left untreated, Syphilis can lead to other health complications such as heart failure.

For more information on Syphilis go here

There are a few more STIs but you can read more about them here.

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Here are some other useful resources to find more information about STIs and also to find clinics to get tested.

Our SEXtember partner Red Aware also has a pretty informative guide to STIs and other answers to sexual health here.

This article was written for the month of Sextember. Find out more about the campaign and how you can contribute here.

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