What is a Sexually Transmitted Infection?
An STI is an infection passed from person to person through intimate sexual contact - STIs are sometimes called Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), however most are not a disease
How Do You Get Infected?
STIs are mainly spread through sex, whether it be vaginal, anal, oral or mutual masturbation. As well, some STIs can be transmitted through direct contact without having sexual intercourse, such as the sharing of sex toys.
Anyone who is, or has been, sexually active can have an STI. Many STIs do not have symptoms and can often go undetected without regular testing which means they can be unintentionally passed from partner to partner.
When Should I Get Tested?
Get tested regularly while sexually active, as well as if any of these risks apply to you. STIs need medical treatment because some STIs result in serious complications such as infertility, cancer or birth defects. Most STIs can easily be treated without complications.
- 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
- You are contacted by Public Health to say that you may have been in sexual contact with someone who has a reportable STI
Depending on the infection, your test results may not show any sign of the infection if your body has not had time to recognize it or make antibodies against it. For the majority of STIs, if testing is done less than 72 hours from exposure, the test results may not be accurate. Others, such as HIV, can take up to 12 weeks to detect
Where Can I Get Free and Confidential Testing?
- Student Wellness Centre; 4th Floor of Place Riel Student Centre
- Saskatoon Sexual Health; 210 2nd Avenue North, Saskatoon (306) 244-7989
- OUT Saskatoon, 320, 21st Street West, Saskatoon (306)665-1224
- Public Health Services STI Clinic; 100-310 Idylwyld Drive North; (306) 655-4642.
- Family doctors and most medical clinics.
If You Choose To Do It, Then Do It Right
- Learn about safe sex methods and practice them
- Always use protection – and use it correctly
- Talk with your partner about their sexual history.
- Get routinely tested for STIs
- If you are being treated for an STI, avoid all sexual activity until both you and your partner(s) have been treated.
Celibacy is the only way to 100% protect yourself from a sexually transmitted infection.
Types of STIs - Spreading the Word
Chlamydia- The "Silent" Infection
Did you Know... 50% of infected males and 70% of infected females do not have symptoms or are unaware of their condition?
How Is It Spread? Unprotected oral, vaginal, or anal sex with infected partner; infected mother to infant during birth
° Female: vaginal bleeding between periods, vaginal discharge, pain in lower back/abdomen, pain during intercourse
° Male: penile discharge, testicular pain/swelling, penile itching
Screening: Easy and painless urine test (results in 7-14 days)
- Antibiotics – 1 gram (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.
Gonorrhea- The "Clap"
Did You Know…gonorrhea is the 2nd most common bacterial STI in Canada and numbers are on the rise?
How Is It Spread? Unprotected oral, vaginal or anal sex with infected partner; mutual masturbation and sharing of sex toys; infected mother to infant during birth
° Female: rarely have symptoms- vaginal discharge, vaginal bleeding between periods, pain in lower back/abdomen, pain during intercourse
° Male: thick, yellow-green discharge from penis, testicular pain/swelling, penile itching
Screening: Easy and painless urine test (results in 7-14 days)
- Antibiotics – 250mg intramuscular ceftriaxone & 1 gram azithromycin or 800mg of cefixime & 1 gram azithromycin .
- 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.
How Is It Spread? Unprotected oral, vaginal or anal sex with infected partner; direct contact with syphilitic sores/rashes; infected mother to infant during birth
- Infectious Syphilis:
- Primary Stage (3 days-3 months after exposure): small, painless sore typically on genitals, anus or throat
- Secondary Stage (6 weeks-6 months after exposure): fever, hair loss, aches, rash on palms and soles of feet, weight loss, swollen glands
- Early Latent Stage (under 1 year): no symptoms
- Latent/Tertiary Stage (years after exposure): if untreated- internal organ damage (brain, heart, bones, blood)
Screening: Blood Test. Results take 7-10 days.
Treatment: Antibiotics - intramuscular injection of penicillin (number of doses depends on stage of infection)
Human Papilloma Virus - HPV
Did You Know…Approximately 75% of sexually active Canadians will have at least one HPV infection in their lifetime – highest rates occur in ages 15-24?
How Is It Spread: oral, vaginal, or anal sex with infected person; genital rubbing
° Usually none
° Warts on penis, vulva, or anus that look similar to cauliflower-like growths
° Abnormal pap test results
Screening: Usually diagnosed with visual inspection by healthcare provider & pap testing
Treatment: The person’s immune system will clear the virus itself within 1-2 years – Vaccine is available for females aged 9-45 and males aged 9-26
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.
HIV Human Immuno- Deficiency Virus
Did You Know…with early and ongoing treatment, people with HIV can live long and healthy lives?
How Is It Spread? 5 Bodily Fluids (blood, vaginal fluid, semen & pre-cum, anal fluid & breast milk) Unprotected oral, vaginal or anal sex with infected partner; sharing infected needles; pregnancy/delivery/breast-feeding
° Often None- some people develop flu-like symptoms, rash, joint pain or enlarged lymph nodes (It can take up to 12 weeks for an HIV-infected body to detect antibodies)
Screening? Blood Test
Treatment? No Cure- antiretroviral meds used to lower amount of virus in blood, reducing damage caused by virus and reducing risk of transmission allowing HIV to be managed like a chronic illness
Other Considerations: Spread by shared needles and sex. Even if you don’t have symptoms you can spread HIV to your sexual partners.
Did You Know…avoiding intercourse when partner is having early symptoms or active lesions helps prevent transmission?
How is it Spread? Unprotected anal & vaginal intercourse; oral and genital sex; infected mother to infant during pregnancy & delivery
° Flu-like symptoms – fever & aches
° Presence of blisters/sores around genitals or rectum
° Painful urination, itching, tingling, burning of skin
Screening: Swab of active blister sent to lab
Treatment: No Cure- treatment with antiviral medication to decrease duration & severity of outbreaks
Other Considerations: Transmission can occur in the absence of lesions. Condom use may not protect you completely.
Did You Know…globally, Trichomoniasis is considered the most common non-viral STI?
How Is It Spread? Unprotected sexual activity, including mutual masturbation and sharing of sex toys
° Females: off-white or yellowish-green odorous vaginal discharge, vaginal itching, painful urination
° Males: painful urination, discharge from penis
Screening: Pelvic exam with vaginal swab
Treatment: Antibiotics- 2 gram dose of Metronidazole
Other Considerations: Trich may cause babies to be born early. Talk to your doctor if you are pregnant.
Pubic Lice - "Crabs"
Did You Know…Lice will continue to breed and multiply if left untreated?
How Is It Spread? Primarily during intimate sexual and non-sexual contact; lice can live for 1-2 days in bedding, towels and clothing of an infected person
° Skin irritation and inflammation
° Itchiness and redness
° Lice may resemble small crusts and be seen as small bluish spots on the skin
Screening: Diagnosed by presence of visible lice
Treatment: Permethrin 5% cream is the treatment of choice – sexual partners also need treatment.
Hepatitis B & C
- 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 test. Results take 4-7 days.
- 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
Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)
Overgrowth of normal vaginal bacteria
- 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.
Pelvic exam, vaginal swab, and microscopic exam of vaginal secretions. Results take2-4 days.
- 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.
Myth-Busters: Armed with the Facts
MYTH: Condoms protect against all STIs.
FACT: Condoms do protect against STIs, but there are some infections, like genital herpes and warts, that can be transmitted by direct contact. If the condom does not cover the lesion it is not protecting you from the infection.
MYTH: I do not have any symptoms of an STI. Therefore, I do not have an infection.
FACT: A lot of STIs have no symptoms. Do not put yourself and your partner at risk. Get tested if you engage in risky behaviour.
MYTH: Washing genitals, urinating or douching after sex prevents STIs.
FACT: None of these methods are effective in preventing STIs
MYTH: You can only get an STI from vaginal or anal sex.
FACT: You do not need to have sexual intercourse in order to get an STI. Some STIs are passed through oral sex or from other sexual activity.
- 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