Sexually Transmitted Infections

Anyone who has sex can be infected with a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Many people will at some stage in their life experience an STI. They are very common and most are treatable.

An STI is an infection that is passed on often through sexual contact or intimate body contact. STI’s affect everyone differently. Some people experience the same symptoms and some don’t show any noticeable symptoms at all.

Sexual contact includes:

* Penetrative sex

* Oral sex

* Touching

* Fingering

* Kissing

* Mutual masturbation

If you or your partner has sex with casual partners it’s a good idea to get tested for STIs regularly. An annual check is a good baseline. However, the more sexual partners you have the more frequently you should get tested. That may mean every 3-6 months.

Even if you have no symptoms you could still have an STI and the only way to know is to get a test. If you’re in a new relationship, monogamous or otherwise, it’s a good time for you and your partner to get a check-up. You may have contracted an STI from a previous partner. Regular testing is also recommended if you’re having sex outside the relationship. When left untreated STIs can cause serious health problems so it is always best to get tested.

WHAT CAUSES AN STI?

Sexually transmitted infections are caused by a range of viruses, parasites, bacteria and fungi. Listed below are some of the more common causes.

Viruses

  •  HIV which can lead to AIDS

  • Genital herpes

  • Genital and anal warts

  • Hepatitis A, B & C

  • Molluscum contagiosum

Parasites

  • Pubic lice (crabs)

  • Scabies

Bacteria

  • Gonorrhoea

  • Chlamydia

  • Syphilis

  • Gut infections

  • Lymphogranuloma Venereum (LGV)

Fungi

  • Thrush (candidiasis)

STAYING SAFE?

There are lots of ways that you can help yourself to avoid getting HIV or sexually transmitted infections. Here are some things you can do to help keep yourself safe and healthy.

Safer Sex

  • Condoms can help prevent HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Infections being passed on during penetrative vaginal or anal sex and through oral sex performed on men. Read more about condoms here

  • Using a barrier between the mouth and vagina or anus can stop Sexually Transmitted Infections being transmitted during other kinds of oral sexual activity – for example dental dams can be used between the mouth and the vagina or anus.

  • Sex toys used in the anus or vagina should not be shared unless they are covered by a fresh condom changed between partners.

  • Wash hands after handling sex toys or condoms that have been inside the vagina or anus.

  • Having fewer sexual partners decreases the likelihood of coming into contact with someone who has a sexually transmitted infection.

Although safer sex will reduce your risk of getting HIV or other sexually transmitted infections it will not eliminate the risk completely.