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What are sexually transmitted infections (STIs)?

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are infections that are caused by viruses or bacteria. STIs caused by bacteria are called bacterial STIs. Examples of these are: Chlamydia, Gonorrhea and Syphilis. STIs caused by viruses are called viral STIs. Examples of these are Genital Herpes, Genital warts, Hepatitis A, Hepatitus B and HIV.

A bacterial STI can be cured. A doctor will prescribe antibiotics (pills or injections) to kill the bacteria. After treatment (it should take about a week) the disease is not contagious anymore. Note: you can be infected again, for instance after unprotected sex or condom break. It is important that you get treatment as soon as possible; you risk problems with getting pregnant. (infertility).

Viral STIs are not always curable. Symptoms (and complaints) can be managed with medications. When the symptoms (warts, blisters) are noticeable the illness is contagious, so that is why you should get treatment. Then the disease can not be passed on to your clients and/or partner.

How are STIs spread?

Agents of the disease (bacteria) can be found in the vagina, penis, anus, mouth and throat. But also in bodily fluids like vaginal discharge, pre-ejaculate, sperm and blood. An STI is spread through unprotected sex with a person who has been infected. So when you have unprotected anal or vaginal sex (without use of a condom) an STI can be passed on. This is also the case with blow jobs or other oral sex acts (on the clitoris or vulva) without use of a dental dam (a sheet of latex).

STIs can be passed on through contact with infected genital skin, so when you rub your vagina against the penis, even without actual penetration.

STI signs

Often an STI can be carried without symptoms being noticeable. If you do have complaints, common symptoms include:

  • Discharge from vagina, penis or anus. Women may notice an increase of discharge. This can be like water or milky, yellow or green in colour. The smell can be abnormal.
  • You may feel¬† burning, itching or pain during urination. You are passing only small amounts of urine at a time.
  • Ulcers, warts, blisters on vagina, mouth, penis or anus.
  • Itching in pubic area, labia, glans penis or anus.
  • Swollen glands in the groin.
  • Pain in lower abdomen.
  • Bleeding in between periods, during sex or after.
  • Swollen or tender testicles.

Do you want to know if you are infected? Take the test. At P&G292  STI tests are free and you can take one anonymously. As a sex worker with lots of sexual partners you should take the test every three months to stay free of STIs.