Sexually Transmitted Infections

  • What are sexually transmitted infections (STIs)?

    STIs are caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites and are passed from one person to another through
    • Sexual fluids (pre-ejaculate or “pre-cum”, semen, vaginal fluid)
    • Blood
    • Genital contact during
      • Anal sex
      • Oral sex
      • Vaginal sex
      • Skin-to-skin contact
      with someone who has a STI and when protection, such as correct and consistent condom use, is not practised.
    A false belief exists that STIs are caused by witchcraft. All sexually active females and males can be affected by STIs.
  • What are the symptoms of STIs?

    Common symptoms of STIs include:
    • Discharge from anus, penis, vagina;
    • Odour, pain, itching, or burning in the anus, penis, rectum and/or vagina;
    • Burning when urinating;
    • Pain or swelling in one or both testicles;
    • Bleeding from the anus and vagina (when not menturating);
    • Pain when passing stool;
    • Flu-like symptoms;Yellow skin tone and eyes;
    • Blisters on anus/rectum, vagina, penis, and/or mouth.
    • Warts on vagina, penis, scrotum, anus and surrounding areas (some shaped like a cauliflower).
    • Unusual or new sores, lumps, or growths on the anus, penis, scrotum, throat or mouth.
    Some STIs do not show symptoms for a long time although they can still be harmful and passed on. If you have one of the symptoms above, it does not mean that you definitely have an STI. It is recommended that you consult with your health care worker for further investigation.
  • How do I know if I or my sex partner(s) have a STI?

    Visit your clinic for a STI screening and, if needed, physical examination and tests will be performed. It is important to screen for STIs every 3 months.
  • Can STIs be treated?

    Yes, most STIs can be treated with medication. If you are diagnosed with an STI and taking treatment it is recommended that you:
    • Finish/complete your treatment (i.e. take all the medication as prescribed – do not stop taking your medication if you start feeling better or if symptoms disappear – complete your treatment).
    • Abstain from sex until you and your sex partner(s) complete your treatment. In some instances it is recommended to wait 7-10 days after completing your treatment before having sex.
    Untreated STIs could increase your risk of getting HIV.
  • How can I reduce my risk of getting or passing on STIs?

    • Abstinence. This means not having any anal, oral, and vaginal sex.
    • Be responsible for your own health. Getting tested for STIs including HIV before you and your partner(s) start having sex.
    • Condoms and water-based lube. Correct and consistent use of condoms remains effective in reducing risk for STIs. For anal sex, water-based lubricant should be used with condoms. Oil-based lubricants (e.g. Vaseline, baby oil, cooking oil, etc.) damages latex condoms.
    • Communication. Talk about sex and STIs openly. Decide together on ways that will work for you to prevent STIs and pregnancy.
    • Vaccinations. Ask your health provider about vaccinations to prevent STIs.
    • Additional prevention. Talk to your health provider about Pap smears, chlamydia testing, and contraception.
    • Reduce alcohol and drug use before having sex. Alcohol and drugs prevent you from making clear decisions and it is easier to take risks (such as condomless sex) when you are under the influence of alcohol and drugs.
    • Continue to be responsible. Get tested for HIV and STIs every 3 months.
    • Number of sex partners. Reducing your number of sex partners is recommended.
  • Does having sexually transmitted infections (STIs) increase my risk of getting or passing on HIV?

    Yes. If you have another STI the chances of getting or passing on HIV is increased. It is recommended that you and your sex partner(s) get tested for STIs every 3-6 months.