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Sexually Transmitted Infections

What is a sexually transmitted infection (STI)?

An STI is an infection that can be passed on during sex. Most STIs are transmitted through sexual fluids, but some can be passed on through skin to skin contact of sexual organs as well.
Having an STI makes it easier for you to contract HIV so it's important that protect yourself. There different ways to prevent STIs and condoms are still the most effective option.
Condoms are great because they not only prevent HIV and STIs like gonorrhoea and syphilis, they also prevent you from having an unplanned pregnancy.
Condoms are available free of charge from any hospital or clinic and can also be found in many public spaces. Anyone can get them, so don't be afraid or shy to grab some if you are planning to have sex. You have the option to use either the male or the female condom. So there's no excuse for any of us not to use a condom!

How do I know that I have a STI?

It depends on which Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) you have.
Symptoms can develop within a few days or weeks, but sometimes they don't appear until months or even years later.

Often there are few or no symptoms and you may not know you have an STI.
If you think there's any chance you have an STI, go to your clinic or GP for a check-up.

Below are some common STI's and their symptoms: 
Chlamydia
Symptoms usually appear after one to three weeks, but could start much later. They include:

  • Discharge from the vagina or penis
  • Pain when peeing 
  • Vaginal bleeding between periods or after sex 
  • Pelvic pain in women 
  • Testicular pain in men 

About 50% of men and 70% of women don't have any symptoms. 
.
Gonorrhoea
Symptoms usually appear within 10 days, but could start much later. They include:

  • Green or yellow discharge from the vagina or penis 
  • Pain when peeing 

About 10% of men and 50% of women don't have any symptoms.

Genital herpes
Symptoms can appear after four to seven days, but might not start until months or years later. They include:

  • Small, painful blisters around the genitals 
  • Pain when peeing 
  • Tingling or itching around the genitals 

Most people don't have any symptoms when first infected.

Genital warts
Symptoms usually appear within two to three months, but could start as early as two weeks or not for several years. They include:

  • Small, fleshy growths or bumps on the genitals or around the anus - these are usually painless, but may be itchy. 

Most people with the virus that causes genital warts don't develop obvious warts.

Pubic lice and scabies
Symptoms usually appear after five days to five weeks, but could start later. They include:

  • Itching around the genitals (usually worse at night) 
  • Black spots in your underwear 
  • Small spots of blood on the skin near your genitals 
  • A spotty red rash 

Syphilis
Symptoms usually appear two to three weeks after first becoming infected, but could start earlier or much later. They include:

  • One or more small painless sores or ulcers on the genitals 
  • A blotchy rash and flu-like symptoms that may follow a few weeks later 

Symptoms are often not obvious and may come and go.

Be sure to use a condom correctly every time you have sex to protect yourself against STIs.