Sexually transmitted infections
Did you know?
Birth control pills
protect against pregnancy—not against sexually transmitted
infections. What's more, birth control pills may not be as effective
if you are taking antibiotics. Consider this: pregnant women
can pass certain types of sexually transmitted infections to
their baby during pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding.
Don't you owe it to yourself—and to your partner—to
lower the chances of becoming infected? Use a condom and the
Pill together to protect yourselves against sexually transmitted
infections and unwanted
Although sex is a normal and healthy part of our lives, sexually
active people need to be aware that there are many types of infections
that can be passed from one person to another through sexual contact.
Sexually transmitted infections—or STIs—are passed
from one person to another through unprotected sexual contact—having
vaginal or anal intercourse without a condom (or when a condom
breaks) or through unprotected oral sex.
Because the bacteria and viruses that cause sexually transmitted infections
can travel in blood, semen, vaginal secretions and saliva, it's easy to see
how these infections are spread through sexual contact, the sharing of sex
toys, and the sharing of needles and syringes.
You can catch a sexually transmitted infection if:
- you have unprotected oral, vaginal or anal sex with a person
who may have an infection
- your partner has, or has had, a sexually transmitted infection
- you have a new sex partner
- you or your partner had or is having sex with others
- you have sex under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- you share needles or equipment for drugs, body piercing, tattoos,
or sex toys or your partner does
It's possible to catch a sexually transmitted infection more than once.
Not only that: it's also possible to have more that one sexually transmitted
infection at any one time. In fact, if you are HIV
negative and you have another sexually transmitted infection, you're more
likely to get HIV from an HIV-positive partner!
The four most common sexually transmitted infections are:
Many people infected by an STI show no symptoms. You or your
partner(s) may not be aware you're infected and as a result,
may inadvertently pass the infection on to someone else. What
better reason to practice safer sex
each and every time you have sex? Safer sex means using a
latex condom for every act of vaginal or anal intercourse
(See Use of a male condom
and Use of a female
condom for more information on the proper use of condoms)
and a dental dam/condom
for every act of oral sex. By practicing safer sex, you will
be less likely to contract a sexually transmitted infection
or of passing one along to a partner.
Other tips for safer sex include:
- Abstain from sex altogether.
- Instead of having intercourse, consider doing other things with
your partner, like kissing, caressing and touching.
- Use a condom every time you have sex.
- Consider your sexual behavior: how many partners have you had this year?
Are you taking chances? Do you know your partner's/partners' sexual history?
- Avoid anal intercourse: for both males and females, this is the riskiest
way of having sex in terms of catching a sexually transmitted infection.
- Never share needles or equipment for drugs, tattoos or body piercing.
As mentioned, many people infected by an STI show no symptoms.
Yet, knowing to recognize signs and symptoms when they appear
is important because it will help you seek medical treatment quickly
if you suspect you may be infected. Seeking prompt medical treatment
is very important—for both sexes—because untreated
STIs can lead to serious health problems, including (but not limited
to) cervical cancer, AIDS,
Symptoms appear in different ways. Some are mild while others are severe.
The chart below identifies the signs and symptoms of some common STIs.
|Type of Infection
Chlamydia and Gonorrhea
pain when you urinate (pee)
a discharge from the penis or vagina
Human papilloma virus (HPV)
small bumps or warts in or around the genitals
itchiness around the genitals or anus
Herpes simples virus (HSV)
small, itchy bumps on or around the genitals
the bumps may turn into blisters or sores
Other signs to watch for include:
- itchiness around the sex organs and/or anus
- appearance of a rash
- swollen glands in the groin
If you have had unprotected sex or believe you may be infected, talk
to a doctor or other trained health professional. Doing so is a good way
to get tested, treatment, guidance and support.
You should know that some infections can be easily cured. Others, unfortunately,
have no cure. Curable or not, all sexually transmitted infections can be
dangerous if left untreated.