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The Lowdown On STI’s

The truth of the matter is the only sure way of never catching anything is only ever to have sex in one-on-one relationships in which both partners are 100% faithful and both have been tested – and cleared or cured. If that doesn’t sound like you, it’s worth knowing what’s out there.

Despite, or maybe as a backlash against, the focus on HIV/AIDS in recent years, the safer sex message is getting lost, and people of all sexualities are exposing themselves to infection – including with HIV. Any exchange of bodily fluids is potentially risky, and for infections like herpes, even skin-to-skin contact can be a risk. (And, of course, unlike marriage, herpes is for life.)

Even if you and your partner have been faithful to each other for a long time, it is possible you can discover an infection that has been lying dormant in your body. Just because one partner suddenly gets an infection, it doesn’t mean the other has been unfaithful. This is one reason why getting tested when within a relationship is a good thing.

It’s absolutely vital to be open and honest with your sexual partner or partners if you find that you have an infection. Coyness or embarrassment is no excuse. You should tell the truth to everyone you want to be intimate with before you start to enjoy each other. You should also tell previous partners so that they can check whether they’re infected and if so, have the disease properly diagnosed and treated – contained, insofar as is possible, or cured.

If you’ve got any STI symptoms, don’t have sex till you’ve had a check up. Symptoms to watch out for include:

  • Pain or burning feeling when passing urine
  • Pain when you have sexual intercourse
  • Passing urine more often than usual
  • Rash or irritation around the penis or anus
  • Sores, warts or blisters around the genital area
  • Unusual discharge from the penis or vagina

As soon as you notice any likely symptom of an STI you should go to your doctor or STI clinic – don’t ignore it, thinking it might go away.

Ideally, make a routine check of your bits a part of your health health routine – It’s better to be safe than sorry. If you go with your partner or a friend, and plan to go out somewhere fun afterwards, it’s a lot less intimidating. You’ve also got someone’s hand to hold when you’re waiting for the result and can support each other if anything nasty does surface.

Other tips include getting to know your partner(s) before you have sex. Ask about their sexual history, their attitude to safe sex (if they look blank at this stage, leave) and whether they have any STIs already (this is easiest handled in a jokey way – ‘Just checking before we get all squelchy – you’re not going to give me anything other than multiple orgasms are you?’)

Obviously, if you have any infection, let them know before you go at it. After all, you’d want to be told, wouldn’t you?

So what does behaving responsibly help you to avoid? Here’s a brief run-down.

Chlamydia

  • Frequently asymptomatic (i.e. you don’t know you’ve got it)
  • Still transmittable and contractible even if you’re not showing symptoms
  • Can damage the reproductive organs and cause infertility

Symptoms

  • Burning pain during urination
  • Unusual discharge from the penis
  • Unusual pain during sexual intercourse
  • Fever (rare)
  • Itching and burning near the opening of the penis
  • Pain and swelling of testicles

Risks

Dangerous primarily if passed onto women, increasing risk of cervical cancer and infection in their children.

Thrush

  • A yeast known as Candida that lives on the skin, in the mouth and gut
  • At least three out of four women will suffer from it at some time but it is much less common in men
  • It is more likely to develop if you are pregnant, wearing tight jeans or nylon underwear, have diabetes, are on the pill, taking certain antibiotics or, obviously, having unprotected sex with someone with ThrushSymptoms
  • Itching irritation around vagina, on tip of penis, under foreskin or on anus
  • Pain during sex
  • Pain during urination
  • Thick cheesy discharge from vagina or under the foreskin

Risks

Nothing more than unpleasantness of the symptoms

Genital Warts

  • Also known as Venereal Warts and Condyloma
  • Caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)

Symptoms

  • Small, soft growths that are white, pink or brown. Can look like cauliflowers or be flat. Detectable with fingers
  • Many people do not show any symptoms of Genital Warts other than the warts themselves
  • Even without the warts, you may have the virus that causes them

Risks

Principally, for men who don’t have sex with women, mere unpleasantness

Pubic lice and scabies

· Commonly known as crabs
· Annoying little insects that live on your body
· Scratching lice and scabies in the pubic areas can open the skin surface and lead to infection by other

STIs Symptoms

  • Blisters
  • Bumps
  • Crusting
  • Itching
  • Redness from scratching

Risks

  • Soreness from scratching
  • Susceptibility to other STIs

Syphilis

  • Caused by the bacteria, Treponema Palladium
  • Produces symptoms that occur in stages starting anywhere from 10 to 90 days after contraction
  • Chancres or sores in Stage 1 of Syphilis are firm, round and often painless
  • Stage 3 symptoms of Syphilis can be very serious and can show up years laterSymptoms

Stage one:

  • Sores on vaginal area, penis, anus, mouth, lips

Stage two:

  • Acne-like warts in groin area
  • Fever
  • Hair falling in patches from infected areas
  • Rashes (pox-like pus-filled bumps) on hands, feet and palms
  • Scales on body
  • Sore Throat
  • Swollen glands
  • White patches in mouth

Stage three:

  • Symptoms often become internal and affect areas like:
  • Blood vessels
  • Brain
  • Bones
  • Eyes
  • Heart
  • Joints
  • Liver
  • Nerves

Risks

  • Blindness
  • Dementia
  • Painful sores
  • Paralysis
  • Impotence
  • Infertility

Risks may include:

  • Anaemia
  • Bloody infectious patches
  • Jaundice
  • Skin sores
  • Swollen liver

Gonorrhoea

A bacterium that grows and multiplies quickly in warm, moist areas, affecting the urethra, vagina, cervix, anus, throat, joints and eyes

Symptoms

  • Burning pain during urination
  • Painful joints
  • Mild sore throat or slight fever
  • Tenderness during sexual intercourse
  • Rash on the palms
  • Rectal discomfort
  • Thick green/yellow discharge

Risks

  • Blood poisoning (gonoccocal septicaemia)
  • Brain damage
  • Heart damage (endocarditis)
  • Impotence in men
  • Infertility
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
  • Swelling of testicles and penis

Herpes

Caused by a virus.
Type 1 of the virus is from the same group that causes Chicken Pox and is referred to as oral Herpes.
Type 2 is less common and is known as Genital Herpes.

Symptoms

  • Usually appear between two and 12 days after contraction
  • Can disappear and re-appear
  • Blisters and sores in oral (Type 1 Herpes) and genital (Type 2 Herpes) areas
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • General flu-like symptoms
  • Muscle pain and swollen glands

Risks

General discomfort from symptoms

HIV/AIDS

  • HIV is the abbreviation for human immunodeficiency virus
  • AIDS is acquired immunodeficiency syndrome
  • Currently incurable, although many researchers are working on both treatments and vaccines
  • New drug treatments offer hope to sufferers, often prolonging and improving their lives
  • HIV is endemic

Symptoms

  • Initial symptoms of HIV infection are similar to flu and usually last 3-14 days and then go away
  • Within several months of HIV infection there may be repeated episodes of the preliminary flu-like symptoms
  • Glands or lymph nodes are immune system organs that become swollen in the early stages of HIV infection
  • Check them by feeling in the neck and groin with your fingers
  • Other early symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhoea, Herpes Zoster (shingles or chicken pox) night sweats, oral thrush, skin rashes and tiredness
  • After that, an average period of five to seven years will pass without another sign of HIV infection, although this delay can range from a few months to more than 15 years
  • At this later stage, symptoms can include arthritis, dermatitis, frequent and severe herpes infections causing sores on genitals, anus and mouth, mental impairment, mild weight loss, Myocarditis (inflammation of middle muscular layer of heart wall), Nephritis (kidney inflammation), painful nerve disease (shingles) Pelvic inflammatory disease that doesn’t respond to treatment, Peripheral neuritis (inflammation of the peripheral nerves), persistent skin rashes, persistent yeast infections, personality changes, Pneumonia and short term memory loss
  • Onset of full-blown AIDS is characterised by the appearance of other opportunistic infections that take hold because the immune system is weakened
  • HIV and AIDS may involve virtually every organ in the body, so many other conditions may be mistaken for them, including cancer
  • AIDS can cause Cryptococcosis infection (fungal infection), Cryptosporidiosis infection of the intestine (a protozoan infection), Cytomegalovirus infections of the retina and other organs, Herpes infections of mouth, throat and lungs, HIV infection of the brain (encephalitis with dementia), HIV wasting syndrome (chronically active HIV infection), Kaposi’s sarcoma (a form of skin cancer), Lymphoma (a cancer of the immune system), persistent yeast infections of the genitals, mouth, throat, bronchial tubes or lungs, Pneumonia, Toxoplasmosis of the brain and Tuberculosis and related infections

Risks

  • The effects of the symptoms
    • Even while the symptoms are not evident, the virus is still multiplying in the body and the sufferer can spread the virus to others