Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are spread by having unprotected sex with an infected person.
Chlamydia is the most common STI and as the infection is largely symptom-less, most people infected with it do not know they have it. Some sufferers do show some symptoms such as discharge from the penis or vagina and a burning sensation when urinating. Diagnosis is made by taking a sample of discharge or urine. Treatment is with antibiotics.
Genital Warts are very common. They can show up within three weeks to six months of having unprotected sex with an infected person. They can be soft pink, cauliflower-like or hard and smooth. Treatment is with a topical paint or by freezing the warts off.
Gonorrhoea can be symptom-less but most symptoms usually include a discharge from the penis or vagina, a need to pass urine frequently and a burning sensation or pain when passing urine. As with all STIs it is important to seek treatment. However, it is especially important if you think you may have Gonorrhoea as it can cause infertility.
Genital Herpes is an infection that, once caught, lies dormant in the body and may flare up at any time. Symptoms vary from nothing to a burning sensation in the genitals, lower back pain, pain when urinating and flu-like symptoms. A few days after these symptoms appear, small red bumps appear which develop into blisters then crust over. You cannot get rid of herpes once infected and all that can be done is to treat the symptoms with an anti-viral drug once they appear.
HIV/AIDS is caused by the HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) which attacks and disables the body's immune system. It can take up to 6 months for the virus to show in the body and you can be infected with HIV and have no symptoms for many years. Eventually the virus causes the immune system to be so compromised that the sufferer will die. There is no cure for HIV/AIDS although modern drugs are improving the life expectancy of HIV/AIDS sufferers.
Syphilis can result in death if not treated. The infection has three stages. The first occurs 10-90 days after sexual contact when a painless sore appears at the point where the bacteria infected the body. Three weeks to three months later, flu-like symptoms occur with a rash on the palms and soles and sometimes the whole of the body. Three to ten years later symptoms include skin lesions, mental deterioration, loss of vision and heart disease occur. Blood tests will confirm diagnosis and treatment is with antibiotics.
The majority of STIs are treated easily and quickly and you should consult your doctor or local genito-urinary clinic if you suspect that you are infected.
Unprotected sex can have devastating results so it is important that you use a condom when having sex outside of a stable relationship. Condoms will greatly help stop the spread of STIs.