Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are one of the most common infections worldwide. More than 1 million STIs are acquired every day (WHO 2019). This means at least 1 in 4 people have an STI. Many of whom are not even aware they are infected! STIs have long lasting and impactful repercussions on sexual and reproductive health. That is why this health issue needs to be addressed with the proper information for both prevention and treatment.
How Can I Get an STI?
STIs can be transmitted via vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Yes – oral Sex is not safe sex! Penetration does not need to occur for the transmission of an STI. Gonorrhea and Herpes are both commonly transmitted through oral sex. Some STIs, like Herpes and HPV, can also be spread through skin-to-skin contact from outercourse. Not everyone even knows they have an STI which is why every type of sexual act requires some form of prevention to help reduce transmission.
Symptoms of STIs
One of the biggest problems with STIs is that many of them are asymptomatic. This means that you can be a carrier yet do not exhibit any symptoms. This leads to people spreading STIs unknowingly! There are many different symptoms of STIs:
- Vaginal discharge
- Genital warts
- Itching or burning
- Painful urination
- Discharge from the penis
- Pain during intercourse
- Abdominal Pain
Getting tested is the best way to ensure you are not an asymptomatic carrier of one of the over 25 types of STIs.
The Stigma of STIs
Sadly, many people are too embarrassed to discuss their sexual health with their partners. This leads to the lack of proper prevention to reduce the transmission of STIs. The fear of being viewed as promiscuous, religious, or cultural stigma, can all create situations where the conversation is left unspoken. We need to educate people and get the conversation going surrounding sexual health if we want to see the STI epidemic lessen.
Are STIs Curable?
Many STIs are curable, specifically bacterial STIs. Bacterial STIs include chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. They can all be treated with medications. Viral STIs, such as HIV, Herpes, and HPV, are not curable but are treatable. Testing is a very important component of the treatment process. If someone has an STI that goes untreated for too long, it’s possible the STI can cause negative health outcomes like infertility and sometimes even death. STIs are not something to mess around with. They can be passed via semen, blood or vaginal or other bodily fluids. STIs can also be transmitted in a non-sexual manner such as shared needles or from mother to child during childbirth.
Testing for STIs is easy! Testing is the only way to know if you have an STI for sure. Testing is available at Public Health Units, through your family doctor, Birth Control Offices, and even online. It is a simple urine test or pinprick on a finger no different than testing one’s blood sugars.
Testing should be done every time you have one of the following situations:
- A new sexual partner(s).
- You or your partners have other sexual partners.
- If there are any changes in your body that could indicate an STI.
- You had oral sex without using a barrier.
- You had sex with someone who has an STI.
- Either you had sex without a condom or the condom broke.
- It is important to get tested regularly to ensure you stay sexually healthy!
There are many ways to help in the prevention of STIs. The only sure way is abstinence, but since that is not always reality, we need to educate people in the other methods of prevention:
- Educate yourself before you have sex.
- Use a condom every time you have vaginal or anal sex.
- Use an oral barrier every time for oral/vaginal or oral/anal sex.
- Don’t mix drugs and alcohol with sex. It can impede your decision-making ability.
- Get tested regularly to ensure you are not infected.
- Talk to your sexual partners about prevention.
Prevention is in your control if you educate yourself and implement healthy sexual wellness practices.