What are STIs?
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs, previously STDs or VD) are infections which can be passed from one person to another from sexual contact. This can includes oral, vaginal and anal sex. Some of the more common STIs in Australia include:
- Herpes (Cold Sores)
- Human Papillomavirus (Genital Warts)
- Hepatitis A, B, C
- Public Lice
Not all of these infections are only spread through sex, for example Herpes can be spread through kissing or other close contact with the blisters, and HIV and Hepatitis can be spread through sharing needles.
Who is at risk of getting an STI?
Everyone who is having sex is potentially at risk of getting an STI. However, there are some people who are at a higher risk of getting an STI, and should therefore get more frequent testing:
- Those with multiple casual partners
- Those with a new partner
- Men who have sex with men (due to an increased amount of fluid exchange)
- Those with a history of STIs or a current STI
- What are the symptoms of STIs?
- The symptoms vary depending on the type of STI. Common symptoms include:
- Pain (in the groin, genitals or lower abdomen)
- Leaking or discharge from the genitals or anus (or change in normal discharge)
- Burning sensation during urination
- Lumps, bumps or blisters in the groin region
Often, STIs may not have any symptoms. This can be dangerous as they may be passed on to other partners accidentally, and they can cause permanent damage to your sexual and reproductive organs in the long-term.
Infections like HIV and Hepatitis generally cause symptoms that affect the whole body rather than just the genital region, and can be difficult to diagnose.
How can I avoid getting an STI?
There are a number of strategies to ensure that you do not get STIs, or pick them up early if you do.
Tell your doctor if you have had a risky sexual encounter that you are concerned about (remember that all information you discuss with your doctor is confidential!)
Be open and honest with your partner about your sexual history and enquire as to whether they have been tested for STIs recently
Practice Safe Sex:
- Use condoms or other forms of barrier protection when having sex. Do not re-use condoms.
- Use water-based lubricant with condoms to prevent breakage
- Remember that while condoms are the most effective method of preventing STIs, they are not the most effective method of contraception (preventing pregnancies), so it may be worthwhile considering additional contraception (eg the pill, Mirena, Implanon)
- Get regular sexual health checks:
If you in one of the high-risk groups mentioned above, it is recommended to get an STI check every 3 months.
If you are in a long-term relationship, it is recommended to get a check every 12 months
STI checks can be done by your GP, or there is the publicly-funded Clinic 275 or SHineSA which specialises in sexual health and is de-identified.
What happens if I do have an STI?
Treatment differs depending on the STI, most STIs can be cured with simple antibiotics, antifungals or antivirals but some will require lifelong treatment
Most STIs are notifiable conditions, which means that the doctor is required to notify the Centre for Disease Control about the STI. You may then get a call from the Centre so that they can contact previous partners anonymously about the need to check themselves for an STI.
You are not required to disclose your STI status to future partners as long as you take every possible measure to prevent infection. If you do infect another person, you may be liable. On the whole, we encourage openness and honesty with communication about STIs!
If you are interested in learning more about this topic, feel free to book an appointment with one of our friendly doctors by booking online or contacting us by phone on 8269 6000.
Reach Out Australia 2018, Sexually Transmitted Infections [ONLINE] Available at: https://au.reachout.com/articles/stis (Accessed 9 June 2018)
NSW Government 2017, Sexually Transmissible Infections [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/sexualhealth/Pages/sexually-transmissible-infections.aspx (Accessed 9 June 2018)
Melbourne Sexual Health Centre 2018, Chlamydia [ONLINE] Available at: http://mshc.org.au/SexualHealthInformation/SexualHealthFactSheets/Chlamydia#.WxsZETMzab8 (Accessed 9 June 2018)
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