|Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are infections passed from one person to another during sex.
You need to know about them because they can be bad for your health. AIDS is the most serious because no cure has yet been found.
Most other STIs can be easily treated, but can cause problems later on if they are not seen to. Some can make women unable to have children in future, and can make men infertile too. Some are thought to cause certain kinds of cancer.
Some things you should know about STIs: Many people have no symptoms when they get an STI - especially women, but sometimes also men. So, if you get an STI, your partner needs a check-up too. Some STIs will seem to go away, but this does not mean you are cured; you and your partner still need treatment at the same time. STIs must be treated by a doctor. Most are easily treated, but can just as easily be caught again. There are many different STIs. People often have more than one at a time. Sex not only means when the penis enters the vagina or anus, but can also be oral sex (where partners kiss or stimulate each other's sex organs with their tongue or mouth), and close body contact (scabies and crabs can be passed on this way). There are some easy ways of reducing your risk of catching an STI.
The best way of not catching most STIs, besides not having sex at all, is to have a long-term relationship where both partners are faithful.
If you reduce the number of partners you have, there will be less chance of coming into contact with STIs. Unsafe sex with a new partner can expose you to the risks they or their past partners may have taken.
If you choose to have more than one partner, you can avoid STIs by practising safer sex.
Safer sex can mean cuddling, kissing, petting, massage, and mutual masturbation, or using a condom during sexual intercourse.
You can get condoms and spermicides free from STI clinics, very cheaply from Family Planning clinics and they can be bought from chemist shops and supermarkets. One size fits all. A doctor can prescribe condoms and spermicides too.
'The Pill' won't stop you from getting STIs including AIDS.
What Signs To Look For:
Women Your vaginal discharge is usually thin and clear, and can change with your menstrual cycle. It leaves a yellowish stain on underpants when it dries. But, if you have a discharge that is yellowish green, or white and thick, is painful or itchy, or has an unpleasant smell, then see your doctor.
Men Discharges (drips) are yellow, white or-clear and may stain underpants. You often only notice drips early in the morning or last thing at night. Men may get an anal discharge.
Painful Peeing If it hurts to pee, or if you have to go often, you may have an STI or a urine infection.
Sores/Blisters These can be painful or painless, and can occur inside or around your sex organs, around the mouth and on or inside your anus.
Lumps/Bumps Warts are usually painless but may itch a bit. Glands in the groin may cause lumps when swollen.
Itchiness or Soreness Especially around the sex organs.
Lower Stomach Pain (Women only) This is sometimes a sign that an infection has spread.
Painful Sex This may be a sign of an infection which is showing no other symptoms. It may just mean you need some advice...
AIDS and hepatitis B have their own special symptoms - see your STI clinic or doctor for advice. Factsheets about all STIs are available from your nearest STI clinic, area health board or health development unit.
If you have any of these signs, go to the nearest STI clinic or see a doctor as soon as possible. Often you don't know early on that you have an STI. Early treatment will stop an STI from spreading to other parts of your body and becoming worse. Most STIs will seem the same to you but they need special treatment. Don't risk trying to treat them yourself. Don't share your medicine with a partner or friends. You and your partner must complete all treatment including taking all medicenes.
Women should have a regular cervical smear test. Early testing and treatment for cervical cancer can save lives.
Tell Your Partner
If you have an STI tell your partner or ex-partner(s).
They may have an STI but not the symptoms. If they do not have treatment, they may not be able to have a child or father a child later on.
If you have treatment but your partner doesn't, your partner will pass the STI back to you again. (This is called the "ping-pong" effect.)
It is not easy to tell someone you've got an STI or that they might have one too, but it is important to do so - your STI clinic or doctor can help you if you need it.
These days condoms are sensitive, safe and tough. They should be kept in outside pockets or handbags because other places are usually too warm.
Don't use them if the inside wrapper is ripped, or the date on the packet has passed.
Forget all the stories about condoms. Condoms take some getting used to, but once you learn to use them they make very little difference to enjoying sex. Some people say condoms improve sex, because you can both be more relaxed and sex can last longer.
If you have tried condoms before, and you haven't liked them, give them another try. It is well worth it to protect yourself against STDs .
How To Use a Condom Open the wrapper carefully because fingernails can rip the condom. Don't test the condom or unroll it before putting it on. Put the condom on when the penis is hard and before there is any contact with the vagina or anus. Hold the tip of the condom between the thumb and finger and unroll the condom onto the hard penis. Make sure you are both ready before you have sex or the condom may rip. You may need to buy a water-based lubricant (e.g., KY jelly or Wet Stuff) from a chemist. Spermicides can also be used as lubricants, and they'll help protect against STDs at the same time. Don't use spit or petroleum jelly (e.g., vaseline). When pulling out, hold onto the condom so that no sperm can get out. Flush the condom down the toilet. Use it only once.
Golden Rules For Safer Sex You are safest if both you and your partner do not have sex with anyone else. Casual sex is always a risk. Always use condoms to reduce the risk of getting an STI (including AIDS). Make a rule: No Condom - No Sex. If you think you may have an STI - go to the nearest STI clinic or see a doctor as soon as possible. Ministry of Health - 2nd August 2001