Sexually Transmissible Infections

Sexually transmissible infections (STIs) can be transmitted via unprotected sexual intercourse.

  • STIs are caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites.
  • Most STIs are spread through unprotected vaginal, anal and oral sex, and also via sex toys.
  • Intimate genital contact with someone already infected can also spread STIs such as herpes and genital warts.
  • As some STIs show no symptoms, it is important to always use condoms during sex with someone new
  • If you don’t know if your partner/s have an STI, have regular STI tests in order to prevent transmission, as well as receive necessary treatment.
  • There are lots of different types of STIs, the most common ones in Australia are listed below.

Prevention, Symptoms, Testing, Care and Support STIs and testing information STIs fact sheet Testing

Herpes

What it is: Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted viral infection.

Symptoms:

  • Many people who have the herpes virus don’t experience any symptoms, so it’s always important to use a condom.
  • Some symptoms can include sores around the genitals, fever and body aches.
  • Some people can experience periodic outbreaks of sores when they are stressed or unwell, these outbreaks can be sporadic and decline over time.

Treatment:

  • Although outbreaks can be managed with oral antivirals, herpes can’t be cured.
  • Even if someone isn’t having an outbreak, they can spread the virus to a sexual partner.
  • Using a condom won’t always prevent spread of the virus, as the virus may be present on parts of the genitals other than the penis or vagina.
  • Nevertheless, anyone infected with herpes should use a condom or oral barrier method during sex and avoid sex during outbreak.

Melbourne Sexual Health Centre - Herpes

HPV

What it is:

  • Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted viral infection. About 80% of people will be infected with HPV at some point in their life.
  • For most people, their body will fight and destroy the infection before they ever knew they had it.
  • There are many different strains of HPV.
  • Certain strains of HPV can cause cancer of the cervix. Other strains of HPV can cause genital warts.
  • There are vaccines available that protect against certain strains of HPV that cause cervical cancer and genital warts.

Symptoms:

  • Bumps (warts) around genitals.
  • Cancer of the cervix often has no symptoms until the disease is very advanced.

Treatment:

  • Although most cases of HPV go unnoticed and heal over a period of time without any medication.
  • It is very important that women have regular cervical cancer screening tests to identify HPV and any abnormal cell changes on the cervix.
  • Genital warts are treated with a medicated cream or with freezing.

HPV and cervical cancer Melbourne Sexual Health Centre - HPV

Syphilis

What it is:

  • Syphilis is a sexual transmitted bacterial infection, which can also be transmitted from mother to baby during pregnancy.
  • Syphilis occurs in four stages known as primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary.
  • If untreated, tertiary stage syphilis can damage other organs in the body including the heart and brain.

Symptoms:

  • Although the symptoms in the early stages may be mild, they can change as the infection progresses.

    • Primary stage:
    • Painless sores around the genital and anal region, as well as the mouth. These sores can clear in a few weeks, but that doesn’t mean the infection is gone.
    • Secondary stage:
    • Skin rash, fever, swollen glands, weight loss, headaches, hair loss, and extreme tiredness.
    • Latent stage:
    • There are no symptoms during this stage, however the infection is still present and can still be spread to sexual partners.
    • Tertiary stage:
    • This stage can occur 10- 30 years after infection and lead to serious medical complications, damage to body organs, and death.

Treatment:

  • After taking a blood sample or fluids from a sore, your GP can test and treat syphilis by prescribing antibiotics.

Melbourne Sexual Health Centre - Syphilis

Chlamydia

What it is:

  • Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted bacterial infection in Australia.
  • If untreated chlamydia can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and infertility.

Symptoms:

  • The majority of women with chlamydia don’t experience any symptoms.
  • However, some symptoms include change in vaginal discharge, irregular vaginal bleeding, pelvic pain, painful periods and pain during sex.

Treatment:

  • If you are sexually active, it is important to have a regular chlamydia test as part of your STI screen
  • Make an appointment with your GP who can perform a urine or swab test and prescribe the appropriate treatment.

Melbourne Sexual Health Centre - Chlamydia

Gonorrhea

What it is:

  • Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted bacterial infection.
  • If untreated gonorrhea can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and infertility.

Symptoms:

  • Many women do not experience any symptoms.
  • Some symptoms include unusual vaginal or anal discharge, pelvic pain, pain during period, sex or while urinating, and sore throat.

Treatment:

  • If you are sexually active, it is important to have a regular gonorrhea test as part of your STI screen
  • Make an appointment with your GP who can perform a urine or swab test and provide treatment or further testing as needed.

Melbourne Sexual Health Centre - Gonorrhea

HIV

What it is:

  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), which can lead to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
  • HIV makes the body’s immune system weaker over time leading to different types of illnesses.
  • It is transmitted by unprotected sex, sharing needles and other unsterile injection equipment
  • It can be transmitted through blood transfusions (very rare), and mother-to-child during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding (also very uncommon in Australia).

Symptoms:

  • A person with HIV may not always show symptoms, however, some symptoms include:

    • flu-like symptoms
    • sudden weight loss
    • extreme tiredness
    • swollen glands
    • white spots in mouth
    • diarrhoea
    • loss of appetite,
    • rash on the skin.

Treatment:

  • Although there is currently no cure for HIV or AIDS, treatment is available to improve health and prevent the transmission from mother-to-child during pregnancy and childbirth.
  • Make an appointment with your GP to get tested, for consultation, and treatment.

Prevention, Symptoms, Testing, Care and Support for HIV Melbourne Sexual Health Centre - HIV testing and results

Hepatitis B and C

What it is:

  • Hepatitis B and C are viral infections that affect the liver and can be spread through contaminated blood, through practices such as sharing needles and other unsterile injection equipment and blood transfusions.
  • Hepatitis B can also be spread through semen, vaginal fluids and saliva, as well as from mother to baby during or after birth.
  • While some cases of hepatitis B and C can heal without treatment, there is the possibility that some cases can turn into chronic hepatitis, liver disease and liver cancer.

Symptoms:

  • Most people experience no symptoms after they are infected and recover after a few weeks.
  • In chronic cases, people may experience:

    • Tiredness
    • loss of appetite
    • nausea and vomiting
    • pain on the right side under the ribs
    • joint pain
    • flu-like symptoms.

Treatment:

  • The body can clear both hepatitis B and C on its own without treatment
  • For those who develop chronic hepatitis, the infection can only be managed, not cured.
  • Make an appointment to see your GP if you think you need to be tested or have any concerns.

Melbourne Sexual Health Centre - Hepatitis B Melbourne Sexual Health Centre - Hepatitis C

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