Sexual Health Thursday January 3, 2013

Post-party season STI check

It’s the start of January and for many of us this signals the end of a long December party season. January is also a time of year where statistics show an increase in the number of people going for STI tests. This increase in numbers is largely believed to the result of a more relaxed approach towards sexual health during the winter party season, often fuelled by alcohol use and a more festive spirit.

When to get tested

In general it’s recommended that you go for yearly STI tests if you have multiple sexual partners, even if you use protection every time you have sex. However, if you’ve had unprotected sex, it’s also recommended that you request an STI test. Most STI tests can’t be performed straight away and you may have to wait three weeks to three months before requesting a test, just to conclusively exclude the potential for a false negative.

It’s also important to get tested even if you’ve just had oral sex. Some STIs can simply spread through touch such as genital herpes and genital warts, although unlike genital herpes, genital warts can normally only be diagnosed once you start noticing symptoms.

When are STI symptoms likely to appear?

If STI symptoms do occur, the time when they appear can vary depending on whether you are a man or a women and the type of infection you’ve contracted:

  • Syphilis – 10 days after infection in the form of small painless sores around the genital area
  • Gonorrhoea – symptoms (green, yellow discharge from genitals etc) can normally start two weeks after infection in 50% of women and 90% of men
  • Genital herpes – painful red blisters can start appearing in the genital area anything from seven days to a years after infection has occurred, although outbreaks usually start sooner rather than later in the case of genital herpes
  • Genital warts – warts may start forming in and around the genitals two to three months after infection, but could also take up to a year
  • Chlamydia – over 50% of people infected with chlamydia won’t display any symptoms, but those that occur could include pelvic pain in women and testicular pain in men, to name a few

Other symptoms that may indicate that you have an STI include:

  • Swollen lymph nodes in the groin area
  • Unusual looking or smelling penile or vaginal discharge
  • Fever
  • Pain when urinating
  • Abdominal pain
  • Rash around the genitals or anus
  • Anal discharge

However, not everybody who contracts a sexually transmitted infection is always aware of it. This is because the majority of sexually transmitted infections don’t cause symptoms or may only cause symptoms later. It’s also possible that you may be experiencing symptoms, but they are so general that you don’t notice that anything might be wrong. So, although symptoms may be uncomfortable, they can at least provide you with an indication of when you need to get treatment. Nonetheless, symptoms can often go away after a few days, which can give the illusion that the infection has passed, when in fact it’s still present and could be negatively affecting your health.

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