What are STIs?

What is a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI)?

  • A sexually transmitted infection (STI) is an infection which is passed from one person to another through sexual contact.
  • Some STIs are spread when infected body fluids such as blood, semen, vaginal or analfluids enter into the bloodstream during vaginal, oral or anal sex.
  • Some STIs are spread by touching an infected area of skin.
  • Some STIs can be spread to others by sharing needles/syringes/pipes when taking drugs,or by sharing sex toys.
  • Some STIs can be passed from an infected person to the baby during pregnancy and childbirth.
  • A person can have more than one STI at the same time.

Can STIs be cured?

There are many kinds of sexually transmitted infections. STIs are caused by bacteria, parasites or viruses. Some STIs can be cured with antibiotics or special lotions. Examples of curable STIs are:

  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea
  • Pubic Lice
  • Syphilis
  • Trichomoniasis (trich)

Many viral infections are not curable. However, there are medications which can be taken to slow the progress of some viral STIs or help lessen pain or discomfort. Examples of viral STIs are:

  • Human Papiloma Virus / HPV / Genital Warts (a vaccine is available to prevent some strains of this STI)
  • Herpes
  • HIV
  • Hepatitis C
  • Hepatitis A and B (a vaccine is available to prevent these)

How do I know if I have an STI?

You may have an STI and have no symptoms, or you may have obvious symptoms. It is important

for you to be aware of changes in your body and health.

Some symptoms of an STI could be:

  • Different, or heavier, or foul smelling discharge from your vagina
  • Discharge from your penis
  • Burning or bleeding during urination (peeing)
  • Not able to urinate at all (feeling a need to urinate but only ending up with a trickle)
  • Irregular periods

Sexually TransmittedInfections

  • Rash, lumps, sores or blisters in your genital or anal area (around your vagina, penis or anus)
  • Irritation (redness) and itching around your genitals (penis or vagina) or anus
  • Swelling around your vagina or penis or testicles
  • Pelvic pain
  • No symptoms

You may have only one symptom at a time or several together. If you are sexually active, see a health care provider for a medical exam, can be tested for STIs, as often as you need.

What can I do to prevent getting an STI?

Use safer sex supplies

If you have vaginal or anal intercourse, you can use a lubricated latex external condom or an internal condom or gloves to protect against STIs. Condoms an also be put over sex toys to prevent transmission.

If you have oral sex, using condoms or an oral dam (square of latex) decreases the risk of getting an STI for all partners a condom on the penis or an oral dam against the anus or the vulva prevents contact with body fluids. If you do not have an oral dam, you can make one from a condom. Carefully cut the condom from the rim to the centre of the reservoir tip, and unroll it. Spread it open with both hands and place it over the area of contact, so your mouth doesn’t directly touch the other person’s body part.

Never share needles or syringes

If you get a tattoo or piercing, be sure that you go to a licensed shop.

Stay clear headed.

Alcohol and drugs can decrease your ability to correctly use safer sex supplies. Also, consent laws prohibit anybody having sex with someone who is drunk or high.

Talk to your partner(s)

Prevention is important. Talk to your partners about using condoms. Keep safer sex supplies with you, and also where you usually have sex. You can protect yourself and your partners from becoming infected.

Get tested and have regular check-ups

If you are having sex, even if you have no symptoms of an STI, consider having regular STI testing. You can have a test as often as you need to.

Abstinence

Some people may choose not to have sexual touching with others. This is a very safe option. Sharing affection by hugging, kissing, touching and massage are safer ways to be intimate with your partner.

Limited sexual partners

For some couples or groups, monogamy can be a safe option. All partners can agree to have sex ONLY with each other. This way, risk is lowered.

How can I be tested for an STI?

There are different types of tests for STIs. Testing may include a visual inspection by a health provider, of the genital area (penis or vagina) and skin, a blood sample, a urine sample, and/or a swab sample taken from sores or genitals (penis or vagina). If you test positive for an STI, the health care provider may ask you about previous sexual contacts so that those people can receive treatment as well.

  • All information is confidential and private.
  • You do not need a partner’s or parent’s permission to get free, confidential STI testing.

Where can I get more information?

  • From your health care provider, community health clinic, or public health nurse.If you need a regular health care provider, call the Family Doctor Finder at 204-786-7111 or toll-free at 1-866-690-8260, orgo to www.gov.mb.ca/health/familydoctorfinder.
  • From a teen clinic, if you are under 22 years old.
  • From the Facts of Life On-Line: e-mail your questions to thefactsoflife@serc.mb.ca.
  • From websites: www.sexualityandu.ca or www.serc.mb.ca.

Glossary:

Anal sex – when a penis, other body part or sex toy is placed into the anus (bum) of a person for sexual pleasure

Consent – consent means permission; in terms of sexual contact consent is present when all parties agree to the sexual activity without coercion, and when each party is legally able to agree (all must be sober and of legal age)

Discharge – fluids coming out of a vagina or penis

Semen – The sperm-containing fluid that comes out of the penis when a male ejaculates.

Vagina – The muscular tube that connects the cervix to the outside of the female body; where the menstrual blood comes out from the uterus, where a baby comes out from the uterus during childbirth, and where a penis or sex toy can go in for vaginal intercourse.

Vaginal fluids – natural fluids produced inside the vagina.

SERC believes that all individuals have the right to access unbiased sexual and reproductive health information and services. They must also have the opportunity to explore their values and attitudes in making informed choices that are most appropriate for them, and have those choices respected and supported. SERC supports and defends a pregnant person’s right to choose parenting, adoption, or abortion.

Developed in collaboration with Klinic Community Health and Literacy Partners of Manitoba 2007

Sexuality Education Resource Centre 2016