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Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI’s)

Common Symptoms

It’s possible to contract an STI without developing symptoms. But some STIs cause obvious symptoms. Common symptoms in men and women include:

  • pain or discomfort during sex or urination
  • sores, bumps, or rashes on or around the penis, testicles, anus, buttocks, thighs, or mouth
  • unusual discharge or bleeding from the penis / vagina
  • itchiness in or around the vagina
  • painful or swollen testicles

The Usual Suspects

Many different types of infections can be transmitted sexually. The most commonly diagnosed STI’s are described below.

Chlamydia  | Bacterial Infection | Treated with Antibiotics


Many people with chlamydia have no noticeable symptoms. When symptoms do develop, they often include:

  • pain or discomfort during sex or urination
  • green or yellow discharge from the penis or vagina
  • pain in the lower abdomen
If not treated chlamydia can lead to:
  • infections of the urethra, prostate gland, or testicles
  • pelvic inflammatory disease
  • infertility
  • If a pregnant woman has untreated chlamydia, she can pass it to her baby during birth. The baby may develop:
    • pneumonia
    • eye infections
    • blindness


HPV (human papillomavirus) | Viral Infection | No Cure

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a virus that can be passed from one person to another through intimate skin-to-skin or sexual contact. There are many different strains of the virus. Some are more dangerous than others.

There’s no cure for HPV. However, HPV infections often clear up on their own. There’s also a vaccine available to protect against some of the most dangerous strains, including HPV 16 and HPV 18 which are known to be associated with causing cancers.


The most common symptom of HPV is warts on the genitals, mouth, or throat.

HPV can lead to:

Some strains of HPV infection can lead to cancer, including:

  • oral cancer
  • cervical cancer
  • vulvar cancer
  • penile cancer
  • rectal cancer

If you contract HPV, proper testing and screenings can help your doctor assess and manage your risk of complications.

Syphilis | Bacterial Infection | Treated with Antibiotics


Syphilis often goes unnoticed in its early stages. The first symptom to appear is a small round sore, known as a chancre. It can develop on your genitals, anus, or mouth. It’s painless but very infectious.

Later symptoms of syphilis can include:

  • rash
  • fatigue
  • fever
  • headaches
  • joint pain
  • weight loss
  • hair loss
If not treated late-stage syphilis can lead to:
  • loss of vision
  • loss of hearing
  • loss of memory
  • mental illness
  • infections of the brain or spinal cord
  • heart disease
  • death
  • infection in a newborn can be fatal

The earlier syphilis is diagnosed and treated, the less damage it does.


HIV | Viral Infection | No Cure

HIV can damage the immune system and raise the risk of contracting other viruses or bacteria and developing certain cancers. If left untreated, it can lead to stage 3 HIV, known as AIDS. But with today’s treatment, many people living with HIV don’t ever develop AIDS.


In the early or acute stages, it’s easy to mistake the symptoms of HIV with those of the flu. For example, the early symptoms can include:

  • fever
  • chills
  • aches and pains
  • swollen lymph nodes
  • sore throat
  • headache
  • nausea
  • rashes

These initial symptoms typically clear within a month or so. From that point onward, a person can carry HIV without developing serious or persistent symptoms for many years.

While there is no cure, treatment options are available to manage HIV. Early and effective treatment can help people with HIV live as long as those without HIV, and also lower a person’s chances of transmitting HIV to a sexual partner. Its advisable to be tested for HIV once a year, even if you are low risk.


Gonorrhea | Bacterial | Treaded with Antibiotics

Gonorrhea is also known as “the clap.”


Many people with gonorrhea develop no symptoms. When they do develop they include:

  • a white, yellow, beige, or green-coloured discharge from the penis or vagina
  • pain or discomfort during sex or urination
  • more frequent urination than usual
  • itching around the genitals
  • sore throat
If not treated gonorrhea can lead to:
  • infections of the urethra, prostate gland, or testicles
  • pelvic inflammatory disease
  • infertility

It’s possible for a mother to pass gonorrhea to a newborn during childbirth. When that happens, gonorrhea can cause serious health problems in the baby. That’s why many doctors encourage pregnant women to get tested and treated for potential STDs.


Trichomoniasis | Infection by an Organism | Treated with Antibiotics

Trichomoniasis is  caused by a tiny protozoan organism that can be passed from one person to another through genital contact.


Less than one-third of people will develop symptoms. When symptoms do develop, they may include:

  • discharge from the vagina or penis
  • burning or itching around the vagina or penis
  • pain or discomfort during urination or sex
  • frequent urination
  • In women, discharge often has an unpleasant or “fishy” smell.
If left untreated, trichomoniasis can lead to:
  • infections of the urethra
  • pelvic inflammatory disease
  • infertility


Herpes | Viral Infection | No Cure

Herpes is the shortened name for the herpes simplex virus (HSV). There are two main strains of the virus, HSV-1 and HSV-2. Both can be transmitted sexually.

HSV-1 primarily causes oral herpes, which is responsible for cold sores. However, HSV-1 can also be passed from one person’s mouth to another person’s genitals during oral sex. When this happens, HSV-1 can cause genital herpes.

HSV-2 primarily causes genital herpes.


The most common symptom of herpes is blistery sores. In the case of genital herpes, these sores develop on or around the genitals. In oral herpes, they develop on or around the mouth.

Herpes sores generally crust over and heal within a few weeks. The first outbreak is usually the most painful. Outbreaks typically become less painful and frequent over time.

If a pregnant woman has herpes, she can potentially pass it to her foetus in the womb or to her newborn infant during childbirth. This can be very dangerous to newborns.

There’s no cure for herpes yet. But medications are available to help control outbreaks and alleviate the pain of herpes sores. The same medications can also lower your chances of passing herpes to your sexual partner.


Preventing STI’s

Effective STI prevention begins before any sexual activity. Here are some steps you can take to reduce your STI risk:

  • Talk honestly with potential partners about both of your sexual histories.
  • Get tested, along with your partner, before having sex.
  • Avoid sexual contact when under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Get vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV), hepatitis A, and hepatitis B (HBV).
  • Use barrier methods (condoms) every time you engage in sexual activity.

Condoms are generally effective at preventing STI’s that spread through fluids, such as semen or blood. But they can’t fully protect against STI’s that pass from skin-to-skin. If a condom doesn’t cover the area of skin with the infection, a person can still contract an STI or pass it to their partner.

Having a conversation about sexual health with your partner is key, but not everyone with an STI knows they have one. That’s why it’s so important to get tested.

If you or your partner has an STI diagnosis, talk about it. That way you can both make informed decisions.


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