Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are spread from one person to another by unprotected sexual contact, through bodily fluids as well as through the following ways:
- If you touch the infected area of another person and then touch yourself.
- From mother to child during birth.
- Through unsafe blood transfusions.
- By sharing needles.
They’re common, cause pain, and lead to infertility and death if not treated.
Important: You usually can’t tell if a person has an STI just by looking at them; people with STIs, including HIV, usually don’t look sick and may have no symptoms.
- Syphilis is a bacterial infection that usually starts as a painless sore and a rash on palms of the hands and soles of the feet. It can also have no symptoms.
- Genital herpes is marked by painful sores and blisters.
- Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea usually cause genital discharge but sometimes also do not cause symptoms.
- Genital warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). The characteristic symptom is a small bump on the genitals.
- HIV is a virus that attacks cells in the immune system, which is our body’s natural defence against illness.
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection, may cause genital warts, and some of the subtypes can also cause cervical cancer.
Signs and symptoms of an infection
- Unusual fluids from your penis or vagina.
- Swollen glands, body aches and fever.
- Warts or sores on and around your penis or vagina.
- Pains or burning when urinating.
- Pain while having sex.
- A rash or itching in and around your pubic area.
- Small blisters on and around your penis or vagina.
- Weight loss.
- Mild to severe lower abdominal pain, sometimes fever, with or without vaginal discharge.
- Scrotal swelling.
How you can protect yourself
Using a condom properly can reduce the risk of getting infected. You should:
- Check the expiry date on condom packaging before you use the condom.
- Use condoms that are made of latex, as it’s more effective.
- Open the condom packet carefully so that you don’t break the condom. Don't use your teeth.
- Get tested for an STI before having sex with your partner for the first time.
- Avoid having sex when you're receiving treatment for an STI.
- Ask your partner/s to also get treatment for STI if you’re receiving treatment for STI
- Never reuse a condom.
- Always put the condom on before you make any sexual contact.
Never leave an STI untreated, it won’t go away on its own. If you think that you may have an STI, you can visit your doctor, a health care centre, a reproductive health facility or Marie Stopes, a non-profit organisation that provides reproductive and healthcare services.
If you suspect you have an STI, your health worker will do the following where appropriate:
- Be prepared to discuss your sexual history.
- Physical examination.
- Testing for cervical cancer, if necessary, according to protocol.
- Correct diagnosis and treatment.
- Health education and counselling.
- HIV counselling and testing.
- Partner notification slip(s) issued to attend clinic and receive treatment.
- Condom promotion, demonstration and provision.
- Referral to other services as indicated (family planning, antenatal care, Prevention of mother to child transmission (MTCT), Tuberculosis (TB), HIV treatment and care etc.)
- Record keeping (patient record, daily statistics).
Don't neglect your sexual health.