SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED INFECTIONS

Sexually Transmitted Infections - STIs

Sex is fun but STIs are not. STIs, or sexually transmitted infections are caught and passed on through sexual contact and they are something you want to avoid at all costs, learning how to protect yourself is the first step. STIs are a lot nastier and a lot more common than you might think, so this is definitely a section worth reading, remembering and acting on.

    STIs AT A GLANCE

    • There are around 340 million new cases of curable STIs (syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, etc) estimated worldwide every year
    • Left untreated, STIs can have serious health implications
    • Millions of incurable viral STIs, including an estimated 2.3 million HIV infections, occur each year

    Laboratory and Sexually Transmitted Infections - STIs

    WHAT ARE THEY?

    There are many types of STIs, some curable, some not, some have horrific symptoms, some have none at all. All that can really be said for all types of STIs is that you don’t want any of them, at all. Always protect yourself against infection when having sex and always go straight to your doctor or another qualified healthcare provider if you have any symptoms, or think you might have been exposed to the risk of infection. It’s always better to be safe than very, very sorry.

    Diagnosis Sexually Transmitted Infections - STIs

    DIAGNOSING STIs

    • Some STIs do not cause any symptoms so always get checked out if you think you have been exposed to the risk of infection
    • Seriously, no excuses, if you have unprotected sex, get yourself checked

    HAVE YOU GOT AN STI?

    If you have unprotected sex you really should get yourself checked for STIs. Not all STIs have symptoms so you can be walking around thinking you’re fine while carrying some pretty nasty things around inside you. And those horrible things are just waiting for you to have unprotected sex again so you can share them around. Get yourself checked and don’t have sex with anyone else until you know you’re clear, you’d want someone else to do the same for you, wouldn’t you?

    PROTECTION AT A GLANCE

    • There is only one contraceptive which protects you against the risk of HIV infection (AIDS) and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and that is condoms
    • The best way to stay safe is to stay honest. Talk openly with your partner and never be pressured into anything you feel uncomfortable with
    • Regular STI check ups are essential for the sexually active

    Condoms and protection

    DO IT RIGHT

    What is safe sex?

    Practicing safe sex means getting and giving sexual pleasure without putting each other at risk of STIs. Being honest with each other is the key to this process.

    How do you do this?

    It is important to remember that just because you are protected against pregnancy, you are not necessarily safe against STIs, unless you’re using condoms. Condoms are the only effective way of protecting yourself and should be used with other contraceptives to keep you safe.

    DON’T MYTH WITH ME!

    • Can I use an IUS if I haven’t already had children?

      Of course you can. You shouldn’t get an Intrauterine System (IUS) if you’re trying to get pregnant, otherwise it’s a suitable form of contraception for anybody to consider using.

    • Will taking the pill make me gain weight?

      Taking the pill does not have a noticeable long-term effect on body weight. Some women experience small changes in weight after starting the pill, but this is not proven in clinical studies looking at its long-term effect on body weight. If you're concerned talk to your healthcare provider about your options.

    • Do I need to use contraception if I’m breastfeeding?

      Breastfeeding can prevent pregnancy for up to six months if periods have not resumed and the baby is solely breastfed frequently day and night. This doesn’t make pregnancy impossible though and as soon as any one of this criteria is not met, you can become pregnant again.

    • Will being on the pill for a long time affect my fertility later on in life?

      It’s actually possible to get pregnant as soon as you stop taking the pill so no, taking the pill long-term will not affect your fertility.

    • Can I get pregnant if I’m on my period?

      Expert opinion says yes, you can get pregnant while menstruating. The fact that there are a number of stages of a period and that sperm can survive inside a woman`s uterus for up to five days means you should always protect yourself if you don’t want to get pregnant.

    • Can the IUS move about inside me and cause problems?

      The Intrauterine System (IUS) is an effective method that is inserted by a well-trained healthcare provider and it stays in place for up to 3 or 5 years. The risk of uterine perforation
      is rare (i.e. <1/1000).

    • Can I get pregnant if I don’t have an orgasm?

      The pleasure of sex isn’t connected to the science of sex at all. If you have sex without contraception you can get pregnant, whether you enjoy it or not.

    • Can taking hormonal contraceptives make me infertile?

      Hormonal contraception does not cause infertility. It may take a bit of time for your body to return to a state where you can become pregnant again but this is only temporary. Fertility returns to healthy women to its previous level no matter how long you have taken a hormonal contraceptive method.

    • Can I reuse a condom?

      No, condoms are not coffee cups that you can rinse out and reuse. They might look ok, but they are made of very thin material that deteriorates with use and can split if used more than once. Also the spermicide inside which helps to stop sperm will have gone,
      so use a new one each time.

    • Is emergency contraception 100% effective?

      No contraceptive is 100% effective. It is most effective when taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex, ideally up to 12 hours after, if it’s taken more than 24 hours later, it’s already much less effective. The more prepared you are before sex, the less likely you’ll be to need emergency contraception at all.

    • Do I need to give my body a break from taking oral contraceptives?

      From a medical point of view, there is absolutely no reason to make a pill break if you tolerate it well. The only reason to take a break from taking the pill is that you want to get pregnant. Other than that, you can stay on your chosen method of contraception for as long as you want.

    FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

    Are condoms the only effective way of preventing sexually transmitted infections?

    Yes. Condoms have been proven to provide protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). In fact, condoms are the only contraceptive method that also provides STI protection. Condoms provide different levels of risk reduction for different STIs because infections are spread differently—some are spread by contact with bodily fluids while others are spread by skin to skin contact.

    In general, research shows that condoms are most effective in preventing those STIs that are spread by bodily fluids, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and HIV. Condoms also can reduce the risk of contracting diseases spread by skin-to-skin contact, such as herpes and human papillomavirus (HPV). However, condoms only can protect against these diseases if the sores are in areas covered by the condom.

    Who is more at risk of becoming infected with an STI, men or women?

    If exposed to STIs, women are more likely to become infected than men due to biological factors. Women have a greater area of exposure (the cervix and the vagina) than men, and small tears may occur in the vaginal tissue during sex, making an easy pathway for infection.

    Can HIV be transmitted through hugging, shaking hands or mosquito bites?

    HIV cannot be transmitted through casual contact. This includes closed mouth kissing, hugging, shaking hands, and sharing food, clothing, or toilet seats. The virus cannot survive long outside of the human body. Mosquitoes cannot transmit HIV, either.

    Will having sex with a virgin cure someone with an STI, including HIV?

    No. Instead, this practice only risks infecting the person who has not yet had sex.

    Will washing the penis or vagina after sex lower the risk of becoming infected with an STI?

    Genital hygiene is important and a good practice. There is no evidence, however, that washing the genitals prevents STI infection. In fact, vaginal douching increases a woman's risk of acquiring STIs, including HIV, and pelvic inflammatory disease.

    Does pregnancy place women at increased risk of becoming infected with HIV?

    Current evidence is conflicting as to whether pregnancy increases a woman's chances of infection if exposed to HIV. If she does become infected with HIV during pregnancy, however, the chances that HIV will be transmitted to her baby during pregnancy, delivery, and childbirth may be at their highest because she will have a high level of virus in her blood. Thus, it is important for pregnant women to protect themselves from HIV and other STIs through condom use. If a pregnant woman thinks that she may have HIV, she should seek HIV testing. Resources may be available to help her prevent transmitting HIV to her baby during pregnancy, delivery, and childbirth.

    LEARN HOW TO TALK ABOUT IT WITH:

    Your HCP

    Your HCP

    Your healthcare provider knows the subject better than anyone; get the right answers for you

    Your Parents

    Your Parents

    They know you better than anyone, and they’ve been through it too

    Your Partner

    Your Partner

    You’re in this together, and not just in the bedroom, be honest