Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are infections that can be transmitted through sexual contact, such as vaginal, oral or anal sex, although some can be spread through skin-to-skin contact. They are caused by viruses, bacteria and parasites. There are many different types of STIs, some of which can be cured, others which stay in your system for life. Some STIs are merely irritating, others increase your risk of cancer and infertility, and some, such as HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) which can lead to acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) which can kill you.
Aren’t STIs only a problem for older people who sleep around?
No. In fact, some STIs like chlamydia and gonorrhoea are actually more common among teens than among older men and women. And you don’t have to sleep around to get an STI, just having sex with an infected person once can spread a disease. STIs don’t discriminate by age, sex or race.
Am I at risk?
Anyone who is sexually active is at risk of STIs. Some STIs can have symptoms, such as genital discharge, pain when urinating and genital swelling and inflammation, however, many STIs have no symptoms, so you may not know if you are infected. This is why it is advisable to have a sexual health check-up if you think you have been at risk.
Why is it important to know if you have an STI?
Many STIs are very infectious and can cause long-term or permanent damage, including infertility, if left untreated. Many STIs can be easily passed on to sexual partners, and some STIs can be passed from a mother to her unborn child.
If you have had sex and you start to experience any of the following symptoms, see your doctor or Family Planning Welfare Association of NT (08) 8948 0144 or Clinic 34 in your town:
- Unusual vaginal bleeding
- A discharge from the penis or vagina
- Sores, lumps or rashes around or on the penis, anus or vagina
- Burning feeling when you urinate
- Itching around the vagina, penis or anus.
Remember, if you have had sex without a condom you may still be infected with an STI, even if you have no symptoms. So go and get a check up if you think you might be at risk. It isn’t always such a big deal — many STIs can be treated.
Top Tips to Avoid STIs:
- Avoiding sexual contact completely is the only way to be 100% safe from STIs
- Don’t have sex with someone who won’t wear a condom, is doing drugs, or has a STI. It isn’t worth your life.
- Use only water-based lubricants like K-Y Jelly or Wet Stuff. Other products can cause the condom to weaken and break.
- Avoid having multiple sex partners
- Be sure the condom covers the whole penis. If it doesn’t, it won’t provide enough protection.
- Get tested at FPWNT, Clinic 34, your GP, or community health centre annually or after any unprotected intercourse – early treatment can cure many STIs and reduce the impact of others.