Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are very serious. There are several sexually transmitted infections, with these being the most important and common:
- HIV – Human Immunodeficiency Virus is spread through vaginal sex, anal sex, , from mother to child during labour, via breast milk and via blood. It causes a weakened immune system and leads to AIDS, which is ultimately fatal. HIV is incurable (life expectancy is about 10 years without treatment) but it can be managed & controlled (life expectancy is measured in decades on treatment) so the key is to know your status and get onto treatment if needed.
- Syphillis causes a wide range of symptoms, initially affecting only the genitals (sores, discharge) but later affecting many parts of the body. Syphillis can be treated with penicillin.
- Gonorrhoea causes discharge and pain initially but can cause more widespread symptoms later. Gonorrhoea can be treated with antibiotics.
- Chlamydia cause few symptoms usually but can cause pain and infertility later. It can be treated with antibiotics.
- Herpes causes warts or blisters that may be painful, but often causes no symptoms or is not noticed. Herpes cannot be treated and becomes a life-long infection characterised by repeating episodes/flare-ups.
- HPV – Human Papilloma Virus actually infects most sexually active adults. It causes very few if any symptoms but is a key risk factor for the development of cancer of the cervix in women. There is an effective vaccine (must be given to virgin females) but no cure – women should have regular PAP smear screening tests to detect any early pre-cancerous signs that can almost always be treated.
All of these infections can be avoided by using condoms, always and correctly. Condoms, used correctly, offer 80-90% protection.