Protect yourself from sexually transmitted diseases

The lowdown on STIs

Did you know that Sexually Transmitted Infections are on the rise? No one wants an STI (obviously). Catching one can put your health – and even your fertility – at stake. Likewise, giving someone else one isn’t exactly a turn-on. “Eek… Would you like genital herpes with that?

There’s no need to hold yourself back from enjoying sex and experimenting sexually with whomever you like (presuming they like it too… it’s probably time to let your insta-crush know you exist). Just be mindful of how to stay safe – whatever your age, relationship status, gender or sexuality. Because if there’s one thing STIs have going for them it’s that they don’t discriminate.

Condoms provide the STI protection you need so you can enjoy the ride. Just make sure they’re a snug fit and in date (you can find the expiry date on all Durex condoms). Make sure to always use a water-based lubricant – other oil-based products can actually weaken the condom. And remember that if someone is pressuring you to have unprotected sex when you want to use protection, it’s your body and your choice – so what you want goes.

Now let’s get down to it – here are the most common STIs and their associated symptoms to look out for.

Chlamydia

Chlamydia is the most common STI in Canada and often doesn’t show any symptoms whatsoever – particularly with women. That’s why it’s really important to get yourself tested at the doctors or sexual health clinic every so often (and any time after you’ve had unprotected sex with a new partner).

Here are the symptoms to look out for if they do show:

Men:

  • An unpleasant burning sensation during urination
  • Discomfort around the testicles
  • Pain in and around the anus – unprotected anal sex can spread the infection here
  • Throat infections
  • Conjunctivitis – discharge and pain from around and in the eye

Women:

  • Itchy eyes
  • Stomach pain
  • A vaginal discharge
  • A painful burning sensation during urination
  • Heavier periods than usual

Genital herpes

Like chlamydia, genital herpes can be very difficult to spot at first, with symptoms generally not being all that noticeable. Once you have an outbreak you’ll definitely know though, as itchy and painful red blisters and spots will appear down there.

Typical symptoms include:

Men & women:

  • Tingling pain around the genitals
  • Itchy and red spots that turn into blisters
  • An unpleasant burning feeling during urination
  • Blisters around the anus
  • Cold sores around the mouth
  • A fever or flu-like illness
  • The urge to use the toilet more often

Just women:

  • Vaginal discharge
  • Ulcers or blisters on the neck of the womb

Gonorrhoea

For the majority of people gonorrhoea is one of the most difficult STIs to treat, as the signs of its having it are less obvious than other STIs. If symptoms do rear their ugly heads, it’s usually between one day and two weeks after the initial infection.

Symptoms of gonorrhoea include:

Men:

  • White or cloudy discharge from the penis
  • Swollen testes
  • Burning or an unpleasant tingling inside the penis
  • The urge to use the toilet more often

Women:

  • Vaginal discharge
  • Pain in the pelvis and in the stomach
  • Bleeding between periods
  • The urge to use the toilet more often

HIV

The thought of contracting HIV is scary for anyone, but there have been huge medical developments in recent years with preventative medications like PrEP becoming more available. Great strides have also been made in tackling the stigma of HIV. It still remains a worldwide issue – with gay men being at the highest risk of getting infected here in the UK – but thanks to advancements in medical care, research and education, people with HIV are more able to live full lives. (But with more check-ups to go to and tablets to take than your average person.)

With HIV it’s actually easy for people to go for many years without suffering from any symptoms, which is why if you think you might be at risk, it’s really important to get checked up.

Here are the main symptoms:

Strong fever or flu-like illness (it’s thought 80% of people with HIV will contract this)

  • Rash across the body
  • Oral ulcers
  • Swollen glands


Now you know the ins-and-outs – it should be easier to stay safe out there, and in the bedroom. Whatever takes your fancy.