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Sexually Transmitted Infections

The good news: Most STIs can be cured and others can be controlled. The bad news: Some, like HIV, can kill you.

What is an STI?

It is an infection passed from person to person through intimate sexual contact. STIs are sometimes called Sexually Transmitted Diseases (although most are not a disease.)

How do you get infected?

By having intimate sexual contact with someone who has an infection. Many STIs have no symptoms and therefore remain undetected without testing. Because most STIs have no symptoms, they are easily and unintentionally passed from partner to partner.

All sexually active people can get an STI. Some STIs are transmitted through direct contact without having sexual intercourse. Celibacy is the only way to protect yourself 100% from an STI.

What are they?

Many STIs have no symptoms and therefore remain undetected without testing. Because most STIs have no symptoms, they are easily and unintentionally passed from partner to partner. It is very important that you know if you have a STI, for your own health, and the health of your partner(s). STIs need medical treatment because some STIs result in infertility, cancer, birth defects, and even death.  Most STIs can easily be treated without complications.

Are you at risk?

It is very important that you know if you have a STI, for your own health, and the health of your partner(s). The risk of contracting an STI increases when:

  • You have unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex
  • A condom breaks
  • Your partner has or had an STI
  • You or your partner injects street drugs
  • You have a new sex partner
  • You have had more than one partner in the past six months
  • Your partner has or had sex with another person
  • You have sex under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol
  • You are unable to communicate with your partner about your sexual history and ways to reduce risks

 

When should I get tested?

Get tested for STIs if any of these risks apply to you.  Get tested regularly if you continue to put yourself at risk

STIs need medical treatment because some STIs result in infertility, cancer, birth defects, and even death.  Most STIs can easily be treated without complications.

You should get tested for STIs if any of the listed risk factors apply to you. In addition, you should be tested on a regular basis if you continue to put yourself at risk.

Depending on the infection, your test results may not show any sign of infection if your body has not had time to make antibodies against it.  For the majority of the STIs, if the testing is done in less than 72 hours from exposure, the test results may not be accurate.  HIV, on the other hand, requires a 3-6 month period before the test can detect the antibodies.

Where should I get tested

  • Student Health Services; 4th Floor of Place Riel Student Centre
  • Sexual Health Centre; 2nd Avenue, Saskatoon  
  • Public Health Services STI clinic, free and anoymous STI screening.   100 - 310 Idylwyld Drive North.  306 655-4642
  • Family doctors and most medical clinics 

Talk to your health practitioner and request STI testing if you have put yourself at risk.

What's the STI climate on U of S Campus

The three most common STIs treated at Student Health and Counselling Services are:

  • Chlamydia
  • Genital Warts
  • Genital Herpes

The most popular method of birth control used by U of S students is the birth control pill and nearly 50% of U of S students used a condom plus another method of contraception to prevent pregnancy and STI’s.

If you're going to do it...Do it right!

  • Always use a condom.
  • Talk with your partner about their sexual history.
  • If you are being treated for an STI, avoid all sexual activity until both you and your partner have been treated.

Celibacy is the only way to 100% protect yourself from a sexually transmitted infection.

Comparing STIs

Symptoms, screening and treatment.

Chlamydia

Symptoms 

  • Often none.
  • Women may experience vaginal discharge, chronic abdominal pain, lower back pain, heavy periods, irregular vaginal bleeding, and/or spotting after sex.
  • Men may experience penile discharge, pain urinating, and/or painful, red, swollen scrotum.

Screening 
Urine sample. Results take 7-14 days.

Treatment

  • Antibiotics – 1 gm single dose of Azithromycin. 
  • Sex partner needs treatment. 
  • Abstain from sexual activity for 7 days after both partners have been treated to prevent re-infection.

Other Considerations: Chlamydia can cause Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) resulting in infertility and ectopic (tubal) pregnancy.

Learn more about Chlamydia

Gonorrhea

Symptoms 

  • Women experience no symptoms or symptoms similar to those of Chlamydia.
  • Men may experience thick, yellow, penile discharge, burning when urinating, and/or pain and swelling of the testicles.

Screening 
Urine sample. Results take 7-14 days.

Treatment

  • Antibiotics – 400 mg single dose of Cefixime.
  • Sex partner needs treatment.
  • Abstain from sexual activity for 7 days after both partners have been treated to prevent re-infection.

Other Considerations: Gonorrhea can cause Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) resulting in infertility and ectopic (tubal) pregnancy.

Learn more about Gonorrhea

Genital Herpes

Symptoms 
First outbreak usually is the worst. Infection may go unnoticed or the patient may experience:

  • painful ulcers
  • itching, tingling, burning of skin
  • swollen glands in genital area
  • painful urination
  • flu-like symptoms

Screening 
Culture only possible during an outbreak. Blisters or ulcers are swabbed and the viral culture is sent to the lab. Results take 4-7 days.

Treatment

  • Antiviral drugs – Famciclovir, Valacyclovir, and Acyclovir. These drugs do not cure herpes but can help to reduce the number and severity of outbreaks.
  • Early treatment of primary outbreak may reduce symptoms.
  • Suppressive therapy reduces transmission.

Other Considerations: Transmission can occur in the absence of lesions. Condom use may not protect you completely.

Learn more about Genital Herpes

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) - Genital Warts 
There are over 100 known types of HPV

Symptoms 

  • None.
  • Wart-type lesions on vagina, vulva, penis, or anus. They can be all shapes and sizes.
  • Abnormal Pap test results.

Screening 
Women can be diagnosed by a pelvic exam, Pap test, or colposcopy (microscopic exam of the cervix). Men are diagnosed by the presence of visible warts. Pap test results require 7-14 days.

Treatment

  • Visible warts are treated with drugs, chemicals, or liquid nitrogen.
  • Treatment is mostly cosmetic or because symptoms are bothersome. Multiple treatments may be required. Extensive warts and difficult to treat areas (e.g. the cervix) may be treated with laser therapy. Regular (6-12 months) Pap tests.

Other Considerations: It is still possible to transmit the virus even when there are no visible warts. Vaccination is available.  Talk to your health care provider.

Learn more about Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)

Hepatitis B & C  

Symptoms 

  • 50% of adults will develop symptoms when infected with Hepatitis B.The other 50% are still infectious.
  • The symptoms are poor appetite, nausea, vomiting, headaches, fatigue, and jaundice.
  • Hepatitis C often causes mild symptoms.

Screening 
Blood sample. Results take 4-7 days.

Treatment

  • No specific treatment. Rest, adequate diet, and avoidance of toxins (e.g. alcohol) are recommended. Some drugs are being used with success.
  • Prevention: get immunized against hepatitis B

Other Considerations: Can cause permanent liver damage.  Transmitted through sex and shared needles

Learn more about Hepatitis B & C

Trichomoniasis (Trich)

Symptoms

  • Women may experience grey to white vaginal discharge, and/or a fishy smell to vaginal discharge.

Screening 
Pelvic exam, vaginal swab, microscopic exam of vaginal secretions. Results take 2-3 days.

Treatment

  • Antibiotics – 2 gm dose of Metronidazole.
  • Avoid sex until medication has been completed and symptoms are gone. Sex partner needs treatment.

Other Considerations: Trich may cause babies to be born early. Talk to your doctor if you are pregnant.

Learn more about Trichomoniasis (Trich)

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) 
Overgrowth of normal vaginal bacteria

Symptoms

  • Not sexually transmitted, though it can be associated with sexual activity.
  • Women usually have no symptoms.
  • They may experience smelly, yellow/green vaginal discharge, vulvar irritation, painful sex, and pain urinating.

Screening 
Pelvic exam, vaginal swab, and microscopic exam of vaginal secretions. Results take2-4 days.

Treatment

  • Antibiotics- 500 mg dose of Metronidazole 2 times/day for 7 days, or Metronidazole gel inserted into the vagina for 5 days, or Clindamycin cream inserted into the vagina.
  • Avoid alcohol when taking Metronidazole.

Other Considerations: Untreated BV is associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes.

Learn more about Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

HIV Human Immuno- Deficiency Virus 

Symptoms

  • None.
  • HIV may weaken the immune system leaving the person vulnerable to organisms and certain cancers. These affect many of the body’s systems.It can take 3-6 months after exposure to an HIV-infected person’s body fluid to detect antibodies.

Screening 

Blood sample. Results take 7-14 days. You may need to come in person for the results

Treatment

  • Treatments are available that slow down the rate at which HIV weakens the immune system.
  • There are many treatments available that can prevent and cure some of the illnesses associated with AIDS.
  • Confidential testing is available at the Student Health Centre. Anonymous testing is available through Public Health at the Idylwyld Health Centre by appointment only. Call: 665-4642.

Other Considerations: Spread by shared needles and sex. Even if you don’t have symptoms you can spread HIV to your sexual partners.

Learn more about HIV Human Immuno- Deficiency Virus

Pubic Lice (Crabs)

Symptoms

  • Lice may be few in number, resemble small crusts, and may be seen as small bluish spots on the skin.
  • Small dark brown specks may be seen on undergarments.
  • Patient may experience itching in the infected area.

Screening 
Diagnosed by presence of visible lice.

Treatment

  • Permethrin 5% cream is the treatment of choice. Sex partner needs treatment.

Other Considerations: Lice will continue to breed and multiply if left untreated.

Learn more about Pubic Lice (Crabs)

Syphilis 

Symptoms

Symptoms may go unrecognized for years.

  • Primary stage: A sore (chancre) appears at site of infection and lasts 3-6 weeks.
  • Secondary stage: Rash on palms and soles, may go unnoticed. Fever, swollen glands, weight loss, aches and fatigue.
  • Latent stage: Last for years, internal organs such as brain, heart, liver, bones and joints are damaged by bacteria. Paralysis, blindness, dementia and even death can occur.

Screening 
Blood test, results take 7-10 days.

Treatment

  • Antibiotics – an intramuscular injection of penicillin 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.
  • Treatment will kill the syphilis bacterium and prevent further damage, but it will not repair damage already done.

Other Considerations: Untreated syphilis in a pregnant woman can infect and possibly kill the developing baby, every pregnant woman should have a blood test for syphilis.

Learn more about Syphilis

References

  • Sex Sense Canadina Contraceptive Guide:  The society of Obstetricians and Gynacologists of Canada
  • ACHA-NCHA II Health Assessment, Spring, 2013
  • Sexuallity and U
  • Planned parenthood
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • KISSK