What is an STI?
Sexually transmissible infections (STIs) are infections which can be passed from one person to another during sexual contact.
Sexual contact includes:
- touching or rubbing genitals
- oral sex (mouth on genitals)
- intercourse (penis in vagina, penis in bum)
- using sex toys
What are the most common STIs?
The most common STIs are:
- Genital warts and HPV
- Herpes (cold sores)
- Hepatitis A, B and C
Find out more about STIs
How do you get an STI?
You can get an STI by having sex without a condom.
You are more likely to get an STI if you have sex without a condom with:
- casual partners - a casual partner is someone you have sex with, but are not in a relationship with or maybe don’t know very well. The more casual partners you have, the higher your risk for getting an STI
- partners who have had sex without a condom with other casual partners
- partners in some countries outside Australia
- partners who have had sex without a condom in some countries outside Australia
- partners who have injected drugs
Men who have anal sex without a condom with other men are also at higher risk of STIs.
How do you know if you have an STI?
Some STIs don’t have any signs or symptoms, so you can have an STI without knowing. This means you can pass the STI to a sexual partner and make them sick too.
Some STIs show symptoms around your genitals. Genitals include:
These symptoms can include:
- rash or itching in the genitals
- unusual discharge from the penis, vagina or anus
- burning when you pee
- sores, blisters or ulcers
- bumps or lumps on the skin
- pain in the genitals or lower belly
- bleeding after intercourse
How urgent are my symptoms?
What is an STI test?
The only way to find out if you have an STI is to have an STI test:
- urine test - you will need to urinate into a jar
- blood test - a nurse or doctor will take some of your blood
- swab test - a nurse or doctor will use a cotton swab to take a test from your genitals, anus or mouth
Your doctor will tell you which tests you should have. It takes 1 to 2 weeks to get the test results.
Where can I be tested?
When should you be tested?
You should have an STI test if:
- you have sex without a condom
- you have any STI symptoms
- you are worried that you might have an STI
- your condom broke or fell off during sex
- you or your partner has sex with other people
- you share needles, syringes and spoons to inject drugs
What tests do I need?
How urgent are my symptoms?
What can you do if your test is positive?
A ‘positive’ test result means you have an STI. Your doctor will give you medication to treat the STI.
Most bacterial STIs can be treated and cured. This means when you are finished treatment, the infection is gone from your body and can’t be passed onto a sexual partner.
Some viral STIs can be treated, but not cured. This means when you are finished treatment, the physical symptoms of the virus are gone but the virus may remain in your body and may still be able to be passed onto a sexual partner.
Who do you need to tell about your test results?
You should tell your sexual partners if you have an STI, so they can go to their doctor to have a test.
If your sexual partners are not tested or don't take their STI medication, you could keep giving the STI to each other.
You do not have to tell your:
It can be difficult to talk to partners about STIs, but you can use an online resource called Let Them Know to help you either tell your partners yourself or anonymously about some STIs.
You can also ask your doctor if they can help you. Let Them Know provides information to help doctors help you.
How are STIs treated?
You should see your doctor to have regular STI tests to make sure you stay STI free.
Most STIs are easily treated with medication such as antibiotics. After the treatment is finished, you will not pass the STI on to anyone else.
Some STIs can be treated with medication, but not cured. The medication will help control the STI in your body and help prevent symptoms. You will need to manage the STI and your sexual contact. Your doctor can talk to you about how to do this.
If STIs are not treated, you could have long term health problems such as infertility and you can continue to pass the STI on to your sexual partners.
How can you make sure you don't give an STI to someone else?
Always use a condom when you have sex.
If you do get an STI, don’t have sex again until you and your sexual partners have seen a doctor and finished the STI treatment.
How can you avoid STIs?
The best way to avoid getting an STI is to use a condom or other barrier method every time you have sex. You should also:
- talk about it
- practice safe sex
- get regular sexual health checks
Talk about it
- Learn how to talk to your partners about sexual health.
- Be open with your sexual partners about your sexual history and health. It’s okay to ask them if they’ve ever had an STI or have been tested recently.
Practice safe sex
- Always make sure your partner/s are comfortable with the type and degree of sexual activity. Always get positive consent.
- If you or your sexual partner has symptoms, don’t touch or rub the area.
- If you think you have an STI, don’t have sex again until you have been to the doctor.
- Use condoms for vaginal, anal and oral sex. Always check the use-by date, as old condoms can break easily.
- Use a dental dam (a thin plastic barrier) for oral sex.
- Use a water-based lubricant to reduce the chance of the condom or dam breaking. Don’t use Vaseline or massage oil as this can weaken the condom or dam.
- Use a new condom or dam each time you have sex (even if you or your partner didn’t ejaculate). Never wash out a condom and use it again.
Get regular sexual health checks
- If you often have sex with new or different partners, get a sexual health check every three months.
- If you notice any symptoms or signs of an STI, see a doctor. Don’t have sex again until you have seen a doctor and finished your treatment.