Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
Many STIs can cause serious health problems and some are life threatening and incurable. They are usually transmitted in infected semen, vaginal secretions or blood and get into your body through contact with the penis, vagina, anus, through open cuts or sores, or from sharing needles used to inject drugs.
BEWARE: Some STIs present obvious symptoms such as genital discharge, rashes, sores etc. but others have almost no symptoms or the symptoms disappear without treatment. This DOES NOT mean the infection has gone; it may be sitting in your body, causing long term damage and infecting your sexual partners. If you suspect that you have been exposed to an STI you must seek immediate and professional medical advice and take extra care to protect your sexual partners from infection.
Transmission of an STI cannot be prevented by washing the genitals, urinating, and or washing after sex. There is only one way to avoid contracting an STI – use a condom and water-based lubricant every time you have sex, even with partners you think you can trust.
If you are worried that you have been exposed to an STI you must get tested. You can go to a confidential, specialized clinic where you can be totally anonymous. Click below to find out where you can get tested in confidence and read some feedback from men who have used the services.
It can take up to 6-12 weeks before an infection shows up in your blood/body. There is no way to know if you are infected before this so it is essential that you take extra care to avoid infecting sexual partners.
If you test positive for an STI your doctor will advise you on the most appropriate and effective treatments.
DO NOT be tempted to try and treat any problems yourself. Taking the wrong medicine can make the problem bigger.
How to enjoy safe anal or vaginal sex
- Used correctly every time you have sex, latex and polyurethane condoms block STIs from entering your body and prevent unwanted pregnancies.
- Use a water-based lubricant to help prevent tearing of the skin or the condom during sex.
- Remember, just because your partner is beautiful, young and healthy-looking does not mean that he/she is not infected with an STI. A long-term relationship exclusively with the same partner may eliminate the need for condoms but remember you can only be truly sure of your own faithfulness!
- ·Don’t forget that there are plenty of ‘no risk’ alternatives to penetrative sex (hugging, kissing, touching and mutual masturbation) which are completely safe and a lot of fun!
- Be aware – anal sex is a high risk activity (risks are up to 10 times higher than with vaginal sex) because the skin of the anus and rectum is very thin and easily damaged during sex. There is a danger to both people as the virus can travel in either direction through pre-ejaculation and ejaculation fluid and blood.
- Carry condoms with you, especially when you think it is likely you will be having sex, and use one with a water-based lubricant every time you have sex.
- Condoms are available free from sexual and other health clinics and NGOs and can be bought at pharmacies, supermarkets and gasoline stations.
- Be careful when opening the condom package to avoid damaging the condom.
- Put the condom against the end of the erect penis, leaving about 1cm of space at the end by gently squeezing the end of the condom to remove air from the tip.
- Hold the tip of the condom and unroll it all the way to the base of the penis. If you have not been circumcised, pull your foreskin back before unrolling the condom.
- Apply plenty of water-based lubricant to the condom and the anus/vagina. Do not use lubricants such as Vaseline as they weaken the condom.
- Check the condom frequently during sex to make sure that it hasn’t slipped off or broken. If your condom does break, withdraw carefully and immediately.
- After ejaculation, hold the base of the condom to keep it from coming off and remove the penis from your partner’s vagina/anus/mouth.
- Wrap the condom and dispose of it in the rubbish. Never use a condom twice.
How to enjoy safe oral sex
- Oral sex is the giving or receiving of oral stimulation to the penis, vagina or anus. The risk of transmitting HIV/STIs via oral sex is lower than with anal or vaginal sex but increases if the partner using their mouth has bleeding gums, cuts, ulcers or sores in their mouth or has had recent dental treatment.
- Use condoms (if you don’t like the rubbery taste use flavored or thinner condoms) or a dental dam to keep semen or vaginal fluid out of your mouth. Dental dams are easy to make using a condom and scissors:
- Unroll the condom.
- Cut off the tip.
- Cut down one side of the condom with a scissors.
The 1 Minute STI Health Examination
Regular checks of your genital area allow you to identify and get help for any problems quickly, when they are easiest to treat and mean you can take extra care to avoid infecting your sexual partners.
- Take a small mirror, find a private place and get naked.
- Examine your genital and anal areas using the mirror and your hands.
- Lift and look under your testicles.
- If you are uncircumcised, pull back the foreskin and look carefully at the exposed skin
- Look at the area between your anus and your testicles
- Check your pubic hair closely for small eggs, lumps or mites (e.g. crabs)
- Gently squeeze your penis to see if any unusual, smelly or creamy comes out. It is common to find some fluid when doing this, but it doesn’t mean you have an STI.
- Do you see any sores, blisters, or rashes; feel any itching, redness or swelling; detect any unusual smells or discharge on or around your penis, anus or testicles?
If you detect signs of STIs or anything else that seems unusual, go to an STI clinic for a complete check! Click below to find out where you can get tested in confidence and read some feedback from men who have used the services.