STIs: What Can I Catch And How?
Think you know it all? Well, did you know pubic lice can live in your eyebrows? Didn't think so...
Ok guys, it’s time for the best sex ed lesson you’ve ever had (we so modest) and it’s all about STIs. Why? Because even if you THINK you know everything you need to know there is a lot of BS out there that just ain’t true.
We want you guys to know how to keep yourself safe, so here’s your basic guide to STIs - what there is to catch and how you can catch it.
Ahh chlamydia. One of the most common STIs out there, it’s easy to catch and even if you go to the clinic to get rid of it, you can just as easily catch it again. You won’t necessarily know if you have chlamydia, which may explain why it’s so widespread. In fact, more than 70% of women and 50% of men who have chlamydia don’t notice the symptoms.
- Pain when you pee
- Women: Unusual vaginal discharge, bleeding between or heavier periods, pain/ bleeding during or after sex, pain in the tummy/ pelvis
- Men: White/ cloudy/ watery discharge from the tip of the penis, burning/ itching in the urethra (your pee pipe), pain in the testicles
HOW: You can get chlamydia through unprotected penetrative, oral or anal sex, even if the guy doesn’t ejaculate.
Chlamydia is a big reason to make sure you try to get STI checks after each new sexual partner – often you can’t tell if you have it and if it isn’t treated it can have serious repercussions, including infertility.
These are easier to spot, if you pardon the pun. Caused by HPV (the human papilloma virus) which is an otherwise invisible STI (IKR - the world is a dangerous place), genital warts are up there with the most common types of STI you can catch.
Warts – small fleshy growths, bumps or skin changes that appear on your genital/ anal area
Itching/ redness/ bleeding is possible but genital warts won’t be painful in most cases
HOW: Genital warts are spread via skin-to-skin contact, which means you can get them from unprotected vaginal, oral or anal sex or even just from naked dry humping. You’ve been warned.
Ok guys, don’t panic, but there’s no cure for genital herpes.
8 out of 10 people who have it don’t realise they have it because there aren’t really many symptoms at first. Passed by HSV (herpes simplex virus), genital herpes is dormant, which means it flares up from time to time instead of the symptoms being constantly there.
Small painful blisters/ sores
Blisters/ sores may be itchy or tingly
Pain when you pee
HOW: You can get genital herpes through unprotected vaginal, oral and anal sex. While someone may not have the symptoms when you have sex with them, they can still pass it on to you.
Another thing to be aware of is that there are two types of herpes – type 2 (HSV-2) is genital herpes and type 1 (HSV-1) is oral herpes. You can get oral herpes through kissing someone when they have the symptoms (a cold sore), which means you too will develop cold sores that will flare up occasionally throughout your life.
Gonorrhoea is another STI to look out for as it’s also quite a common one to catch. Again, lots of people are clueless as to whether they have it – 50% of women and 10% of men, to be exact.
- Painful/ burning sensation when you pee
- Women: watery/ yellow/ green vaginal discharge, pain in the lower abdomen during/ after sex, heavy periods and bleeding during/ after sex or between periods
- Men: white/ yellow/ green discharge from the tip of the penis and testicle pain/ tenderness
HOW: You can get gonorrhoea through unprotected vaginal, oral or anal sex. Mums can also pass it to their babies when pregnant.
This is another one that could cause serious problems for your health if left (including infertility) so it’s important to stay on top of things!
You may think this STI is strictly for old codgers like Henry VIII back in the day, but unfortunately it’s still very much around.
- Sores on genitals/ mouth (highly infectious but painless)
- After the sores you may get a rash/ flu-like illness or patchy hair loss
HOW: You can catch syphilis through unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex, or through close contact with an infected sore.
This is a real nasty - years after catching syphilis you may develop serious health conditions like paralysis and blindness.
People often think of HIV as a thing of the past, or an STI that mostly affects MSM (men who have sex with men) but the truth is HIV is still around and passed around all demographics.
- May get a flu-like illness with a fever, sore throat or rash
HOW: You are most likely to catch HIV through unprotected anal or vaginal sex, but you can also catch it through oral sex in some cases. It’s also spread through sharing needles or syringes with those that are infected, and mums can pass it to their babies through breastfeeding.
HIV eventually develops into AIDS which is when your immune system is weakened and cannot fight life-threatening infections. It sounds scary but there are loads of great resources to help and support you if you catch HIV, and there are amazing treatments available nowadays - it’s possible for those infected to live long and healthy lives.
Caused by a tiny parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis (or TV for short), trichomoniasis is also quite difficult to spot as about half of those infected have no symptoms.
- Pain or burning sensation when peeing
- Women: frothy yellow/ watery/ smelly vaginal discharge, soreness/ swelling/ itching around the vagina, pain when having sex
- Men: whitish discharge, inflamed foreskin, pain/ discomfort during ejaculation
HOW: You can catch it through unprotected penetrative sex, but not from oral or anal sex.
Otherwise known as “crabs”, these beasties not only live in your pubic hair, but can also live in your underarm hair, beard, body hair and even eyebrows/ lashes!
- Pubic lice/ eggs in your pubic hair
HOW: You don’t have to be having sex to get pubic lice, you can catch them from being close to someone’s lice-ridden hair area.
Instead of shaving all your hair off in a drastic attempt to get rid of them, you can get pubic lice treated instead with special creams and shampoos.
So there you have it – a simple guide to STIs.
Even if you think you’re fine, it’s worth getting checked out if you ever have sex (yes, including oral sex) without protection. Statistics show that many people don’t recognise their symptoms, or don’t have any symptoms at all, so it’s better safe than sorry. Plus, leaving STIs can lead to serious health problems in the future, which you would KICK yourself for.
Knowledge is power, guys, so get to know your facts and protect yourselves.
Happy safe sex-having!