STIs & BBVs
Sexually transmissible infections (STIs) are infections that can be passed on during sexual activities (oral, vaginal, anal) involving direct skin-to-skin contact and/or the exchange of bodily fluids. STIs can be a bacterial, viral or parasitic infection and often have no signs or symptoms.
Protecting yourself and your partner/s by practicing safe sex (using condoms) will reduce the chance of contracting an infection or passing it on. Getting tested regularly (every 12 months or when you have symptoms) ensures any infection you may have is detected early and can be treated. Most STIs are curable and treatments are easy.
Blood-borne viruses (BBVs) such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV are viruses transmitted from one person to another through blood-to-blood contact. This is often in the form of sharing drug injecting equipment/needles, body piercing equipment, or unsterilised tattoos such as tattoos done overseas. Some BBVs (hepatitis B and HIV) are also STIs as they are passed on through blood-to-blood contact and also through other bodily fluids (semen and vaginal fluid). Like STIs, BBVs often have no early signs or symptoms, and can cause long term damage to the body.
Although a vaccine is available for hepatitis B (speak to a doctor to receive this), none exist for hepatitis C and HIV. The best way to prevent getting a BBV is to avoid the risks above and to use condoms during sex.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, Ectopic Pregnancy and Infertility
Some STIs that have been left untreated have been linked to an increased risk of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) (an infection of the uterus and fallopian tubes), ectopic pregnancy (when a fertilised egg implants and grows in the fallopian tube) and infertility (difficulty in becoming pregnant) in females. Pelvic inflammatory disease is caused by bacteria that move from the cervix to the uterus, fallopian tubes or ovaries. This can be caused by STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea and mycoplasma genitalium.
Untreated STIs have also been associated with complications during pregnancy such as premature delivery, low birth weight and newborn death. In males, untreated STIs can cause long-term infection of the testicles, chronic pain and reduced fertility (lowered sperm count). If you are considering practising unprotected sex it is recommended that you and your partner/s get STI tests.