Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

What is an STI?

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are infections passed from one person (who has one or more STIs) to another person during sexual contact. This can include oral, vaginal or anal contact. 

Groups of STIs

STIs can be divided into two groups, Group A and Group B.

Group A STIs can be treated and cured. However, you will not have an immunity and may be reinfected if you are exposed again.

Group B STIs are viral, which means that although we can treat you for the symptoms, you cannot be cured of them with medication.

Common STIs, their symptoms and treatments

Chlamydia

Other names None
Group A or Group B? Group A
How do you get it or pass it on? Sexual contact
Male/Female/Both Both
Symptoms
  • Often asymptomatic (no symptoms)
  • Discharge
  • Pain when urinating (weeing)
  • Pelvic pain
  • Pain during sex
Outcomes if untreated
  • Can lead to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
  • Can lead to infertility in women
Treatment Antibiotics
Who needs treatment? Sexual partners
Other information Most common STI in Australia

Non-Specific Urethritis

Other names NSU
Group A or Group B? Group A
How do you get it or pass it on?
  • Sexual contact
  • Sometimes non-sexual contact
Male/Female/Both Male
Symptoms
  • Can be very mild so may be hard to notice
  • Discharge
  • Pain when urinating (weeing)
  • Pelvic pain
  • Pain during sex
Outcomes if untreated
  • Can spread to prostate or testes
  • Can lead to infertility in extreme cases
Treatment Antibiotics
Who needs treatment? Sexual partners

Gonorrhoea

Other names

The Clap

Group A or Group B?

Group A
How do you get it or pass it on?

Sexual contact

Male/Female/Both

Both
Symptoms
  • Often asymptomatic (no symptoms)
  • Discharge males and females
  • Pain when urinating (weeing) in males
  • Pelvic pain in females
  • Abnormal bleeding in females

Outcomes if untreated

  • Can lead to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
  • Can lead to infertility

Treatment

Antibiotics

Who needs treatment?

Sexual partners

Trichomoniasis

Other names Trike, Trich, TV
Group A or Group B? Group A
How do you get it or pass it on? Sexual contact
Male/Female/Both Both
Symptoms

Females:

  • 50% are asymptomatic (no symptoms)
  • Some may experience smelly discharge

Males:

  • Most are asymptomatic (no symptoms)
  • A few may experience discharge
Outcomes if untreated
  • Can increase risk of getting HIV (if you are exposed to HIV while you have trike)
  • Can lead to pregnancy complications (if women have trike during pregnancy)
Treatment Antibiotics
Who needs treatment? Sexual partners

Public lice

Other names Crabs
Group A or Group B? Group A
How do you get it or pass it on?
  • Sexual contact
  • Close personal contact
  • Sharing personal items like clothing, bedding and towels
Male/Female/Both Both
Symptoms Small grey/brown mites that attach to the base of public hair and cause itching
Outcomes if untreated Can cause skin infections
Treatment Foam, shampoo or cream available over the counter at pharmacies
Who needs treatment? Sexual partners and close personal contacts
Other information Can travel to other parts of the body like armpits and eyebrows/lashes

Syphilis

Other names Lues, The Pox
Group A or Group B? Group A
How do you get it or pass it on? Sexual contact
Male/Female/Both Both
Symptoms
  • Initially a painless sore which will heal.
  • Six weeks to six months later and coppery-red rash along with fever and feeling ill, which will also pass.
Outcomes if untreated If not treated in the early stages it will attack the internal organs: liver, lungs, heart and brain. Any damage to the body cannot be repaired.
Treatment Antibiotics
Who needs treatment? Sexual partners
Other information You can be infectious for the first two years of the disease

Genital herpes

Other names Herpes, Herps, The Gift that Keeps on Giving
Group A or Group B? Group B
How do you get it or pass it on? Skin to skin contact
Male/Female/Both Both
Symptoms
  • Can be asymptomatic (no symptoms)
  • May start as a tingling feeling then small painful blisters on and around your genitals appear, dry and then heal
  • Further outbreaks may occur over time and usually happen when you are sick or under stress
Outcomes if untreated Herpes is uncomfortable and often causes embarrassment, but the worst outcome from remaining undiagnosed and untreated is that you will continue to pass it on to others.
Treatment Anti-viral medication
Who needs treatment? Sexual partners
Other information
  • You are infectious even when you don’t have blisters or sores
  • Condoms and other barrier protections do not always protect against herpes
  • It is caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus

Genital warts

Other names HPV
Group A or Group B? Group B
How do you get it or pass it on? Skin to skin contact
Male/Female/Both Both, although progression to cervical cancer only occurs in people with a cervix (women)
Symptoms
  • Can be asymptomatic (no symptoms)
  • Small bumps on the penis or vulva, or may be in the vagina or anus
  • Bumps can be flat, or cauliflower-like
  • Usually painless but may cause discomfort
  • Further outbreaks may occur over time and usually happen when you are sick or under stress
Outcomes if untreated
  • Genital warts can cause discomfort and embarrassment.
  • If left untreated some types of HPV can cause changes to the cervix (in people who have a cervix) and may result in cancer. This type of HPV does not cause visible warts so regular Cervical Screening Tests are very important
Treatment Freezing with dry ice, painting with medications, surgical removal
Who needs treatment? Sexual partners
Other information
  • You are infectious even when you don’t have visible warts or bumps
  • Condoms and other barrier protections do not always protect against genital warts
  • It is caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)

Other names The Virus
Group A or Group B? Group B
How do you get it or pass it on? Bodily fluids (saliva, blood, semen) via sex, sharing of needles, and other behaviour where fluid from one person’s body can enter the other person’s body.
Male/Female/Both Both
Symptoms
  • May cause a flu-like illness
  • Often asymptomatic for some time before displaying symptoms
Outcomes if untreated Left untreated, HIV will progress to AIDS
Treatment Antiretroviral HIV medication can help to prevent or slow the progress of HIV into AIDS, and can help people with HIV to live longer and healthier lives. There is no cure for HIV.
Who needs treatment? Anyone who has been exposed to fluids from the infected person’s body should be tested for HIV

AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome)

Other names The Virus
Group A or Group B? Group B
How do you get it or pass it on? Bodily fluids (saliva, blood, semen) via sex, sharing of needles, and other behaviour where fluid from one person’s body can enter the other person’s body.
Male/Female/Both Both
Symptoms
  • May cause a flu-like illness and leaves the body open to attack from illness.
  • Often asymptomatic for some time before displaying symptoms of HIV which may progress to AIDS
Outcomes if untreated Left untreated, AIDS can be fatal
Treatment Antiretroviral medication can help to prevent or slow the progress of AIDS, and can help people with AIDS to live longer and healthier lives. There is no cure for AIDS.
Who needs treatment? Anyone who has been exposed to fluids from the infected person’s body should be tested for HIV
Other information AIDS is a word referring to a number of different illnesses and diseases that can attack the body.

Hepatitis A

Other names Hep A
Group A or Group B? Group B
How do you get it or pass it on? Contaminated food, water or faeces (poop) from an infected person, or through anal sex.
Male/Female/Both Both, although men who have sex with men, injecting drug users, or people living with an infected person are at higher risk.
Symptoms

Can be asymptomatic (no symptoms), especially in children.

Symptoms include:

  • fever
  • nausea
  • pain in the stomach area
  • dark urine
  • jaundice (yellow skin and eyes).
Outcomes if untreated

Left untreated, Hepatitis A can cause symptoms which make you so unwell that it is difficult or impossible for you to continue living life as normal.

It can sometimes cause liver failure which can be fatal.

Treatment
  • There is no specific treatment and with medical support your body should heal from Hep A within 6 months. 
  • In extreme cases which progress to liver failure, a liver transplant is your only chance for survival.
Who needs treatment? Sexual partners and close contacts should be tested
Other information A vaccination is available

Hepatitis B

Other names Hep B
Group A or Group B? Group B
How do you get it or pass it on? Bodily fluids (saliva, blood, semen) via sex, sharing of needles, and other behaviour where fluid from one person’s body can enter the other person’s body (eg sharing razors or toothbrushes, getting tattooed with infected equipment).
Male/Female/Both Both, although men who have sex with men, injecting drug users, people with tattoos, or people living with an infected person are at higher risk.
Symptoms

Symptoms include:

  • loss of appetite
  • fatigue
  • nausea and vomiting
  • rashes
  • pain in the right-hand side of the stomach area
  • fever
  • sore joints
  • jaundice (yellow skin and eyes)
Outcomes if untreated Left untreated, Hepatitis B can make you more at risk of liver cancer or liver failure.
Treatment
  • Most people will recover within 6 months with rest and medical support. Some will require medication to assist recovery.
  • More intensive treatment will be required in cases which lead to liver cancer or liver failure.
Who needs treatment? Sexual partners and close contacts should be tested
Other information
  • Hep B is carried by 2% of Australians
  • A vaccination is available

Hepatitis C

Other names Hep C
Group A or Group B? Group B
How do you get it or pass it on? Blood transmission through medical procedures, non-sterile tattooing and piercing equipment, sharing of needles or razors, sex where blood is involved, and other behaviours where exposure to even small amounts of infected blood occurs.
Male/Female/Both Both
Symptoms

Symptoms include:

  • Bleeding easily
  • Bruising easily
  • Fatigue
  • Poor appetite
  • Yellow discoloration of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Itchy skin
  • Fluid buildup in your abdomen
  • Swelling in your legs
  • Weight loss
  • Confusion, drowsiness and slurred speech
  • Spiderlike blood vessels on your skin
Outcomes if untreated Hepatitis C is a major cause of cirrhosis of the liver, or liver cancer
Treatment Some infected people may get better on their own, but most cases will require treatment. Antiviral medications can cure more than 95% of cases
Who needs treatment? Sexual partners, close contacts, and other contacts at risk (eg patients at same medical facility where transmission occurred, people tattooed at the same studio etc) should be tested
Other information No vaccination is available yet.

Preventing STIs

Prevention of STIs varies depending on the STI, but some general rules may help to reduce your risk of getting or sharing an STI:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before and after using the toilet, and before and after eating
  • Practice safer sex (use barrier protection types of contraception)
  • Know your body and what is normal for you. Inspect sexual partners for signs of infection before sexual contact
  • Do not share any items which are exposed to bodily fluids (cutlery, toothbrushes, razors, tattooing or piercing equipment or jewellery, needles)
  • Do not share fabric items such as towels, underwear or bedding
  • Only go to reputable venues for cosmetic and medical procedures
  • Keep surfaces clean from food, waste, and bodily fluids
  • Get tested regularly

STI testing

Because many STIs show no symptoms, or have symptoms which can show up a long time after contracting (getting) the infection, it is really important for you and your partner/s to have regular STI testing.

Family Planning Tasmania can assess and test for some STIs, and can provide referrals for other types of testing like blood tests if required.

Book an appointment with one of our friendly doctors for an STI check today.

STI Info Booklet

This handy A5 booklet provides detailed information about the different sexually transmitted infections, and provides advice:

STIs A5 Info Booklet

This content is provided for general information and education purposes only and does not take into account individual circumstances. It is not to be relied on in substitution for specific advice from a medical professional and Family Planning Tasmania does not accept responsibility for such use. Family Planning Tasmania has taken every effort to ensure that the information is up to date and accurate, however information and knowledge is subject to change. Family Planning Tasmania advises that you always consult a medical professional for individual advice.

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