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Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

This page was reviewed or revised on Tuesday, March 17, 2015 9:56 AM

What is a sexually transmitted infection?


Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are spread from one person to another during any type of sexual contact (oral, vaginal and anal).

Most STIs can be cured or prevented. Those that cannot be cured can sometimes be managed with medication. Some STIs can cause serious illness and death.

Risks of an STI include:

  • Unprotected sexual contact (oral, vaginal and anal)
  • Condom failure
  • Partner has an STI
  • You have a new sex partner
  • You or partner uses injection drugs or shares drug equipment

Anyone, who has sex or sexual contact with an infected person, can get an STI. The more people you have sex with, the greater your chance of an STI.

Should I care?


Some infections can cause serious illness, permanent damage, and even death.

  • Some STIs can make you sterile (unable to have a baby) or have difficulty becoming pregnant.
  • STIs can cause a lot of pain, especially in women.
  • Unless treated, you will continue to spread it to your partners.
  • STIs can lead to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), arthritis, nerve damage and heart disease.
  • Some STIs can cause serious health problems in unborn/newborn babies.

What about pregnancy?


If you are pregnant and have an STI:

  • You can pass it on to your baby. See a doctor and ask for a complete STI check-up.
  • Women with an active outbreak of herpes around the sex organs during delivery risk having a baby with serious health problems.
  • Women with syphilis during pregnancy also risk having a baby with serious birth defects.
  • Women with HIV infection require specialized medical care during pregnancy to decrease the risk of passing the infection to their baby.

Symptoms and when do they appear?


Some symptoms show up 2-10 days after you have had sex with an infected person. Others may not show up for months. Many people with an STI have no symptoms.

Symptoms to look for:

  • Sores or unusual rash
  • Itching or irritation of vagina or penis
  • Discharge from the vagina or penis
  • Strong smell from the vagina
  • Unusual vaginal bleeding
  • Burning sensation when you urinate
  • Pain in the lower back or abdomen
  • High temperature or flu-like symptoms

Even if these symptoms go away, something may be wrong. If you think you are symptomatic of an STI, seek medical attention right away. See your doctor or go to your nearest STI clinic, walk-in clinic, or Emergency Department.

Testing for an STI


If you have more than one sex partner, visit a healthcare professional or STI clinic at least every 6 months for testing. If you have many sex partners, get checked out more often. If you have an STI tell your partner right away.

If you have an STI

  • See your doctor, or visit an STI clinic. It is confidential, and free medication may be available.
  • Take all the medicine you are given exactly as prescribed.
  • Do not have sex with anyone until you are cured. This may take a week or more.
  • Tell recent sex partners they may have an STI. They should go to a doctor or STI clinic.
  • If you prefer, a Public Health Nurse will contact your sex partners for you. Your name will remain private and confidential.

Talking with your partner


Choose a quiet time and place. Be direct. Tell them what you know and urge them to visit a doctor or STI clinic. Don't be afraid. STIs are just infections.

Prevention

  • Do not have sex with someone who has signs of an STI.
  • Always use condoms. Especially if you are having sex with many people.
  • Urinating (peeing) after sex and washing your sex organs with soap and water may help prevent STIs.
  • Talk about STIs with your sex partners. Be honest. Be careful. Be considerate.
  • Know your partner(s) name, address and phone number.
  • Have complete STI check-ups every 6-12 months. Note: Testing for HPV and herpes is not included in routine screening for STIs.
  • Having all partners tested for STIs before having sexual contact with them will minimize your chance of getting an STI.
  • Know your body. Knowing what is normal can help spot the first signs of an STI.
  • People who are infected with STIs may not show signs. A condom, or not having sex, is the best protection. Abstinence is the only 100% way of avoiding an STI.

For free, confidential information on sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS, and where to go for testing or treatment, call Lambton Public Health, 519-383-8331 ext. 3547 or toll free 1-800-667-1839.

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