There are many different STDs with a range of different signs and symptoms. Common symptoms can include:
- Sores, blisters, ulcers, warts or rashes in the genital area
- Unusual discharge from the penis or vagina
- Itchiness or irritation in the genital area
- Persistent diarrhoea
- Pain during sex or urination
- Fever, flu-like symptoms
Interestingly, sometimes there are no signs at all. Therefore, it is recommended that you talk to your doctor about having a check–up, even if you do not have any signs or symptoms of an STD.
The most common routes of transmission include:
- Vaginal sex – the man’s penis in the woman’s vagina
- Anal sex – the man’s penis in the partner’s anus
- Oral sex – the man’s penis in the partner’s mouth, or the partner’s mouth or tongue in the woman’s vagina
- Oral-anal sex – one partner’s mouth or tongue on the other partner’s anus
It is not difficult to avoid catching STDs. You can prevent most STDs by using barrier protection such as condoms and dams. The female condom which is more uncommon than the male condom is a 14cm, prelubricated sheath that fits loosely into the vagina and can be put in up to eight hours before sex. Female condoms should not be used together with male condoms because the friction between the two may cause the condoms to break. Dams are rectangular sheets of latex, which can be used to cover the vagina or anus to prevent the exchange of bodily fluids during oral sex.
Condoms can be bought from supermarkets, pharmacists and other outlets. Female condoms are more expensive and not as widely available as condoms for men.
General tips for correct use of condoms and dams
Safe sex is effective in helping prevent the spread of most STDs. Some tips for correct use include:
- Use well-known brands and check the expiry date
- Store in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight
- Make sure the condom or dam is free of holes or breakage before use
- Use water based lubricants. Don’t use Vaseline, baby oil or massage oils, which can weaken and split condoms or dams
- Use each condom or dam once only
Visit your Doctor
If you have unprotected sex with a person who has an STD, you are at high risk of catching that infection. It is recommended that you talk to your doctor about having a check-up if you have had unsafe sex, even if you do not have any signs or symptoms of an STD.