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Updated 08 May 2014

STIs: avoid a doctor's visit

Sexually transmitted infections are certainly no fun. In fact, they could be life-threatening. Here's what you need to know.

1

How much do you really know about STIs? The following facts could save your life, or at least, prevent an embarrassing visit to the doctor.

Be condom-wise. Using a condom, even during oral sex, can prevent most STIs (but not pubic lice). It can also prevent pregnancy.

Chlamydia is catching. Adolescent women are particularly prone to this STI, and amongst women it is the most common STI in developed countries. It can also go undetected for years and can lead to infertility. Be aware of the dangers.

From mother to child. An infected mother can transmit some STIs to her foetus or newborn child.

Barring all. Dental dams (for oral sex), and latex or polyurethane condoms, when used correctly, provide effective barriers to STIs.

Cervical cancer risk. The risk of cervical cancer rises with HPV infection. Women who have been diagnosed with HPV should go for a Pap smear every six months.

When is it best to test? If you think you have been exposed to HIV, it is best to wait three to six months to be tested, as it could take this long for your body to produce the HIV antibodies. Be extra careful during this time because you could transmit the virus to others.

More than meets the eye. You never know whether anyone is safe just by looking at them. Many STIs have no visible symptoms at all, so just because someone looks healthy, you cannot assume it is safe to have unprotected sex with them.

Here to stay. Herpes, genital warts and HIV are all incurable. In the case of the first two, treatment can relieve the symptoms but no medication can make any of these three STIs disappear.

Safer sex or no sex. There is no point in taking chances. One brief sexual encounter can have life-long consequences.

Health24

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