Sexually transmissible infections (STIs) have been around for centuries. Unfortunately, for most of that time there were few, if any, effective treatments.
DocQ, Dr Fiona Bisshop says the treatments for STIs were once “so unpleasant people remarked that if the disease didn’t kill you, the cure probably would!”
Advances in modern medicine mean we can now enjoy pleasurable and safe sex lives.
Some STIs are now curable. There are effective treatments for others. Also, vaccines are available for hepatitis A, hepatitis B and the Human Papilloma Virus, better known as HPV.
A pleasurable and safe sex life
The basis of a pleasurable and safe sex life is physical wellbeing. An untreated STI is a ticking time bomb. It can cause serious health problems. Syphilis is one STI which is on the rise here in Queensland. Dr Fiona Bisshop says untreated syphilis is particularly dangerous.
“The consequences of untreated syphilis can be devastating. Once it enters the nervous system, all sorts of symptoms begin to develop, ranging from headaches and visual disturbance to memory loss, dementia and paralysis.” However syphilis is usually easily curable.
The same is true of chlamydia, which usually requires only a single course of antibiotic treatment. However, if left untreated, chlamydia can lead to longer-term infection of the testicles. Gonorrhea, which is also treated with antibiotics, can heighten the risk of HIV transmission.
We can all protect our physical wellbeing and enjoy a pleasurable and safe sex life using a few simple tips and tricks.
STI prevention tips and tricks
First remember that prevention is better than cure. There are proven methods of protecting against STIs. One is abstinence, but we’re talking about pleasure as well as safety here, so let’s discount that option.
The most effective preventative against most STIs is a condom. Even for those STIs where condoms are not 100% effective they still provide a barrier and lessen the risk of transmission.
To find out more about individual STIs check out: stoptherise.initiatives.qld.gov.au/stis
Condoms used every time and correctly, protect against STIs including HIV. Nothing else provides the same protection.
Vaccinations can protect you from hepatitis A and hepatitis B, which can be spread through sexual contact and may cause serious liver infections if not treated.
The hepatitis A vaccine, in particular, is strongly recommended for men who have sex with men (MSM). There is also a vaccine to prevent HPV, and while HPV is highly reported as a cancer-causer for women, it can also cause a range of cancers in men or genital warts.
When taken as directed, PrEP protects against HIV and has contributed to reduced infection rates here and around the world.
Research released recently by the Kirby Institute shows the steepest decline in HIV infection rates in Australia since 2001.
That decline occurred mainly in MSM. However, PrEP offers no protection at all against other STIs which is why condoms remain critical to sexual health for everyone who is sexually active.
Testing is an essential weapon in the battle against STIs. Not all STIs exhibit physical symptoms so people don’t always know they’re infected, and others might not tell the truth about it. The earlier STIs are diagnosed, the earlier they can be treated.
Earlier treatment means better health outcomes. That can also prevent the onward transmission of the disease.
Where to get tested
Don’t let fear of stigma prevent you from seeking the best possible sexual health care. It’s important you feel able to speak frankly with your sexual health care provider about safe sex and your sex life, so take charge of your sexual health and choose a practitioner who puts you at ease.
Queensland Health has sexual health clinics throughout the state.
Tell the doctor or nurse that you have sex with men and ask for a routine sexual health check. (What you discuss with your doctor or nurse is confidential.)
When to get tested
If you enjoy an active sex life, it is recommended that MSM get tested for STIs at least once a year, based on current STI management guidelines. It’s specifically recommended you get tested every three months if:
- You’ve have unprotected anal sex
- If you’ve had more than 10 sexual partners in six months
- If you’ve had group sex
- If you’ve used recreational drugs during sex.
However, life doesn’t always fit neatly into a routine. Don’t wait for your regular test to come around if you:
- think you may have an STI
- have had unsafe sex with a casual partner/s
- have had a condom break or fall off during sex
- have different regular or casual partners
Your health professional will ask about your sexual history. These questions are designed to determine your risk factors and the extent of testing required.
They will include:
- number of sexual partners
- sexual practices
- STI symptoms
- intravenous drug use
The doctor or nurse will examine your external genital area and possibly your mouth and anus for any signs of STIs. They may also take a swab, urine sample or blood test.
Use condoms and take advantage of the miracle of modern medicine by regular testing and you’ll ensure your physical wellbeing and enjoy pleasurable and safe sex life.
For more information visit: qld.gov.au/stoptherise
Thanks to our campaign partner: Queensland Health
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