STIs facts: What you need to know

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are a reality and can affect any sexually active individual. Look at some of these facts and familiarise yourself with the symptoms.

Syphilis

· Many men have syphilis without knowing they have it, and can spread it to others if they don’t use a condom during sex.

· Someone who has syphilis that is displaying symptoms might get a sore at the place where they have been infected. This could be on the penis, where they might see it, or around or inside the anus, where they won’t see it.

· If you get syphilis it is easier for you to get infected with HIV. If you are already HIV positive getting syphilis can make your HIV worse.

Herpes

· There are two kinds of herpes: blisters that commonly occur on your lips and around your mouth (usually called cold sores) and genital herpes, which causes blisters in your genital or anal area. Herpes is a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

· The virus is easily released from the blisters, which burst and become sores. However, it can also be passed from skin that does not appear to have any blisters or sores.

· If you get herpes you will have it for the rest of your life. Even though the blisters and sores will disappear, they may come back at various times.

Gonorrhoea/ Chlamydia

· You can get gonorrhoea or chlamydia in your throat (from sucking an infected penis), in your anus (from being penetrated by an infected top without a condom) or in your penis (from penetrating an infected bottom without a condom).

· Not everyone who has gonorrhoea or chlamydia will show signs of the infection, especially if the infection is in their throat or in their anus.

· Having gonorrhoea or chlamydia makes it easier for you to get HIV, or to spread HIV to your partner if you are HIV-positive.

Scabies

· Scabies is an itchy skin allergy reaction to mites that burrow under the skin. It is highly contagious and merely requires sharing a bed with someone who has it. It affects areas of skin folds, especially in the groin, fingers, toes, wrists and underarms.

· Female mites, less than 1 mm long, deposit their eggs in burrows under the topmost skin layer. Larvae hatch after a few days.

· Scabies is usually treated immediately with topical medicinal ointments applied directly to the skin. Topical medicines must be used at night and be washed off the following morning because the mites are most active at night.

· Use the hottest water setting possible on the washing machine when washing clothing, linen and towels that have been in contact with an infected person, and dry them in a hot dryer. If something can’t go into the washing machine, seal it in a plastic bag for a week and the mites will eventually die off.

Genital Warts (HPV)

· Warts are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV) that affects the skin and mucous membranes. There are many strains of this virus, most of which are harmless. Some cause harmless warts (on the hands or feet). Warts can also occur on your penis, or around or inside your anus.

· Genital warts will appear as hard flesh-colored bumps in or around your anus or penis. As they grow they develop a rough texture.

· There are more than 40 types of HPV that can be passed on through sex.

Hepatitis

· Hepatitis A, B and C are all caused by a virus and can be transmitted sexually. They are spread through blood, semen (cum) or other body fluids and can be spread through unprotected anal sex, oral sex or by sharing needles to inject drugs. Hepatitis A is spread through minute traces of faeces entering your body, which may occur during rimming.

· Depending on the type of hepatitis, the severity can range from mild to severe to chronic. Some people will not have any symptoms and a few will suffer severe liver damage.

· Reducing your number of sex partners might help protect you against viral hepatitis (less exposure to feces and other body fluids), but vaccination remains highly recommended to prevent these viruses.

HIV

· Most gay and bisexual men become HIV-positive through having anal sex without using condoms or unprotected sex when not on PrEP (the daily HIV prevention pill). Unprotected anal sex is high risk for HIV and other STIs, especially for the bottom.

· Homophobia, stigma, and discrimination. Negative attitudes about homosexuality may discourage gay and bisexual men from getting tested for HIV and finding health care to prevent and treat HIV.

· Did you know that having an undetectable viral load when taking ARVs also stops HIV transmission? U=U is an international campaign to raise awareness about this aspect of HIV treatment. U=U (Undetectable = Untransmittable) means that the risk of passing HIV onto another person has been scientifically proven to be 0%.

For more information about HIV and other STIs, where to get PrEP or how to get onto ARVs, visit www.wethebrave.co.za or call WhatsApp or SMS, Call4Care on 0716833226: Monday to Friday – 09:00 to 16:00.

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