Sexually Transmitted Infections

What are STIs?

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are passed from one person to another through unprotected sex or genital contact.

There are a wide range of STIs caused by viruses, bacteria or parasites.

STIs can be prevented by condoms or vaccination.

Most STIs can be cured but all can be treated

What are the common STIs?

  • Gonorrhoea: Found in the discharge and is spread by sexual contact including oral sex
  • Chlamydia: One of the most common STIs in the world and very often symptomless
  • Genital Herpes: Spread by skin to skin contact
  • Hepatitis B: Can lead to liver cirrhosis and fibrosis and is the leading cause of liver cancer
  • Syphilis: Has been around for centuries and is still prevalent today
  • Trichomoniasis: Causes a foul smelling discharge but is often symptomless

What is the scope of the problem?

  • More than 1 million STIs are acquired every day worldwide
  • Each year, there are an estimated 357 million new infections with 1 of 4 STIs: chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis and trichomoniasis
  • More than 500 million people are estimated to have a genital infection with herpes simplex virus (HSV)
  • The majority of STIs have no symptoms or only mild symptoms that may not be recognised as an STI
  • STIs such as HSV type 2 and syphilis can increase the risk of HIV acquisition
  • In some cases, STIs can have serious reproductive health consequences
  • Drug resistance, especially for gonorrhoea, is a major threat to reducing the impact of STIs worldwide

Who should get tested?

The American Centers for Disease Control (CDC) encourage STI testing if one or more of the following apply to you: 

  • You’re sexually active and under the age of 25 years
  • You’re older than 25 years and you’re having sex with a new partner or multiple partners
  • You’ve been forced to engage in sexual activity against your will
  • You have HIV or are at risk for HIV (e.g. having sex without a condom)
  • You’re a man who has sex with men
  • You’re using or have used intravenous drugs

How soon can you test for an STI?

The time frame for taking an STI test varies based on the incubation period for the infection and can differ from person to person.

The incubation period is the time between exposure to an infection and the appearance of the first symptoms.

Our recommended testing times are outlined below for specific STIs.

What do we test?

HIV testing deals with the window period – time between potential exposure to HIV and the point when the test will give an accurate result. We recommend testing 4 weeks after a sexual encounter.​

The average incubation period for Gonorrhea is 2 to 6 days. We recommend testing 1 week after a sexual encounter.

The average incubation period for Syphilis is 3 weeks. We recommend testing 4 weeks after a sexual encounter

The average incubation period varies for the type of hepatitis virus. We recommend testing 4 weeks after a sexual encounter.​

The average incubation period for Chlamydia is 1 to 5 days. We recommend testing 1 week after a sexual encounter. ​

The average incubation period for Genital Herpes and Oral Herpes is 1 to 3 weeks. We recommend testing 3 weeks after a sexual encounter. ​

The average incubation period for Trichomoniasis is 5 to 28 days. We recommend testing 4 weeks after a sexual encounter.​

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