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Family Planning

Whenever sexually transmitted infections (STIs), are mentioned, HIV and AIDS usually spring to mind because they are both prevalent in South Africa. However, there are 27 known STIs, each having its symptoms. So, you must be aware of the other STIs that exist. In this article, we’ll discuss two of the most common STIs.

Herpes

What is herpes?

Herpes is an STI caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). It’s a long-term condition that affects the skin, genitals, mucosal surfaces and other parts of the body such as your mouth – this is known as oral herpes which present as blister-like sores on your lips, chin, cheeks in some cases, your gums and roof of your mouth.

There are two types of herpes simplex viruses: HSV-1 (herpes type-1, also known as oral herpes) and HSV-2 (herpes type-2, or genital herpes).

Symptoms

The main symptoms are blisters, pain around your genitals, difficulty urinating because the sores are blocking your urethra, cold sores and vaginal discharge. When you first acquire it, other symptoms may include fever and flu-like symptoms. It’s also possible that you won’t get any symptoms.

If you are pregnant and have sores when you give birth, it’s possible to pass herpes to the baby.

Prevention methods

Herpes is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact. Moist skin areas that line your mouth, anus, and genitals are the most susceptible — using condoms when having sex is the best way to prevent getting herpes. Unfortunately, there is no cure for herpes, and so if you do contract the infection, you’ll have it for life.

Gonorrhoea

What is gonorrhoea?

Gonorrhoea is an STI that is caused by the bacterium known as Neisseria gonorrhoeae. It can infect males and females. Like herpes, it usually affects moist areas of the body, but in this case, it includes your eyes, throat, vagina, rectum and the female reproductive tract (the fallopian tubes, cervix, and uterus.)

The STI is transmitted through unprotected sex (oral, anal or vaginal). You are at a higher risk of acquiring the infection if you practice unsafe sex with numerous sexual partners. 

Symptoms

In some cases, gonorrhoea doesn’t present with any symptoms. However, when it does, it’s usually found in the genital region. 

Symptoms in men: more frequent urination, pus-like discharge from the penis, sore throat, pain in the testicles and redness at the opening of the urethra.

Symptoms in women: Pain when urinating, abdominal or pelvic pain, increased vaginal discharge and pain during sex.

As mentioned above, gonorrhoea can also cause symptoms in other parts of the body such as the eyes (pain, sensitivity to light, pus-like discharge from one, or both, of your eyes).

Complications

If left untreated, gonorrhoea can result in complications such as

  • Infertility in men and women
  • Increased risk of contracting HIV/AIDS
  • Infection that spreads to other parts of the body

The infection can also cause complications in babies. Gonorrhoea can travel through the bloodstream and so it’s possible for a baby to contract the disease from the mother and if he/she does, he/she can develop blindness, scalp sores and other types of infections.

Prevention methods

To decrease your risk of contracting gonorrhoea, ensure that.

  • Use condoms if you choose to have sex.
  • Ask your partner when/if they’ve been tested for STIs.
  • You have a gonorrhoea screening (once a year is recommended).
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