|Bodies . . . sex . . . and you|
|Bodies and how they work|
If what we’ve said before hasn’t convinced you about the importance of being able to communicate with your partner, then this should do it. If you don’t have the sort of relationship where you can both talk openly about your sexual likes and dislikes, and the type of contraception that you prefer to use and why, then chances are there will come a time when you will have unprotected sex.
If you have unprotected sex then, apart from an unwanted pregnancy, you and your partner could look forward to catching one of these. STIs stands for ‘Sexually Transmissible Infections’ and they are on the rise big time in Tasmania. These are infections that are passed from one person to another during sexual contact. Sexual contact includes all forms of sexual contact involving the genitals, the mouth, and anal areas. Fingers are also able to carry an infection from the genital, mouth or anal areas to other parts of your own or your partner’s body.
There are two groups of STIs; Group A -caused by bacteria and parasites, Group B – caused by viral infections.
Group A These STIs can be cured but you cannot become immune to them; so you can catch them again and again and again...They are:
Chlamydia This is the most common STI in Australia. Symptoms may include a discharge, pain when peeing, pelvic pain, pain when having sex. A lot of people have no symptoms. It can affect fertility if left untreated. It’s easy to find out if you have chlamydia, as you just pee in a bottle at your doctors or Family Planning clinic. It will not get better or go away unless it is treated with antibiotics. All sexual partners of people infected with chlamydia need to be treated to stop it from spreading.
Non Specific Urethritis (NSU) This is is an inflammation of the urethra (the passage in the penis that urine and sperm travel through). If untreated this STI can be passed to women through sexual intercourse, causing the woman to develop pelvic inflammatory disease which can cause infertility. If left untreated this STI can spread to the male’s prostate and/or testicles and infertility can occur. NSU has similar symptoms to Chlamydia and gonorrhoea. It can be cured with the correct treatment.
Gonorrhoea Males infected could have discharge from their penis and burning when peeing. Females could have a discharge, pelvic pain or abnormal bleeding. Some infected people have no symptoms. It will not go away or get better unless it is treated with antibiotics. It can be easily diagnosed but if left untreated may lead to complications with fertility. All sexual partners of people infected with gonorrhoea need to be treated to stop it from spreading.
Trichomonlasis Females infected may have a vaginal discharge with a distinct smell, but about 50% will not have any symptoms. Most males infected do not have any symptoms, but a few may have a discharge. This STI is easily diagnosed and can be treated with antibiotics. All sexual partners of people infected with Trichomoniasis need to be treated to stop it from spreading.
Pubic Lice These are small grey/brown mites that attach to the base of the pubic hair and cause itching. They can be treated with foam, shampoo or cream that is available over the counter at chemists. Hypersensitivity and infections under the skin, around the eyes, and in the lymph glands can occur if this STI is left untreated. It is passed on through sexual or close personal contact. Anyone who has had close contact with the person infected with pubic lice needs to be treated to stop it from spreading.
Syphilis The first sign of this STI may be a painless sore which will eventually heal. Six weeks to six months later a coppery-red rash may appear with fever and feeling ill. These symptoms will also pass. Infection will then attack internal organs, like the liver, lung, heart and brain. This STI is easily diagnosed and treated in the early stages but any damage caused to body organs before treatment cannot be repaired. People can be infectious for the first two years of catching the disease, and all sexual partners need to be treated to stop it from spreading.
Group B the symptoms of these STIs can be treated with medications but the condition itself cannot be cured. They are;
Herpes There are two types of Herpes Simplex Virus: Herpes Simplex Virus type 1 (HSV-1) and Herpes Simplex Virus type 2 (HSV-2). Cold sores around the mouth (often called ‘oral herpes’) are generally caused by HSV-1. Most cases of genital herpes are caused by HSV-2.
Genital Herpes are usually caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus – 2 (HSV-2). It may start as a tingling feeling then small painful blisters appears; these will dry and heal. The first outbreak is usually the worst. It stays in the body and further outbreaks can happen but usually less often over time. Many people have very mild attacks or don’t get any symptoms at all. Herpes can return when a person is sick or stressed and anti-viral medications help. Sexual partners should be told, as condoms can’t always protect against herpes.
Cold sores on the mouth can cause genital infection during oral sex for people who do not already carry the cold sore virus, so it is important to avoid performing oral sex on your partner (or kissing) if you have a cold sore.
Genital Warts This STI is caused by HPV (Human Papilloma Virus). It appears as small lumps on the penis or vulva or may be in the vagina or anus. Usually they are painless but may cause discomfort. They are treated by freezing, painting with various medications or removed surgically. The virus can remain in the body and return when the person is stressed or unwell. Some types of HPV cause changes to the cervix which may result in cancer if left untreated. These types don’t cause visible warts. It’s important for women to have regular pap smears to detect any changes. A vaccination is available.
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) This is transmitted by the body fluids of an infected person getting into the body of another person usually via penis/vaginal or anal sex, and/or via needles containing infected blood. Contact with the virus can cause a flu-like condition. HIV will show up as antibodies in the blood, usually within three months. A person can be HIV positive and remain healthy for some time but they can pass the virus on through unsafe behaviours. In Australia a person who has HIV can have treatment to stop or delay the onset of AIDS.
AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) This may develop when HIV has weakened the immune system that fights infection. AIDS is a word referring to a number of different illnesses and diseases that can attack the body. In Australia, treatment can delay or stop the progress of AIDS.
Hepatitis A This is a viral infection that affects the liver. It is transmitted through contact with contaminated food or water or the faeces from an infected person. Transmission can happen during sexual activity involving the anus. There is a vaccination available.
Hepatitis B This is a viral infection that affects the liver. It spreads via the body fluids from an infected person to another person during sex. It is easily diagnosed by a blood test and is thought to be carried by 2% of Australians. There is a vaccination available.
Hepatitis C This is also a viral infection that affects the liver. It is not usually transmitted by sex but there is a risk if blood is involved in sexual activity. It is easily diagnosed by a blood test but there is no vaccination available.
Well that’s it. We hope you’ve found some of the information in this booklet useful. Remember, if you want to know more or you think it will help to talk to someone about the things you’re going through or worried about, then have a look at the different youth and health care services listed at the end of this book.
We’ve got some great people working with young people in Tasmania, we’re really proud of them and we know there’s someone out there who can help you, so give them a call or just drop in and say hello.