Information about some common STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections) out there at the moment.
Remember, not all STIs have obvious symptoms, so you may have picked something up and not know it. If you are having sex with a number of casual partners you should have regular STI tests.
If you are experiencing soreness, itching or swelling in your genital area, there is a chance that you may have an STI. We’ve listed signs and symptoms of common STIs below. Most STIs other than HIV are easy to fix, particularly if you treat them early. So if you think you might have an STI, get tested so you can access treatment and get on with your life!
Syphilis is extremely infectious and can be passed on through sexual and skin to skin contact. The infection can also be passed on from mother to child. If left untreated syphilis can make you very sick and also cause infant death.
Over 50% of syphilis cases have no obvious symptoms, but for those that do, symptoms include:
- Sores on the body, penis or vagina
- A rash or small spots that are not itchy
- Similar symptoms to the common cold
Condoms help to protect you from syphilis, but are no guarantee. You can still catch syphilis through skin to skin contact on other parts of your body.
If you think you might have syphilis the best thing to do is get tested.
Gonorrhoea is transmitted by unprotected vaginal, oral or anal sex. Condoms are an effective way to prevent transmission of this infection.
Gonorrhoea does not always have visible symptoms – but when it does they may include:
- Soreness or redness at the opening of the penis
- Unusual anal, vaginal or penile discharge
- Pain or discomfort while urinating
Gonorrhoea is usually treated with a course of antibiotics.
Genital herpes is a common infection caused by a virus called Herpes Simplex virus or HSV. There is no cure for genital herpes – it stays with you for life. Genital herpes is easily transmissible through unprotected anal and vaginal sex, so condoms are your best protection.
The symptoms of genital herpes include sores or small blisters in the genital area that can be very uncomfortable. There are some medications that can be prescribed to manage the symptoms, but generally, a healthy lifestyle and reducing stress are the best ways to keep any outbreaks under control.
Symptoms will vary from individual to individual – the only way to know for sure if you have genital herpes is to get tested.
Genital Warts (HPV)
Genital warts is a very common infection caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). It can be passed on through skin to skin contact, vaginal, oral and anal sex.
Most people with HPV never develop health problems and the symptoms eventually go away by themselves after a couple of years. Sometimes, however, HPV infection will last longer and can lead to serious conditions including cancer.
Condoms can help reduce the risk of picking up genital warts, but there is no 100% way of staying safe, other than being sure of your partners’ status.
There is free immunisation for HPV available for anyone in New Zealand aged 9 to 26, and for non-residents under the age of 18. Children will be offered vaccination against the disease in New Zealand in year eight of school – so if you have children of this age make sure they get immunised for HPV.
Thrush is an infection caused by the yeast candida albicans, which occurs naturally in many parts of the body, including the mouth, vagina, penis and anus. A thrush infection occurs when the natural yeast present in these parts of the body overgrows. Excess yeast growth can be caused by a number of things, including lots of sex, excessive sweating, a reaction to antibiotics and use of soap and detergent.
Thrush is not considered a sexually transmitted infection (STI), but it can sometimes be passed on through sex.
Symptoms of thrush include:
- Whitish, velvety lesions in the mouth or tongue
- In women, abnormal vaginal discharge, genital itching or burning sensation when urinating
- Men may have an itchy and red penis or wider groin area.
Thrush can be treated with anti-fungal creams, oral tablets of vaginal pessaries. Medication for thrush can be bought at your local pharmacy without a prescription. You can also get a prescription for medication by visiting a sexual health clinic or GP/family doctor.