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There are more than 20 known sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Some of them will cause that should be brought to the attention of a doctor immediately. However, some of these STDs can be ‘silent’ — a person could have the disease but might not notice any symptoms of the infection. Therefore, it is important to be tested for STDs if you take part in unprotected oral, genital or anal sex.
The most common STDs are listed below:
- Gonorrhoea. This infection at first may cause a slight discharge from the vagina, penis or anus. However, 50% of women and 10% of men with gonorrhoea have no symptoms at all. If the infection is not treated, it can lead to sterility and other complications. Gonorrhoea can be treated with antibiotics.
- Chlamydia. Chlamydia trachomatis is often called ‘the silent epidemic’ because infections are common yet many people do not realise that they are infected. Only one in four of infected people have symptoms of a slight discharge and stinging on passing urine. It is the commonest STD in Australia. This bacterial disease is easily cured with antibiotics but can have serious health consequences if left untreated.
- Syphilis. Syphilis is a bacterial infection that can be easily missed. The first symptom is a painless blister or sore that will disappear on its own, but the infection can be passed on to others for up to eighteen months. Syphilis can be treated with antibiotics. However, if left untreated, the disease can spread throughout your body over the course of many years and cause considerable organ damage.
- Trichomonas. Trichomonas vaginalis is a microscopic parasite that may or may not cause symptoms of watery discharge and stinging on passing urine. Treatment is available.
- Human papillomavirus (HPV). This can infect the genital area, causing genital warts (condylomata). Some types of the virus have been associated with cervical cancer. Early detection with cervical smear testing can limit the risk of cancer.
- Genital herpes. This is caused by Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) 2 and increasingly HSV 1. The symptoms are of recurrent, periodic outbreaks of sores in the genital region. However, there are anti-viral therapies available that can shorten the duration of symptoms.
- Hepatitis B and hepatitis C. These are viral infections that can be transmitted through sexual contact. Hepatitis B and C affect the liver and can severely damage it. Treatment with antiviral drugs and interferon is available.
- Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). HIV is associated with AIDS. This virus attacks and destroys certain white blood cells (T-helper lymphocytes) that are involved in the immune system. As the number of these cells is reduced, the ability of your body to fight off infections also decreases. This eventually results in death. Although there is no cure, early detection allows for treatment with anti-viral therapies that can help to prolong life.
You can refer yourself to any Sexual Health Clinic in Australia to receive free, confidential testing and treatment. Your GP is not informed without your permission. For any sexually transmitted disease, an infected person should inform their recent sexual partner(s) so that they may be treated as well. Clinic staff will advise you how best to do this, but it is not compulsory.
Last Review Date: December 21, 2014