Sexually transmissible infections (STI’s) are passed from one person to another during a bit of ‘rumpty-pumpty’...or ‘how’s your father?’ (Seriously, how strange are euphemisms for getting it on?), from mum to baby during pregnancy and birth or through blood products and tissue transfer (e.g. sharing needles).
Most STI’s are transmitted though all the yummy stuff, like the exchange of sexual juices (pre-cum, cum, lady’s love lube) or skin-to-skin contact during a bit of bum fun, oral or vaginal sex. However, some can even be transmitted by sharing bed clothing and linen (scabies and pubic lice).
Globally, there are over 30 bacterial, viral and parasitic STI’s and 499 million new cases of curable STI’s yearly (WHO, 2008). STI’s are a major cause of illness, disability and death – with serious medical and psychological consequences for countless people. Additionally, those who are infected with some STI’s are statistically more likely to acquire and transmit HIV
However, STI’s need not mean that you can’t enjoy yourself and other’s bodies and are not necessarily the end of the world. Yes, they are a little bit of a curve-ball in the game of life, but we can take steps to protect ourselves and our playmates. There are also ways in which we can live with STI’s and remove stigma and shame around them to take ourselves forward into a much brighter, shinier, more positive sexual future. One of the most positive steps we can take for all of our community is to educate ourselves about STI’s and to begin to talk about them openly and without judgement.
Here are the possible signs of an STI:
- No signs
- Testicular , urethral (pee hole) or vaginal discharge/discomfort
- Painful intercourse/urination
- Abdominal pain
- Genital “growths” or ulcers
Obviously, the most effective means of avoiding transmission is abstinence (not having penetrative sex or engaging in sexual activity) or only having sexual relations in a long-term, monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner. However, it is possible to have SAFER SEX by empowering your sexual being with informed choices, building upon your self-esteem, having a positive attitude towards sexuality and consistent and correct condom/dam use. A dam is a thin square of latex that fits over the vagina or anus. Additionally, there are vaccines available that protect against some STIs or strains of STIs (Hepatitis A and B and some strains of HPV).
Screening or testing is an excellent idea as many STI’s don’t have symptoms and you may have no idea that you have one. It’s a good idea to have regular sexual health check-ups as soon as you start to become sexually active, especially if you are engaging in unprotected sex or have multiple partners. You can get tested at your local GP, family planning/planned parenthood clinic or sexual health care clinic. In some countries these are referred to as genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics. You will be asked to give blood, urine or swab tests and may have a physical examination.
STI’s used to be referred to as venereal diseases (VD) or sexually transmitted diseases (STD). Strictly speaking there is a difference between STD’s and STI’s, but the umbrella term STI is now preferred. This is because infections are not always associated with symptoms, whereas diseases are. Also, for some using the term STI helps to minimise the embarrassment or stigma that might be associated with having a ‘disease’.
The A-B-C’s of STI’s
As mentioned previously there are over 30 STI’s here are a few:
- Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)
- Chlamydia and Lymphogranuloma Venereum (LGV)
- Cytomegalovirus (CMV)
- Donovanosis (Granuloma inguinale)
- Hepatitis (A, B and C)
- Herpes (HSV1 and HSV2)
- HIV and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and Genital Warts
- Intestinal parasites
- Molloscum Contagiosum
- Mononucleosis (‘mono’)
- Mucopurulent Cervicitis (MPC)
- Mycoplasma genitalium
- Pelvic Infammatory Disease (PID)
- Pubic lice (‘crabs’)
- Trichomoniasis (‘trich’)