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5 STIs you need to know about

Friday, April 26, 2019

National News

You could be sharing more than the love!

More than 30 different bacteria, viruses and parasites can be spread through sexual contact.  Some are more common than others, but they are mainly all spread the same way; by unprotected vaginal, oral or anal sex or skin on skin contact with someone.

April is sexually transmissible infection awareness month – it’s your chance to learn some more about some of these STIs, how you can catch them and what you can do to keep yourself safe.

Remember:

  • Anyone is at risk of contracting an STI if they have had unprotected sex
  • Many STIs can spread from mother to baby
  • You can’t tell by looking, many STIs have no signs or symptoms.  

Here are five common STIs in New Zealand that you need to know about.

Chlamydia

The most commonly diagnosed STI in New Zealand is Chlamydia. Most people with Chlamydia do not develop any symptoms, which is why it is so easily spread. If you do have symptoms, they can include discharge, pain while urinating, and bleeding between periods. The infection can be passed on through unprotected vaginal, anal and oral sex.

Why should you get tested and treated? Left untreated, Chlamydia can cause serious long-term health effects, such as infertility and pain, so it is important to get tested and treated with antibiotics as soon as possible.

HPV

The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common STI in the world, and will infect most sexually-active people at some point in their lives. There are many different types of HPV; some with no symptoms, while others can cause genital warts or changes to cells. For most people HPV will go away on its own, though there is no way of knowing for sure if it is completely gone. The only way to diagnose HPV is if genital warts are present or if you get an abnormal cervical smear result. A vaccine is available for nine types of the virus. Bonus, the vaccination is free for New Zealanders aged between 16 and 26.

Why should you get tested and treated and/or vaccinated? Cell changes caused by HPV can lead to cancer, such as cancer of the cervix, vulva, penis, anus or throat. Warts can be removed.  

Genital herpes

Genital herpes is an infection of the genitals caused by the herpes simplex virus. One in three adults are believed to carry the herpes simplex virus and it is particularly contagious when symptoms are present. Some people experience no symptoms at all, while others will get blisters, ulcers and sores. The infection is passed on through skin-to-skin contact, and while condoms offer good protection from contracting the infection, any skin-to-skin contact with sores can lead to infection.

Why should you get tested and treated? While the virus is incurable, anti-herpes medication can shorten the attack of herpes and some medication can prevent recurrences.

Gonorrhoea

Gonorrhoea is a bacterial infection that can infect the genitals, throat or rectum. It is another STI you can have without having any symptoms. If you do have symptoms, they can include a burning sensation while urinating, increased discharge, pain in the testicles and bleeding between periods.

Why should you get test and treated? Without treatment, gonorrhoea can cause long-term pain and infertility. The infection can be treated with two antibiotics together. As there are many drug-resistant strains of gonorrhoea it is important to take the treatment exactly as the nurse or doctor says.

Syphilis

Syphilis is a bacterial STI that is on the rise in New Zealand. Early symptoms usually include a firm, round, painless ulcer called a chancre at the site of the infection. The chancre will go away on its own after three to six weeks, but if the infection has not been treated it will progress to the secondary stage, causing a rash or other symptom.

Why should you get tested and treated? Untreated, syphilis can stay in the body for years and can cause damage to the heart, brain and spinal cord. Syphilis can be treated with antibiotics.

The best way to avoid getting an STI during sexual activity is to use a condom or internal condom when having sex. If you have had unprotected sex and believe you may have an STI, you should get tested as soon as possible. The sooner you get treated the better, to stop spreading it further and to avoid any possible long-term effects.

 

Family Planning has clinics located throughout New Zealand. Use the clinic finder to find your nearest clinic.

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