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Sexually Transmitted Infections

Talking about STIs and safe sex will provide you with the information you need to know to protect yourself and protect your partner.

What is a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI)?

It is an infection passed from person to person through intimate sexual contact. STIs are sometimes called sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) although 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.

Get Tested 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.
  • 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 Are Having Sex, 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.

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.

What are the Symptoms?

  • Female: vaginal bleeding between periods, vaginal discharge, pain in lower back/abdomen, pain during intercourse.
  • Male: penile discharge, testicular pain/swelling, penile itching.

How Do I Get Tested?

Easy and painless urine test (results in 7 days).

What Is The Treatment?

Antibiotics – 1 gram (single dose) of azithromycin.

Other Considerations

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

Learn more about Chlamydia

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.

What Are The Symptoms?

  • 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.

How Do I Get Tested?

Easy and painless urine test (results in 7-14 days).

What is the Treatment?

Antibiotics – 250mg IM ceftriaxone and 1 gram azithromycin or 800mg of cefixime and 1 gram azithromycin.

Other Considerations

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

Learn more about Gonorrhea

Syphilis

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.

What Are The Symptoms?

  • 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): internal organ damage (brain, heart, bones, blood).

How Do I Get Tested?

Blood test.

What Is The Treatment?

Injectable antibiotic – penicillin (number of doses depends on stages of infection).

Learn more about Syphilis

Human Immunodeficiency Virus, "HIV"

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 fluids, semen/pre-cum, anal fluid, breast milk). Unprotected oral, vaginal, or anal sex with infected partner. Sharing infected needles. Pregnancy/delivery/breast-feeding.

What Are They Symptoms?

  • Often none – some people develop flu-like symptoms, rash, joint pain, enlarged lymph node (it can take up to 3-6 months for an HIV-infected body to detect antibodies).

How Do I Get Tested?

Blood test.

What Is The 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.

Learn more about HIV Human Immuno- Deficiency Virus

Human Papillomavirus, "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.

What Are The Symptoms?

  • Usually none.
  • Warts on penis, vulva, or anus that look similar to cauliflower-like growths.
  • Abnormal pap test results.

How Do I Get Tested?

Usually diagnosed with visual inspection by healthcare provider and pap testing.

What Is The 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.

Learn more about Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)

Genital Herpes

Did You Know

Avoiding intercourse when partner is having early symptoms or active lesions helps prevent transmission.

How Is It Spread?

Unprotected anal and vaginal intercourse. Oral and genital sex. Infected mother to infant during pregnancy and delivery.

What Are The Symptoms?

  • Flu-like symptoms – fever and aches.
  • Presence of blisters/sores around genitals or rectum.
  • Painful urination, itching, tingling, burning of skin.

How Do I Get Tested?

Swab of active blister sent to lab.

What Is The Treatment?

No cure – treatment with antiviral medication to decrease duration and severity of outbreaks.

Other Considerations

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

Learn more about Genital Herpes

Trichomoniasis, "Trich"

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.

What Are The Symptoms?

  • Females: off-white or yellowish-green odorous vaginal discharge, vaginal itching, painful urination.
  • Males: painful urination, discharge from penis.

How Do I Get Tested?

Pelvic exam with vaginal swab.

What Is The 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.

Learn more about Trichomoniasis (Trich)

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.

What Are The Symptoms?

  • Skin irritation and inflammation.
  • Itchiness and redness.
  • Lice may resemble small crusts and be seen as small bluish spots on the skin.

How Do I Get Tested?

Diagnosed by presence of visible lice.

What Is The Treatment?

Permethrin 5% cream is the treatment of choice – sexual partners also need treatment.

Learn more about Pubic Lice (Crabs)

Hepatitis B and C

What Are The 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.

How Do I Get Tested?

Blood test. Results take 4-7 days.

What Is The 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

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV): Overgrowth of Normal Vaginal Bacteria

What Are The 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.

How Do I Get Tested?

Pelvic exam, vaginal swab, and microscopic exam of vaginal secretions. Results take 2-4 days.

What Is The Treatment?

  • Antibiotics- 500 mg dose of Metronidazole 2 times/day for 7 days, 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)

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.

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
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