Test your knowledge of Sexually Transmitted Infections with this fun Question and Answer segment.
Q: What is an STI?
A: An STI is a sexually transmissible infection. Sexual contact, which includes oral, vaginal and anal sex, and any touching of the genitals, can put you at risk of getting an STI. Some STIs are bacterial and can be quickly treated with antibiotics. Other STIs are viral infections, and are managed slightly differently. Some STIs, such as genital warts and herpes, can only be diagnosed when you have symptoms. Most STIs have no symptoms. If you are going to have sex, here are a few tips to make it safer:
- Every time you have sex, use a condom with water-based lubricant and have a 6 month or yearly check
- If you are entering a relationship talk with each other about your sexual history and both have a STI check before you decide to have sex together.
The only way to be completely free of risk of an STI is to never have sexual contact with anyone.
Q: What is the difference between an STD and an STI?
A: STD stands for sexually transmitted disease, while STI stand for sexually transmitted infection. Not all sexually transmitted infections manifest in symptoms or turn into a disease. So although the terms are interchangeable, an infection does not always develop into a disease.
Q: How do I know if I have an STI?
A: Different STIs have different symptoms, which can range from pain when you pee or have sex, to painful or itchy genitals, and/or unusual discharge. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should get tested. However the most common STIs have no symptoms at all – so even if you feel fine, if there’s a chance you’re at risk of having contracted an STI, you should still get tested.
The only way to know for sure if you have an STI is to have a test.
Q: How long does it take for an STI to show up?
A: Although this varies, we can usually test for most common STIs two weeks after having sex. If you’re ever worried about having caught an STI, make an appointment – it never hurts to be cautious!
Q: Can you get an STI from kissing?
A: Most STIs are not spread through kissing. However, it is not advisable to kiss people with cold sores, as you might catch the herpes virus.
Q: Can you get an STI form toilet seats, clothing or shared spaces?
A: It is very unlikely that you can get an STI from a toilet seat. STIs are usually spread through skin-to-skin sexual contact or through unprotected vaginal, oral, or anal sex. You may be at risk of getting an STI is you share sex toys. You can also get crabs (pubic lice) or scabies through contact with clothes and bedding.
Q: Is it possible for me or my partner to have an STI and not know it?
A: Yes, many people with STIs have no symptoms or very mild symptoms that are not obvious. Symptoms for some STIs can also take a long time to develop. The only way to know for sure if you have an STI is to get tested. If you are having sex, the best way to avoid catching or passing an STI on is by using a condom.
Q: Are all STIs curable?
A: Unfortunately, not all STIs are curable. Viral infections, such as HIV and herpes, can be managed and treated, but not cured. Syphilis, gonorrhoea, chlamydia and trichomoniasis are all currently curable with antibiotic treatment, but they must be diagnosed for treatment to be offered.
Q: I had unprotected sex but feel fine. Does that mean I don’t have an STI?
A: The symptoms of many STIs don’t appear for days, weeks, or even months. That’s why it’s important to be tested if you have had unprotected sex and think you might have an STI, even if you don’t have any symptoms. To reduce risk for you and your partner(s), we recommend using a condom during sex.
Q: I have already had an STI. Does that mean I can’t catch it again?
A: If you have been treated for an STI, you can still catch it again if you have sexual contact with someone who has it. Others, such as herpes and HIV, can last a lifetime.
Q: Is it possible to have more than one STI at a time?
A: Yes, you can catch more than one STI at once. Having an STI increases your risk of catching HIV. People with other STIs can transmit HIV more easily to sexual partners. Choosing to wear a condom during sex, or a dental dam during oral sex, reduces the risk.
Q: Will washing the penis or vagina after sex lower the risk of becoming infected with an STI?
A: Genital hygiene is important and a good practice. There is no evidence, however, that washing the genitals prevents STI infection. In fact, vaginal douching increases a woman’s risk of acquiring STIs, including HIV, and pelvic inflammatory disease.
Q: Who is more at risk of becoming infected with an STI, men or women?
A: If exposed to STIs, women are more likely to become infected than men due to biological factors. Women have a greater area of exposure (the cervix and the vagina) than men, and small tears may occur in the vaginal tissue during sex, making an easy pathway for infection.
Q: My new partner and I want to stop using condoms because we’re going to use the pill instead. I’ve never had sex before but my partner has had sex with a few people before me. What should we do to make sure we’re safe?
A: You should both get an STI check before you stop using condoms. Your partner might have got an STI from a previous partner and you might also be at risk, as some STIs can also be caught through other sexual contact, such as oral sex, or touching someone’s genitals. Until you’ve both been tested and, if necessary, treated, you should continue to use condoms used with water-based lubricant.