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Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are infections that are spread primarily through person-to-person sexual contact such as vaginal intercourse, oral and anal sex. There are more than 30 different sexually transmissible bacteria, viruses and parasites.
SYPHILIS How do people get syphilis? Direct contact with a syphilis sore. Sores occur mainly on the external genitals, vagina, anus, or in the rectum. Sores also can occur on the lips and in the mouth. Transmission of the organism occurs during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Pregnant women with the disease can pass it to the babies they are carrying. Syphilis cannot be spread through contact with toilet seats, doorknobs, swimming pools, hot tubs, bathtubs, shared clothing, or eating utensils.
Syphilis Syphilis progresses in stages and can damage many parts of the body. Signs and symptoms Primary Stage: - The primary stage of syphilis is usually marked by the appearance of a single sore (called a chancre).
The chancre is usually firm, round, small, and painless. It appears at the spot where syphilis entered the body.
The chancre lasts 3 to 6 weeks, and it heals without treatment. However, if adequate treatment is not administered, the infection progresses to the secondary stage.
Secondary stage: Skin rash and mucous membrane lesions characterize the secondary stage. This stage typically starts with the development of a rash on one or more areas of the body. The rash usually does not cause itching. Rashes associated with secondary syphilis can appear as the chancre is healing or several weeks after the chancre has healed. In addition to rashes, symptoms of secondary syphilis may include: Fever sore throat patchy hair loss Headaches weight loss muscle aches fatigue. The signs and symptoms of secondary syphilis will resolve with or without treatment, but without treatment, the infection will progress to the latent and possibly late stages of disease.
Late and Latent Stages Without treatment, the infected person will continue to have syphilis even though there are no signs or symptoms; infection remains in the body.
This latent stage can last for years.
In the late stages of syphilis, the disease may subsequently damage the internal organs, including the brain, nerves, eyes, heart, blood vessels, liver, bones, and joints.
Signs and symptoms of the late stage of syphilis include difficulty coordinating muscle movements, paralysis, numbness, gradual blindness, and dementia. This damage may be serious enough to cause death.
How is syphilis diagnosed? Examining material from a chancre (infectious sore) using a special microscope called a dark-field microscope. A blood test is another way to determine whether someone has syphilis.
What is the treatment for syphilis? A single intramuscular injection of penicillin, an antibiotic, will cure a person who has had syphilis for less than a year. Additional doses are needed to treat someone who has had syphilis for longer than a year. Persons who receive syphilis treatment must abstain from sexual contact with new partners until the syphilis sores are completely healed. Persons with syphilis must notify their sex partners so that they also can be tested and receive treatment if necessary.
GONORRHOEA Gonorrhoea (also known as 'the clap') is a common sexually transmitted bacterial infection. It can affect the penis, cervix (inside the vagina), anus, throat or eyes.
How do you catch it? Gonorrhoea is transmitted through unprotected sex (sex without a condom). This can be vaginal, anal or oral sex. A pregnant woman with gonorrhoea can also pass it onto her baby during birth.
Symptoms If symptoms show, they appear within 2-7 days after contact, and can include: an unusual discharge from your vagina (sometimes yellow or bloody) an itchy, swollen or red vagina pain in your stomach pain during sex pain when you urinate Men can have a discharge from the penis that is thick, white and yellow, burning pain when they urinate, and swollen testicles. Both men and women can get a gonorrhoeal infection in their anus, and their symptoms might include: discharge an itchy bum soreness bleeding Gonorrhoea can infect your throat too, via oral sex. It might give you a sore throat, but sometimes there are no symptoms.
women The doctor or nurse will take a sample from the cervix. This means they take some tissue from inside your vagina with a long cotton bud, and send it to a lab to be looked at under a microscope. Men
The doctor will take a sample from the opening of the penis.
Your doctor or nurse can also examine a sample from your throat.
What happens in a gonorrhoea test?
How does the treatment work? Once you've started taking antibiotics, the infection will clear up in about seven days About a month later you'll need a check-up to make sure the infection is completely gone. All your partners over the last three months should also be contacted and treated. This is called 'contact tracing'. The doctor or nurse will give you a letter to give to all your partners so they can go to a doctor for treatment. After your treatment is finished, if you have unprotected sex with somebody that has the infection, you can catch gonorrhoea again.
CHLAMYDIA It's the most common STI amongst young people in Australia. It can affect the penis, cervix, fallopian tubes, anus, throat and - in rare cases - the eyes. Chlamydia can cause serious health problems such as pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility if it is not treated.
How do you get it? Chlamydia can be passed on through unprotected oral, vaginal or anal sex with an infected person. A pregnant woman can also pass it on to her baby during childbirth. Using condoms will protect you from Chlamydia.
SYMPTOMS: 75% of women infected with chlamydia show no symptoms at all, so you can pass it on without even knowing you have it. Symptoms for women include: vaginal discharge needing to urinate a lot burning when you urinate itchiness bleeding and/or deep pain during sex bleeding between periods painful periods high temperature stomach pain Men with chlamydia might notice: needing to urinate a lot burning when you urinate watery discharge from your penis burning and itching around the hole of your penis pain in your balls swelling of your balls
TREATMENT: Chlamydia can be easily treated with a course of antibiotic pills. After you've had the antibiotics you will need to do a follow-up test to check that the infection is really gone.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) HIV is a type of virus called a retrovirus It incorporates itself into the genetic material of cells called 'CD4 white blood cells', which are part of the immune system. This process is called 'reverse transcription', and it enables HIV to replicate. This leads to destruction of the CD4 cells and damages the immune system.
How is HIV transmitted? Unprotected sexual contact or sharing drug injecting equipment are the most common causes of HIV transmission. Sexual contact that may transmit HIV includes vaginal and anal sex, and with lower associated risk, oral sex. In a some cases, HIV can be transmitted from pregnant mother to child. This is called ‘vertical transmission’. The risk of vertical transmission can be reduced if the mother uses anti-HIV drugs during pregnancy and delivery. In Australia breast feeding is not recommended for mothers infected with HIV because of the risk of HIV being transmitted through breast milk. Healthcare workers and emergency personnel are at low risk of acquiring HIV from workplace exposure to HIV (for example by needlestick injury). A drug treatment regime called Post Exposure Prophylaxis (‘PEP’) has been shown to be effective in preventing seroconversion to HIV in these circumstances. Blood products have been screened for HIV in Australia since 1985 and receiving transfusions of blood products is considered safe. There is no evidence of transmission of HIV through ordinary social contact. HIV is not transmitted through sharing of plates, cups, cutlery, swimming pools or toilets, kissing, coughing, sneezing or spitting . The necessary conditions for HIV transmission (see below) are not present in these situations.
Stages of HIV infection Seroconversion and primary illness People experience ‘Seroconversion’ illness between two and six weeks after becoming infected. The symptoms of this illness include
Asymptomatic HIV infection Following seroconversion there may be a period of months or years during which HIV infection damages the immune system but does not manifest in outward signs or symptoms. Some people may experience a persistent swelling in the lymph nodes. During this time there is a constant battle taking place between the immune system and HIV.
Symptomatic HIV infection Indications of symptomatic HIV infection may include:
Late-Stage HIV Disease (equiVALENT TO AIDS) When immune system damage is more severe, HIV positive individuals may experience opportunistic infections (called "opportunistic" because they are caused by organisms which do not ordinarily induce illness in people with normal immune systems, but take the opportunity to flourish in people with compromised immune systems).
Testing and diagnosis of HIV HIV infection is detected by a blood test for HIV antibodies. Antibodies to HIV will not be detectable immediately after HIV infection, because it takes a while for measurable quantities of HIV antibodies to be produced by the immune system (up to three months).
Treating HIV Drug treatment for HIV is known as combined antiretroviral therapy (CAR) Drug treatment does not prevent transmission of the virus but starting treatment early can lead to better outcomes for many HIV-infected people. New drug treatmentsNew drugs and types of drugs are being developed all the time. Trials of these treatments are being conducted in specialist HIV/AIDS treatment and research centres. Alternative therapies include: Vitamin and mineral supplements Massage Meditation Herbal remedies Traditional Chinese Medicine Acupuncture.
HERPES SIMPLEX VIRUS Type 1 typically infects the mouth and face producing cold sores. Type 2 typically infects the genital area (genital herpes). However, due to oral sex, type 1 can infect the genital area and type 2 can infect around the mouth.
How is it caught? The virus is spread through direct contact with blisters/ ulcers, mucus or vaginal secretions. This includes vaginal, oral, anal sex or other intimate physical contact. NOTE: the virus can be passed on by an infected person displaying NO symptoms of the infection i.e. no ulcers or blisters at the time. Unfortunately, condoms only provides protection when covering or separating body parts infected with ulcers and blisters.
Short term effects: Itching and tingling in the genital area can cause discomfort. Cold sores around the mouth and on the face can be annoying, inconvenient and embarrassing. Typically clear up within 7 to 10 days.
Long term effects A person carries the virus their entire life. The frequency of outbreaks will vary from individual to individual.
How is it treated? There is NO cure for Herpes Bathing the sores in warm salt water can aid the healing process and reduce inflammation. Antiviral treatment is highly effective in decreasing the symptoms and preventing lapses. The doctor may do a viral swab to confirm the presence of the virus.
GENITAL WARTS The human papilloma wart virus belongs to a large family of viruses with 100 members. About 30 strains of these viruses tend to infect the genital areas, and may infect the vagina, penis, anus, cervix and the vulva. Some viruses never produce any symptoms at all and only show up in routine pap smears.
How is it caught? Usually HPV is passed on during sexual activity either by direct skin – on – skin contact, or through the exchange of body fluids from genital to genital (especially if there is any broken skin). HPV is invisible Using a condom will provide SOME protection from HPV, however a condom does not cover all the areas of the skin that may be infected. NOTE: the virus can also be passed on by an infected person displaying NO symptoms of the infection.
SYMPTOMS: Some people never have any symptoms at all. Usually don’t cause any discomfort, unless they rub against tight clothing. Some people feel mild irritation and need to scratch, or the warts may be in an inconvenient position and interfere with sexual activity.
How are they treated? Genital warts can be removed by a doctor. Can be frozen or treated with creams or chemical paints. Regular and frequent pap smears for women.
HEPATITIS B The term ‘hepatitis’ means inflammation of the liver. Hep B can be transmitted by: Unprotected sex Sharing needles and drug taking equipment Non sterile piercing or tattooing. A baby can become infected with the virus at birth from an infected mother. Never share personal items such as tooth brushes or razors as they can harbour the virus in infected blood.
SYMPTOMS Many people infected with Hepatitis B show no symptoms. Some experience shortly after contracting the infection: Loss of appetite Fever Tiredness Jaundice Painful joints Long term effects: Most people recover from Hepatitis B. Some people become chronic carriers (infectious for the rest of their lives). Long term effect can be scarring of the liver , poor liver function and even liver cancer.
How is Hep B treated? A vaccine is readily available which prevents people from contracting the disease. Prevention is better than a cure. If you do not know if you have had the vaccination, get a blood test at the doctors.
SYMPTOMS: Some people show no symptoms at first Others can experience flu-like symptoms Jaundice or a darkening of the urine Fatigue Testing for Hep C involves a blood test. A test can give a negative result for several months after infection, so a second follow up test needs to be done.
How is Hep C treated? Some Hep C strains are showing promising results with the use of anti-viral therapy. As hepatitis affects the function of the liver, alcohol should be avoided.
Trichomoniasis Trichomoniasisis a sexually transmitted infection caused by the parasite Trichomonasvaginalis – also referred as “trich”
Symptoms Women: Discomfort during intercourse Itching of the inner thighs Vaginal discharge (thin, greenish-yellow, frothy or foamy) Vaginal itching Vaginal odour (foul or strong smell) Men: Burning after urination or ejaculation Itching of urethra Slight discharge from urethra
CAUSES: Penis-to-vagina intercourse or vulva-to-vulva contact with an infected sex partner are the main ways of spreading trichomoniasis. Can also be spread through contact with damp objects (like swimming suits or towels) that have it on them.
TREATMENT: Antibiotics are taken to cure the infection. Avoid sexual intercourse until treatment has been completed. Sexual partners should be treated at the same time, even if they have no symptoms.
Signs and tests: In women: A pelvic examination shows red blotches on the vaginal wall or cervix. A wet prep (microscopic examination of discharge) shows the infection-causing organisms in vaginal fluids. A pap smear may also diagnose the condition. In men: The disease can be hard to diagnose in men. Men are treated if the infection is diagnosed in any of their sexual partners. Men may also be treated if they have ongoing symptoms of urethral burning or itching despite treatment for gonorrhoea and chlamydia.
PUBIC LICE They are small, six-legged creatures that infect the pubic hair area and lay eggs. These lice can also be found in armpit hair and eyebrows.
Causes: Usually spreads during sexual activity. Sometimes, pubic lice can spread through contact with objects such as toilet seats, sheets, blankets, or bathing suits at a store.
SYMPTOMS: Itching in the area covered by pubic hair. This itching may start soon after getting infected with lice, or it may not start for up to 2 to 4 weeks after contact. Skin reaction that is bluish-grey in colour Sores (lesions) in the genital area due to bites and scratching
TREATMENT It is important that all sexual contacts of that person be made aware of the situation and treated if necessary. Treatments for pubic lice are similar to those for head lice, and can be purchased from any pharmacy without a prescription. Careful mechanical removal of eggs will be required, as the lice apply cement like substances when gluing the eggs to the hair and they are difficult to remove. The infected person’s underwear and bed linen should be washed in hot water, followed by hot tumble drying to ensure all lice have been killed.
SCABIES Scabies is an itchy, highly contagious skin condition caused by an infestation by the itch mite Sarcoptesscabiei. Mites are small eight-legged parasites. They are tiny, just 1/3 millimeter long, and burrow into the skin to produce intense itching.
How can you get it? Direct skin-to-skin contact is the mode of transmission. They can only live off of a host body for 24-36 hours under most conditions. It is hard, if not impossible, to catch scabies by shaking hands or sharing pyjamas with someone with Scabies.
Signs and symptoms: Scabies produces a skin rash composed of small red bumps and blisters and affects specific areas of the body. Textbook descriptions of scabies always mention "burrows" or "tunnels." Scratching actually destroys burrows.
TREATING SCABIES: Scabies are treated with prescription scabicide drugs. There are no approved over-the-counter preparations that have been proved to be effective in eliminating scabies.