Clinic 34

Darwin
(08) 8999 2678

Alice Springs
(08) 8951 7549

Katherine
(08) 8973 9049

Tennant Creek
(08) 8962 4250

Nhulunbuy
(08) 8987 0356

What is a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI)?

A Sexually Transmissible Infection (STI) is an infection that can be passed on through vaginal, anal or oral sex.  Most STIs are transmitted through the exchange of sexual fluids, but some can be passed on through skin to skin genital contact.

STIs can cause a wide range of health problems, from mild irritations to more serious illness. Pregnant women with a STI can pass it on to their unborn children. Some STIs are easily cured with antibiotics if detected early, but can cause long-term problems if left untreated. While some STIs cannot be cured, treatments can help to ease the symptoms.

Between 50%-70% of people with a STI do not know they have the infection, because they have no symptoms. When symptoms do occur they can include:

  • Unusual discharge or itchiness around the genitals
  • Burning feeling when having a pee
  • Rash, sore or small lumps in the genital area
  • Unusual bleeding from the vagina, after sex or in between periods
  • Pain and swelling in the testicles (balls)

If you notice any of these symptoms or have had sex without a condom it is important to go to Clinic 34, a Doctor, Family Planning or your local clinic to get a sexual health check.

Common STIs

Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea

Fact: Chlamydia is the most common STI in young people and in the NT we have almost three times more Chlamydia infection compared to the rest of Australia

Chlamydia and gonorrhoea are transmitted through an exchange of body fluids (semen, blood and vaginal fluids) during unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sexual activity.

Often people with Chlamydia or Gonorrhoea have no symptoms and don’t know they have an infection.  Symptoms, when present, can include a burning sensation when peeing or an unusual discharge from the penis or vagina.  Both can be cured with antibiotics. If left untreated Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea can lead to infertility in men and women. In women untreated Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea can lead to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID).  This is when the fallopian tubes are infected and become blocked and damaged and this stops a woman from being able to become pregnant or because the tubes are blocked the egg grows in the tubes and not in the uterus and this can cause an ectopic pregnancy which is a serious health issue.

Notification Rates by Age Group 2014


Data source: Northern Territory Sexual Health and Blood Borne Virus Unit Surveillance Update, Vol. 15 No. 2

Genital Herpes

Herpes is a virus that can infect the mouth or genital area.  

While many people with genital herpes experience no symptoms, the first sign of an infection is often an itching or tingling sensation in the genital area, followed by tiny blisters appearing. People with an infection may also have flu-like symptoms like fever, headaches and muscle aches and pains. Herpes is passed on through skin to skin contact with a person who has the virus - this can occur through oral, vaginal or anal sex. There is no cure for herpes, but effective treatments are available.

Genital Warts

Warts are small cauliflower-shaped or flat lumps that lie on the skin. Genital warts can be found on the vagina, vulva (vaginal lips), cervix (opening to the womb) or anus in women or on the penis, anus or testicles in men.  Sometimes genital warts are so small that they can’t be seen or felt, so it is possible to have them and not know it. Genital warts are sometimes found when a woman has a Pap smear.

Genital warts are caused by a virus called the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which is usually passed on during sexual activity through skin to skin contact or body fluids.  If the virus infects the cervix there is a chance of cervical cancer developing.  A cervical cancer vaccine is available for young women – talk to a doctor or clinician for more details. There is no cure for HPV. However, warts can be removed either by freezing, with chemical paint or cream.  Even if this is carried out you will still have the HPV virus in your body and the warts may come back.

Other STIs

Syphilis

Refer to our Syphilis page.

HIV / AIDS

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus, which attacks the body's immune system and can lead to AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). Early HIV symptoms can include having a flu-like illness, swollen glands in the neck, armpits and groin, headaches, fever and a rash.
HIV/AIDS is transmitted through blood, semen, vaginal fluids and breast milk and can be passed on through unprotected sexual activity, sharing needles and other drug injecting equipment, and use of non-sterilised tattooing and body piercing equipment.

Pregnant women with HIV can pass the virus to their unborn child, however there are now some good medications that can lower the risk of this happening.  Women with HIV are advised not to breastfeed their baby as breast milk can transmit HIV.

There is no cure for HIV, however, treatments for HIV have improved in the past 12 years and many people with HIV feel and look healthy.

Hepatitis

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis A, B and C are the three major viruses that cause hepatitis.  There is no cure for hepatitis, but vaccines are available to prevent people getting hepatitis A and B.

Many people with hepatitis have no symptoms, but some experience yellowing of the skin and eyes, loss of appetite, nausea, stomach pain, extreme tiredness and pains in their joints.

Hepatitis A is transmitted through contact with faeces (poo) from contaminated water or food, or by anal sex or oral-anal contact.

Hepatitis B is transmitted through blood, semen and vaginal fluids and can be passed on through unprotected sexual activity, sharing needles and other drug injecting equipment, and use of non-sterilised tattooing and body piercing equipment and sharing personal items such as razors and toothbrushes. It can also be passed from mother to child.
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Hepatitis C is transmitted through contact with infected blood and can be passed on through sharing (re-using) needles and other drug injecting equipment, use of non-sterilised tattoo and body piercing equipment and sharing personal items such as razors and toothbrushes. It is not often sexually transmitted but there is still a risk involved, particularly if a woman has her period or if the skin is broken.