Safe Sex and STIs
What are Sexually Transmissible Infections (STIs)?
Sexually Transmissible Infections (STIs) are infections that are passed from
person to person during sexual activity. STIs are caused by organisms like
viruses, fungi, bacteria or parasites. Different types of STIs need different
kinds of treatment.
Common STIs include:
- Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV),
- Genital warts - also called Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
- Genital herpes
- Hepatitis B
- Gonorrhoea ('the clap')
- Pubic lice ('crabs')
These infections can be contracted by means of vaginal, anal, and, in many
cases, oral sex. You are at high risk if:
- you have more than one sex partner
- you don't use protection while having sex
- you are an injecting drug user (many infections which can be transmitted
sexually can also be transmitted through sharing needles or injecting
There are more than 20 infections that may be passed on through sexual
contact. These infections are particularly common among young people. According
to one US study, 48% of new STIs occurred among people aged 15-24. Don't be
fooled: It can happen to you!
transmitted infections can be cured or controlled if they are treated early. But
you may not realize you have an STI until it has damaged your long term health
or been passed on to your partner. Also, having an STI weakens the immune system
and leaves you more vulnerable to other infections. Some people believe that
they can tell if someone is infected with an STI. That is not true. Anyone can
get a sexually transmitted disease. It does not only happen to people with many
How could I get an STI?
During vaginal, anal or oral sex, STIs can be transmitted through the
exchange of blood, semen and vaginal fluids, or through skin contact.
Can I protect myself from getting an STI?
In most cases you can protect yourself by practicing safer sex. If you're
having vaginal, oral or anal sex it's important to use a condom every time.
Apart from not having sex, condoms are the best protection from STIs.
Remember, however, that condoms are not foolproof. They can break, and
they may not always cover the infectious area.
How can I tell if I have an STI?
Often, you can't tell. Some people have no symptoms at all, while others may
have a wide range of symptoms, not only in the genital area. Different types of
STIs have different symptoms. Some common symptoms include itching, rashes,
discharge, burning when you urinate and sores on the genitals.
Can I tell if somebody else has an STI?
No, you can't always tell. HIV is infectious but generally does not show
symptoms for years. Herpes may occasionally be transmitted in the absence of any
visible sore. Chlamydia (a disease that can cause infertility in women) frequently
has no symptoms. The only way to know for sure is by having an STI check.
I think I might have an STI. What should I do?
The easiest way to find out if you have an infection is to get tested. It's a
good idea to have regular sexual health check-ups every year once you start
having sex or when you change sexual partners. Most GPs offer sexual health
checks. Many men, especially young men, avoid or put off going to the doctor.
This can be a bad mistake. Some STIs require early treatment. If you suspect
that you might have an STI, see a doctor as soon as possible.
MensLine Australia provides professional, confidential and anonymous
counselling, information and referral for all men about all kinds of
relationships. The service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.