So the acronym STI usually gets people into a sweat. Sexually Transmitted Infections have been stigmatised for so long, we struggle to talk about them in public, let alone with healthcare practitioners. In fact, if you’re sexually active, statistics say you’ve most likely contracted an STI before or will in the future. According to the American Sexual Health Association, one in two people will get an STI by the age of 25. One, Two, you’re it! But this shouldn’t get your knickers in a knot. Regardless of whether you use condoms or dental dams, the risk of STI’s will always be there unless you completely abstain.
STI’s are infections the same way flu is an infection. The only difference is that they are sexually transmitted rather than being transmitted through air or touch.This means you can contract an STI through unprotected oral, anal or vaginal sex. The infection can take the form of a bacteria, parasite or virus and is usually transmitted through bodily fluids like saliva, blood, discharge and semen. According the World Health Organisation more than 1 million STI’s are transmitted each day, and each year there are 374 million new infections globally.
Most of them can be treated as well, you see, exactly like Influenza! If left untreated STI’s can lead to issues like chronic pain, infertility and pelvic inflammatory disease. So it’s important that you get regularly tested whether you have one sexual partner or multiple partners.
The most common STI’s are:
Gonorrhoea – This is the most common STI seen at South African clinics due to it being highly contagious. It can be passed on through anal, vaginal and oral sex. It may also be passed on between mother and child. Symptoms could include vaginal discharge but this may not always be the case. In fact, it usually goes undetected.
Chlamydia – This is most often a silent infection and it also doesn’t necessarily cause symptoms at first. It can lead to severe pain, difficulty falling pregnant, and complications during pregnancy, but it is curable!
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) – HIV is a lifelong condition that affects the body’s immune system, which fights infection. HIV is transmitted through blood, semen and cervical and vaginal secretions and can therefore be passed on from mother to child unless the correct treatment is being taken. Being infected with other STIs makes it easier to get HIV.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) – HPV doesn’t usually cause symptoms at first, but it can lead to cervical cancer and genital warts. It can be contracted through skin-to-skin contact, oral, vagina and anal sex. HPV fortunately has a vaccine! YAY!
Herpes – Herpes can cause blisters and open sores in the genital area. There is unfortunately no cure, however, the genital sores and blisters can be treated.
“The biggest symptoms of STI’s are no symptoms at all”
Remember, the biggest symptoms of STI’s are no symptoms at all. Regular testing is imperative. But there are common symptoms to watch out for:
Abnormal vaginal or penile discharge
Genital sores, growths or lumps
Painful Intercourse or bleeding after intercourse
Lower abdominal pain
Genital itching or pain
If you think you have an STI, you will need to first get tested by a certified healthcare practitioner. If you test positive for any STI’s, this will help them choose the right treatment for you. The treatment will depend on the type of STI you have. Treatment will cure your infection or try to keep it from getting worse. It will also reduce the chances of spreading the infection to others. Your doctor or nurse can help you figure out which partners you need to tell based on when you last had sex with them.
Remember, STI’s are not shameful, nor are they dirty. The more we talk about them, the better we’ll understand them! Get the tests you need today 🙂 For comprehensive, private and fast STI testing facilities, visit www.Better2know.co.za, or www.mariestopes.org.za. You can also visit any government clinic.