Sexually Transmitted Infections

Sexually Transmitted Infections

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are viruses or infections one can get through unsafe sexual activities. All STIs are preventable. Everyone has the right to protect themselves against STIs and refuse unsafe sex (or sex that is unwanted for any reason).

There are various ways to protect oneself and one’s partners against STIs. This is true whether one’s partner is of the same or a different gender. Both partners can agree to use male or female condoms, and correct and safe use of condoms protects you against STIs. Bear in mind that not all contraceptives protect you against STIs. Depending on what contraceptive method you are using, you might need to use it in combination with another (e.g. condoms) that protects you and your partners against STIs!

Some STIs cause symptoms or discomfort. Others do not always have symptoms (especially among people with vulvas). Symptoms of STIs can be very serious and have health consequences if you don’t receive treatment. 

HIV or Human Immunodeficiency Virus is also an STI, because it is transmitted mostly (but not only) through unsafe sex. HIV, hepatitis B, syphilis, chlamydia, herpes and gonorrhea can be transferred from mother to child during pregnancy (HIV, hepatitis B and syphilis) and delivery.

In 2020, the World Health Organization estimated that there were 374 million new infections that year with 1 of 4 STIs: chlamydia with 129 million, gonorrhea with 82 million, syphilis with 7.1 million and trichomoniasis 156 million. The WHO estimates that more than 490 million people were living with genital herpes in 2016. This is likely to have increased. Around 300 million people with a vulva has an HPV infection in 2016. There are currently around 296 million people living with chronic hepatitis B globally.

Some (but not all) STIs are curable. A person who receives proper treatment will no longer have the infection. Taking proper preventive measures can prevent re-infection. Proper treatment can often reduce symptoms and/or dramatically slow the progress of those STIs that cannot be cured (for example, herpes, HIV infection, and HPV).

For more information on STIs, click here for a fact sheet on STIs by the World Health Organization and here to read about common questions and misconceptions about STIs. 

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