You should not be out there having sex unless you’re being smart about how you’re having sex. That means condom use and frequent STI testing, people.
Below are some stats that’ll school you on the world of STIs out there – what they are, what they mean, what they do – and get you booking in a test with your GP, stat.
1. There are dozens of different types of STIs.
There are many different types of sexually transmitted infections, which can be broken down into three basic types incl. bacterial (i.e. chlamydia), viral (i.e herpes) and parasitic (trichomonas).
2. Chlamydia is the most popular.
This bacteria can infect the lower genital tract (the urethra – aka the tube that runs from the bladder to the uh, dunny) and the vag, including the cervix. It can also affect the upper genital tract – the uterus + fallopian tubes. For males? It can affect your uretha and testes.
3. It’s also the easiest to treat.
Once you get tested and know you have it, it’s a simple antibiotic treatment (similarly, syphilis is easily treated with antibiotics). That’s if you catch it early enough. If left untreated it can cause reproductive problems, but more on that below.
4. Last year, there were 101,183 reported cases of chlamydia, 28,365 cases of gonococcal, and 4,398 of syphilis in Australia.
And from 2008 to 2017, in Victoria alone, the number of cases of chlamydia have risen by 103%, gonorrhoea by 690% and syphilis by 253%. Sure, this can be attributed to more testing, improved technology and a population increase, but it’s also potentially linked to changing sexual behaviours. Social media + datings apps are changing the way we meet people.
5. Around 1 in 6 people will get an STI, and most won’t even know it.
STIs often have no signs / symptoms, so don’t wait for itching, irritation or discharge as a prompt to get checked.
6. Most STIs are curable, but all are treatable.
While HIV and hepatitis aren’t “curable” per se, medical treatment and management for both have come such a long way. The sooner you find out you have either of these, the sooner you can begin treatment.
While hepatitis treatment depends on which type (A, B, C, D, E), they can all be treated with antiviral medication. Hepatitis C can now be effectively treated with simple drugs that any doctor can prescribe, with the cost of treatment subsidised by the government.
HIV treatment should be started immediately after diagnosis. Not only will this keep you healthy in the longer term, it will likely reduce the amount of virus in your body to such low levels that it can’t be transmitted to others. Yep, you read that right. There is no risk of contracting HIV from people who are on treatment and have an undetectable viral load.
7. You should be getting tested at least once every 12 months, or every time you get a new sexual partner.
How often you get tested depends on your personal sexual practices, risk behaviours, and how often you engage in them.
You should be getting an STI test if you notice ANY symptoms, after condomless sex, if the condom broke or slipped off during sex, when starting a new relationship, or when making the call to stop using condoms with a sexual partner.
8. Anyone who is sexually active can get an STI.
STIs can be transferred through skin-to-skin contact and/or sexual fluids. They don’t discriminate. STIs don’t care about your age, location, gender, sexuality or lifestyle – if you’re having sex, you can get an STI. Condoms are your best protection against STIs though, protecting both you and your partner. However, they don’t protect against ALL, which is why it’s important to get tested regularly.
9. If left untreated, STIs can cause long-term effects on your bod + reproductive health.
Untreated chlamydia, for example, can lead to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, Ectopic Pregnancy and infertility.
10. STI tests are super easy to take, and mostly non-invasive.
STI testing is available from GPs, Family Planning clinics, community health centres, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations and sexual health clinics. Most STI tests are a simple urine test or swab. Quick, easy and done in no time.
I get it.
Sometimes we forget condoms. Sometimes we put things off. It’s all gravy – no judgement here. Talk openly to your partners and doctor and dodge STIs – these convos are nothing to be embarrassed about.
Keep being sexy, y’all.
For more info about STI Testing Week head here.