Sexually Transmitted Infections
What is an STI?
An STI or Sexually Transmitted Infection is an infection which is passed on during sexual contact from one person to another and can be caused by viruses, bacteria or parasites.
How are STI’s transmitted?
STI are generally transmitted through sexual contact involving the sexual organs between partners including the vagina, penis, mouth, anus and other orifices. Some STI’s can be transmitted from a mother to her child during birth or via breast milk. Someone with an STI can also pass it on to another individual via the reuse of needles in intravenous drug use or via the transfusion of an untested infected unit of blood.
What places an individual at risk of contracting an STI?
There are a number of factors that place an individual at risk of acquiring a sexually transmittable infection. Some of these include:
- · Having multiple sex partners
- · Unprotected sex
- · A new untested partner
- · Alcohol and drug abuse
- · Use of an intrauterine device (IUD) or the coil as sole contraceptive in the absence of safe sexual practices
- · Serial monogamy (having consecutive terminal relationships in a short period of time)
- · Transactional sex
What are the signs and symptoms of an STI?
Many STI’s present in a similar way, some including bacterial vaginosis, trichomonas and gonnorhea all present with an abnormal vaginal discharge. This discharge may be one that has changed in color and consistency from clear to creamish or yellow and thick often with an unpleasant odour and on occasion itching. Other symptoms along with the discharge include abdominal pain and burning on urination. Men often complain of a urethral discharge or “leaking from the penis”. This discharge is often described as clear to yellow and is associated with burning on urination and internal itching. Some men may even experience a swollen and painful testicle if left untreated. Other symptoms may include genital ulcers.
Genital warts are a commonly acquired sexually transmitted infection. These fleshy “bumps” located on the penis, vagina, anus and cervix, are often itchy, painless and tend to increase in size. While it is sometimes possible to identify sexually transmitted infections by their signs and symptoms, many STIs have few symptoms and can pass unnoticed between partners. e.g. Herpes, can be transmitted from skin to skin genital contact even with the use of a condom!
What are the complications of an STI?
STI’s are often difficult to deal with if left untreated. In the initial stages some bacterial STI’s such as gonnorhea can cause pain and swelling of the testis in men and a vaginal discharge, lower abdominal pain and later pelvic inflammatory disease in women. Untreated STIs such as gonorrhea can result in prostate and infertility problems for men while women can develop chronic lower abdominal pain, infertility and have a higher risk for ectopic pregnancy.
Viral infections such as the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) infections can lead to cervical cancer. Some infections such as Herpes can cause recurrent painful episodes which are psychologically debilitating. Other viral infections such as HIV which often go unnoticed unless tested, can lead to AIDS and eventual death.
How can one diagnose an STI?
STI’s can often be recognized by the presenting signs and symptoms. However for definitive diagnoses, special blood, urine and other tests can be ordered.
How are STI’s treated?
STI’s often require medications. Antibiotics are usually given to treat bacterial infections such as Syphilis, Gonorrhea and Chlamydia while antiviral medications are given to treat infections such as Herpes and HIV. Success on treatment usually depends upon how well the patient takes their recommended medication.
Quick STI clinic facts
- The most prevalent STI’s seen include, Syphilis, Bacterial Vaginosis and Gonnorhea.
- Individuals between the ages of 20 to 30 have the highest incidence of STI’s .
- Older individuals over 70 DO present with STI’s
- Women attend clinic much more often than men
Cornerstones to Prevention
- Fidelity: Have only partner/ know each others HIV status
- Practice safe sex: Use a condom properly every time
- Avoid illegal drug use and alcohol
- Have regular checks up at STI Clinic or private doctor including pap smears
- Improve negotiation skills
- Learn more about STI’s /HIV/AIDS
- Adopt healthy lifestyle: Avoid/reduce irresponsible alcohol consumption
- Regular exercise, balanced diet , rest
For more information on STI’s contact your physician or visit any of the health centers or hospitals.