Sexual health is deeply stigmatised in our country and there’s a lot of hush-hush around conversations about sexually transmitted infections (STIs). This article covers everything you need to know about STIs, and informs you about the best sexual health practices to ensure the safety of you and your partner(s).
What are STIs?
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are primarily transmitted through unprotected sexual contact. Some STIs can also spread during pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding, as well as through contaminated blood or surgical products.
STIs have a significant impact on your health. They can have grave ramifications if left untreated, including neurological and cardiovascular disease, infertility, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirths, and a heightened incidence of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). They are also highly stigmatised, which adversely influences your quality of life.
What are some common STIs?
The following are the most frequently occurring sexually transmitted diseases:
- Chlamydia: Primarily prevalent among the younger population, this infection is caused by the bacteria chlamydia trachomatis. Chlamydia can infect a vagina-owner's cervix, rectum, or throat and infect penis-owners in their throat, rectum, or urethra (inside the penis). Typically, chlamydia does not manifest any symptoms. As a result, you might be unaware if you have it.
- HIV: Human Immunodeficiency Virus is a virus that destroys particular immune system cells, which aids in maintaining health by protecting individuals from sickness. HIV can severely harm your immune system and can even be fatal.
The most common method of HIV transmission is unprotected intercourse. Using condoms and dental dams every time you have sex and not sharing needles will help keep you and your partners HIV-free. You cannot contract HIV via kissing, sharing food or beverages, or using the same fork or spoon since saliva is not how HIV is transmitted. Additionally, HIV cannot be passed through hugging, holding hands, coughing, or sneezing. Plus, unlike common misconceptions, public toilet seats do not spread HIV.
- Syphilis: There are three stages to this bacterial illness, which affects numerous non-genital parts of the body. It frequently begins with sores near the groyne known as chancres, which can contaminate the tongue and lips.
As the illness worsens, a patient might expect reddish-brown rashes on nearly every part of their body, as well as soreness, aching, fever, exhaustion, and enlarged lymph nodes. Syphilis, if left untreated, can cause tissue damage years after the first infection, leading to dementia, blindness, and paralysis.
- Gonorrhoea: As with chlamydia and syphilis, gonorrhoea can cause painful and pus-like discharge in addition to difficult urination, pelvic discomfort, and bleeding between periods. The testicles may also enlarge as a result.
Gonorrhoea can also damage the rectum, eyes, throat, and joints. If untreated, it can increase the chance of developing HIV/AIDS, lead to infertility, complicate childbirth, and harm the unborn offspring of infected moms.
Symptoms of STI
Most STIs do not have any symptoms, and if they do, these are are most likely to show up:
- An abnormal discharge from your vagina, penis, or anus
- Discomfort while urinating
- Lumps or skin growths around the genitals or anus
- Rashes, itching, or blisters in the genital or anal region
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding
- Warts in the mouth/throat (although this is rare)
Getting tested for STIs
Most of the time, people with STIs don't have any symptoms, so it's impossible to know if you have one based on how you feel or look. Therefore, getting tested is the only definitive way to determine if you (or your partner) have an STI.
STIs should be diagnosed ASAP. Even though you might feel completely normal and want to delay getting tested because of that, some STIs can eventually lead to significant harm if left unattended. Regardless of whether you show any symptoms, they can still spread to other persons you have intercourse with. Therefore, getting treated early on is crucial.
Getting tested for STIs can be pretty daunting, but your mind will be at ease once the procedure is complete. Additionally, taking care of your sexual health is as important as any other part of your body! Our healthcare experts are here to make your experience easy and comfortable. Book a consultation with our non-judgemental doctors today to get all your queries about STIs cleared!
Ways to prevent STIs
Anyone who has indulged in sexual intercourse is at risk of getting an STI, but certain healthy practices can reduce the risk.
- Condoms: Condoms act as a barrier during penetrative sex, preventing unwanted pregnancy and infection. Condoms can offer STI protection when used correctly and regularly. It is important to note that condoms should be used during oral and anal sex, not just vaginal intercourse.
- Keep your intimate area clean: It is essential to wash your intimate areas well and keep them dry to safeguard yourself against any infection. However, it is recommended not to use soap or an intimate wash to clean your pubic area. Simply washing it with lukewarm water gets the job done!
A word from us
Living with an STI is challenging, and being at risk can be scary, but you must remember that it does not define who you are. Our community CancelStigma has got your back in this tumultuous journey. Join our non-judgmental, welcoming space to share your experiences, rant and seek community support!