Bayer Logo Bayer Logo Bayer Logo Bayer Logo

Following the Fun: Five sexually transmitted infections you should know

Posted on: September 02, 2019

Sure, sex is supposed to be fun. But while you have it: keep an eye on your safety. Not just because of contraception, but to defy all sexually transmitted infections (STIs) as good as you can. Take care and be aware, and you’ll protect yourself and your sexual partner, too.

Sex education

And if you do happen to get an infection, don’t panic! You’re certainly not the first person to visit your doc with a suspected STI. You might find it unpleasant or embarrassing at first, but it’s so much better to be absolutely certain.

1. Roll, roll, roll your boat, gently down the stream: Syphilis

Syphilis was once associated with lusty sailors hitting shore for some loving after months at sea. But today it’s widespread all over the world. [1]

The first signs appear around three weeks after infection, when small painless sores develop around the mouth and genitals. [2] Be careful – this stage is highly infectious!

The good news is that these signs are probably pretty easy to spot. If you go to the doctor straight away, you can be treated successfully without any long-term effects. The bacteria that cause syphilis respond well to antibiotics. [2]

2. Not as simple as it seems? The herpes simplex virus

Let’s face it: mouth herpes – also known as cold sores or fever blisters – is unpleasant and looks gross. But imagine what it would be like to have them on your private parts! That’s exactly what happens with genital herpes. The two types of herpes are usually triggered by different viruses, but not always; the same virus that causes oral herpes may also trigger genital herpes. [3] So, if you know that you or your partner has a mouth herpes sore, best leave kissing and oral sex until another time.

Herpes simplex viruses are transmitted in a variety of ways, like contact with genital surfaces, skin, sores and fluids. [3] But even close physical contact may be enough to cause infection. The virus also stays in the body for a long time afterwards. How low-down can you get!

Don’t worry; you won’t need to give them up for long. As soon as the blisters are healed the danger of infection is over. Note that medication won’t speed up the process, only help lengthen the time between infections and lessen their severity. [3] Nothing for it but to sit out the herpes.

3. They are legion: human papilloma viruses (HPV)

This long name stands for a whole group of viruses. Of the over 200 types known, [4] around 40 are transmitted by sexual intercourse. [5] Most infections are symptom free; however, some cause genital warts, little pointed nodules that form on the vagina, labia, penis, or anus. Genital warts may also appear inside the vagina or anus6. Other forms of HPV virus cause cauliflower-like growths on the private parts. [6] All these forms can be treated – but not cured. [6] Like herpes viruses, HPV stays in the body.

So, as you can see, HP viruses are responsible for a whole lot of different symptoms. But that’s not all; there are also high-risk types [5] that can cause cancer – like cervical cancer, anal cancer, and throat cancer. These viruses can also be detected by a pap smear (pap test) performed by your gynecologist. [6]

To be on the safe side you could consider getting HPV vaccination. They guard against viral infections with HPV, because they make the body produce antibodies – like other immunizations. Ask your gynecologist for more information. [7]

4. The silent bacteria: chlamydial infections

These are sneaky characters; in the early stages, chlamydial infections may show no symptoms at all. [8] Many infections go undiscovered because the symptoms are so slight – or even totally absent. [9]

But this usually changes around one to three weeks after infection, when men and women may notice increased quantities of a thin, yellowy discharge. [9] Urinating may also become painful. [9] If you notice these symptoms after having unprotected sex, go to your doctor immediately. Chlamydia is also easily treated with antibiotics.

5. Last but not least: Gonorrhea

This infection of the mucosae is also triggered by bacteria. They are easily transmitted when it comes to sexual activities. Although the symptoms are quite similar to chlamydial infections, you will notice them only a couple of days after they entered your body.

Typical symptoms of an infection with gonorrhea are aching and burning when you need to go to the toilet: this burning can appear in the area of your urethra and/or anus depending on the area of the infection. But also your throat and your eyes can be affected. But just like in the case of chlamydia, antibiotics can help you to get rid of these little beasts. [10]

Sex eductaion STIs Infographic

Your personal security: Protect yourself with condoms

The easiest way to help lowering the risk of catching these infections is by using a condom. Also they’re the only protection against STIs that also prevents from pregnancy.

As well as this list, check out the most asked questions about STIs. Like: Are condoms the only effective way of preventing sexually transmitted infections? Who is more at risk of becoming infected with an STI, men or women? Find out more.



A coalition of international partners with an interest in sexual and reproductive health