Sexually Transmissible Infections (STIs)

Below you will find information about some common STIs. It's important to remember that not all STIs have symptoms or it may take some time before symptoms become visible. If you think you could have an STI find out more about getting tested.

For more information about other STIs download a copy of the Safe Sex No Regrets booklet

Genital Herpes

Genital herpes is a very common STI caused by a virus. Genital herpes is like cold sores around the mouth, except the sores are in the genital area.

Transmission

Genital herpes is passed on by skin to skin contact with someone who has the infection. This often happens during vaginal, anal or oral sex. However, it can also be passed on without sexual intercourse because many sexual practises involve genital to genital or skin to skin contact. Herpes can be passed on through asymptomatic shedding. This is where someone has the infection sheds the virus from the skin without knowing it because they don’t have any symptoms or aren’t aware of them.

Both cold sores and genital herpes can be transferred from mouth to genitals. They can also be passed on to other areas such as the buttocks, hands and eyes.

Signs and Symptoms

Herpes affects people in different ways. Some people may get painful blisters or ulcers and have flu like symptoms when they first get infected, others may only get a red patch with tiny breaks in the genital skin.

Once a person already has herpes they may get recurring outbreaks of the symptoms. Some people may get some symptoms before the blisters/ulcers appear like tingling, nerve pain, itching or a general feeling of ill health and irritability.

Treatment

There are tablets that can control herpes but there is no cure. The tablets should be taken the first time someone catches herpes to stop the possibility of complications. If a person had many outbreaks they may need to take the medication continuously for a period of time to stop the outbreaks occurring.

Prevention

Even though condoms don’t protect you 100% they certainly help to reduce your chances of catching genital herpes.


Genital Warts (HPV)

Genial warts are caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). This virus can lead to cervical cancer and anal cancer. Genital warts can be present anywhere on or in the genitals or anus and sometimes they can be in the mouth or throat.

Transmission

HPV and genital warts are very common in Australia. HPV is passed on by direct skin-to-skin contact during sexual activity. HPV does not always have visible symptoms. You may be
carrying the virus and could pass it on to your partner/s.

Signs and Symptoms

Genital warts are like the warts you get on the rest of the body. They look like lumps, are sometimes itchy but not usually painful.
If you find anything unusual, consult your local doctor or sexual health clinic.

Treatment

There are many treatments available that will get rid of the warts. They are available through prescription from your local doctor or sexual health clinic. Do not use lotions made for other types of warts.

Prevention

Even though condoms don’t protect you 100%, they certainly help to reduce your chances of catching genital warts. Women should also have regular pap smears (every two years) unless advised otherwise by a doctor.
A vaccination called Gardasil is now readily available to prevent certain strains of HPV linked to the development of some cancers including cervical, anal and penile cancer lesions.

For more information about the vaccination or to discuss your eligibility, contact your local health care professional or GP.

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Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea

Chlamydia and gonorrhoea are bacterial infections with similar symptoms. Chlamydia is one of the most common STIs in Australia especially in young people 15-25 years of age.

Transmission

Chlamydia and gonorrhoea are easily transmitted from vaginal or anal sex without a condom. Gonorrhoea can also infect the anus
and the throat from oral and anal sex, without any symptoms at all.

Signs and Symptoms

These infections, especially Chlamydia are often called silent infections as people may have them and not know and are still able to pass it on. However, women may notice their
vaginal discharge is different or have bleeding in between their periods or pain with sex. Men may have pain when peeing and a discharge from their penis.

Treatment

Both infections are easily cured with a single dose of antibiotics. Your sexual partners will also need treatment so they don’t give it
back to you or pass it on to someone else. Make an appointment with your local doctor or sexual health clinic for a simple urine test.

Prevention

Both Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea can be prevented by safe sex practises.

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HIV

HIV is a virus that causes damage to the body’s immune system. Over time HIV can develop into AIDS.

Transmission

HIV virus can be found in semen, vaginal secretions and in blood. HIV is usually passed on by anal or vaginal sex without a condom. It is also passed on from an infected mother to her baby during pregnancy, at childbirth or by breastfeeding. HIV can also be transmitted by sharing drug injecting equipment, piercing or tattooing equipment.

Signs and Symptoms

Most people with HIV look and feel perfectly healthy. Some people may develop a fever (with swollen glands, night sweats or rash on the body) in the weeks following infection.
However, many people have no symptoms at all. Some time later HIV may cause conditions including pneumonia, brain infections, skin cancers, severe fungal infections and many other problems – this is AIDS.

Treatment

Although we know a lot about HIV there is still no cure or vaccine. Treatments for HIV have improved dramatically over the last 10 years. Many people with HIV are able to remain well and live healthy lives.

Prevention

HIV can be prevented by safe sex. Also, don’t share drug injecting equipment, piercing or tattooing equipment with anyone.
If you have been exposed to HIV there is a four-week treatment that may prevent you becoming infected. It is called PEP (post exposure prophylaxis). If you think you may have been exposed, you can call the PEP Line–1300 767 161 but you need to do this as soon as possible and not more than 72 hours after exposure!

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Why practise safe sex?

There are really good reasons why sexually active people should practise safe sex:

  • You can’t tell whether someone has an STI based on how they look

  • STIs are common

  • Just because you don’t have symptoms doesn’t mean that you don’t have an STI

Want to know more about condoms, STIs or
safe sex
? Check out the links page for more information.

Why use condoms?

Condoms are the best way to protect yourself and your partner from HIV, chlamydia and many other STIs. Find out more.

What does testing involve?

The type of test or tests you have will depend on the type of sexual activity you have been involved in and what symptoms you have. It's important to remember that you can have and STI and not have any symptoms at all. Find out more.