Sexually Transmitted infections (STIs)
- What are STIs?
STIs (sexually transmitted Infections) are infections (sicknesses) caused by germs (viruses, bacteria, and funguses) that move from person to person:
- during close contact (if exchange of body fluids takes place)
- or during sexual intercourse
- Are STIs curable?
Many STIs can be cured with medication, but not all. STIs that CAN’T be cured include herpes, HIV/AIDS and hepatitis. These are the STIs that are caused by a virus (not bacteria or a fungus).
- How will you know if you have an STI?
You will not always know. You may have been infected but may have no signs or symptoms for a long time. Many people have no signs of STIs at first. But the germs are inside your body causing harm. Boys often show signs of STIs earlier than girls because their sex organs are outside their bodies. This means that a person can look healthy and be infected, AND that they can infect others without knowing it.
- Some symptoms of STIs can be:
- Bad-smelling liquid coming from the penis or vagina
- Pain or burning on passing urine
- Blood in the urine and / or wanting to urinate often
- Sores, rashes, or blisters on or around the sex organs (penis, vagina) or anus
- Warts on or around the penis, vagina or anus
- Swelling in the groin
- Pain in lower belly above sex organis
- Headaches, fever and shaking
- Can STIs be dangerous?
If STIs are not detected and treated, the infection can spread, and cause you to become very sick:
- Some STIs can cause organ damage, and sterility in girls (not being able to have children)
- If you are pregnant with an STI, you may have complications, a miscarriage, or your baby might be born with defects or die
- Syphilis can lead to mental illness and death
- HIV can lead to AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome), which can lead to death
- The presence of an STI also helps HIV transmission
- Is HIV an STI?
Yes, HIV can be transmitted by sexual intercourse.
- How can you protect yourself from STIs?
There are a number of ways to protect yourself:
- Correct use of condoms or femidoms (condoms for females)
- Getting tested for STIs after new sexual partners to avoid leaving an infection untreated, or unknowingly spreading it
- Insisting that a new sexual partner gets tested, and treated for any STIs
- Carry condoms with you if you think there is any chance that you may be sexually active
REMEMBER: The only 100% safe prevention method is to abstain from sexual contact, or to be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a trusted partner who has been tested and is known to be uninfected.
- What is the first thing you should do when you think you have a STI?
See a doctor or nurse to get proper diagnosis and treatment. Inform your sexual partners (past and current) if you are infected.
- Can you stop taking the medication if your doctor/nurse prescribed medication for 10 days but the symptoms disappear after 5 days of medicine intake?
No, STI germs are hard to kill. Therefore, the medication must be taken for the whole time prescribed.
- Why are people who have a STI more vulnerable to HIV infection?
Many STIs cause sores (openings on the skin, in or around the genitals). These sores make it easier for HIV to enter the body.
- Can a pregnant girl/woman who has an STI pass the infection to the baby?
- some STIs (eg. chlamydia, gonorrhoea, genital herpes, HIV) can be transmitted to the child during delivery
- some STIs (eg. syphilis) can infect a foetus during pregnancy
- some STIs can also be passed on to the baby through breastfeeding
- Should you have sex while you are being treated for an STI?
No, you can infect your partner even while you are being treated. Therefore, you should not have sex until you are both completely cured. Both partners need to be treated.
- Can you prevent getting an STI If you are careful and wash your genitals with soap and water after having sex?STI viruses/germs cannot be removed through washing or bathing.
- Can you buy medicines from a chemist to treat the STI infection without going to the doctor or clinic?
No. STIs must be diagnosed and treated by a qualified doctor or clinic.
Commonly contracted STIs and their symptoms
|Name of STI||Symptoms||Cause||Curable?|
|Syphilis||Hard, painless, single, clean, ulcer/lesion on the penis/vaginal area, inside rectum or mouth, persistent fever, sore throat, patches of hair loss, rashes on palms, soles, chest and back||Bacterial infection||Yes|
|Chancroid||Ulcers – painful, multiple, soft, painful swelling of lymph nodes (one side)||Bacterial infection||Yes|
|Herpes genitalis||Multiple ulcers, shallow erosions, incurable, severe pain, fever, difficulty urinating, tenderness on the inside of the legs||Viral infection||No – but treatable|
|Gonorrhoea||Thick yellow discharge from penis/ vagina, pain urinating and, or, during sex||Bacterial infection||Yes|
|Chlamydia||Abnormal discharge from the penis/ vagina, infertility, bleeding/pain during intercourse, pain while urinating||Bacterial infection||Yes|
|Hepatitis B||Severe infection shows: Loss of appetite, nausea/vomiting, fever, joint pains, jaundice symptoms, dark urine, pain in abdomen||Viral infection||No – but treatable|
|Urethritis||Mild/severe pain while urinating, pus/ mucous discharge from penis/vagina||Bacterial infection||Yes|
|Proctisis||Itching/burning around anus, pus/ mucous discharge in stool, mild/ severe pain during bowel movement, occasional diarrhoea or fever (3 out of 10 boys show no symptoms)||Bacterial infection||Yes|
|Genital warts||External warts around anus, penis or vagina||Viral infection||No – but treatable|
|Crabs||Lice in hairy parts of the body, itching more severe at night||Parasite||Yes|
|Scabies||Itchy red spots or rash on wrists, ankles, hands, penis/vagina, chest and back||Parasite||Yes|
|HIV||No symptoms initially. Later weight loss, cough, TB, skin conditions, frequent infections||Viral infection||No – but treatable|