STIs

Sexually transmitted infections, also called STIs, are infections caught during sex. They are often referred to as sexually transmitted diseases or STDs. Some STIs are caused by bacteria, while others are caused by viruses. The most popular STIs include Clamydia, Gonorrhea, Vaginal mycoplasma, Genital herpes, also referred to as "herpes simplex virus" or "HSV", Hepatitis B, Syphilis, Trichomoniasis, Human immunodeficiency virus, also called "HIV" – This is the virus that causes AIDS. Many of these diseases can be spread through any type of sex. This involves not only vaginal or anal sex, but also oral sex and other forms of sex activity. HIV and hepatitis B can also be spread in other ways, such as being exposed to body fluids.

WHY IS STI SCREENING IMPORTANT?

The STI screening involves a series of tests used by doctors to figure out whether a person has any STIs. STIs also do not cause symptoms. People may have STIs, and they don't know. This is what makes screening so critical.

Doctors agree that patients who are at risk for STIs should be tested even though they have no signs and feel good. For example, if you have unprotected sex with a new girlfriend, you might be at risk for chlamydia.  Screening for chlamydia will alert your medical practitioner of this illness and also prevent you from infecting others.

There are various types of tests used in screening  different infections. A lot of STIs can be detected by a blood or urine test. If you wish to get checked for STIs, the doctor or nurse will consult with you to find out which specific tests you need.

In general, look out for any vaginal scratching, burning, sores, or discharge. But be mindful that often STIs do not cause symptoms. The easiest way to know for sure whether you have a STI is to be screened.

WHO ARE THOSE SCREENED FOR STIs?

  • All men and women (including teenagers) should get screened for HIV at least once.

  • All girls and women below 25 years of age who are sexually active should be screened for gonorrhea and chlamydia every year.

  • Women above 25 years who have sex with multiple partners without condoms should be screened for gonorrhea and chlamydia every year.

  • Men who engage in sex with their fellow men should be  screened for HIV, syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea at least once a year. This should include checking all areas of the body that may be infected, including the rectum. 

  • Pregnant women should be screened for syphilis, HIV and hepatitis B. Chlamydia and gonorrhea should also be tested if they are less than 25 years of age or have sex with multiple partners.

  • Men and women who are infected with HIV should be screened for hepatitis A, B and C at least once. They should also be screened for syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea at least once a year. Women infected with HIV should be screened for trichomonas at least once a year.

WAYS TO REDUCE YOUR CHANCES OF CONTRACTING STIs

  • The most valuable thing you can do is use a condom any time you have sex. Both male and female condoms may protect against STIs. 

  • Tell the doctor if you can get some vaccines. If you are 26 years of age or younger, you can be given a vaccine to guard against HPV, a virus that causes genital warts. If you do not have hepatitis A or B vaccine because you have not had either the hepatitis A or B vaccine, you can also get both vaccines.

  • If your partner has herpes, he or she may reduce your chances of becoming infected by taking a medicine called valacyclovir (brand name: Valtrex).

  • If you are at very high risk of HIV infection, you may be able to take a pill every day to reduce your chances of getting HIV. Talk to your doctor if you are interested in this.