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Sexual Health and Family Planning ACT - STI

Enjoying Sex Safely

Safe sex is sexy. Sex is meant to feel good and be fun, but it can be risky if not treated with respect.

When entering into sexual relations with someone, the first thing you should do is talk about it and make sure you seek consent. Always ask someone before you start touching them or engaging in intercourse. This article talks about: safe sex, consent, decision making,  STIs, unplanned pregnancy, emergency contraception, and where to go if you need advice or help.

HPV vaccine reducing rates of genital warts

vaccine sexual health shfpactNew study shows HPV vaccine is working to reduce rates of genital warts.

The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine was introduced in Australia in 2007 and New Zealand in 2008 to prevent cervical cancer. It was free for women up to age 26 in Australia and to all women under 20 in New Zealand. This is because 99.7% of cervical cancers are associated with the sexually transmissible infection.

There is mounting evidence the HPV vaccination program is preventing cervical disease. This includes both precancerous lesions and cervical cancer. Although it takes 10 to 20 years from HPV infection until cervical cancer develops, the data are already showing a 17% decline in precancerous lesions in women aged 25 to 29.

Is it normal to get sore or have pain after sex?

sex should never hurtSex should never hurt!

Hi! I only recently have gotten a boyfriend and have started having regular sex. After 2 or more days, it starts to get a bit sore down there. Is that normal? I just assumed it was pain from friction, but I don’t know if that’s right and I’ve never sought help because it’s a bit embarrassing!
Sandra, 17, in Sydney

To start with, sex shouldn’t hurt, and if it does, a good tip is to say “stop”, no matter what! The aftermath of sex also shouldn’t hurt – whether it’s two minutes, two hours or two days later....

New Male Contraceptive

new male contraceptive

A new type of male contraceptive not only prevents babies; It's reversible!

We've been waiting a long time for this. Until now, men have had only two serious options for preventing baby-making: condoms or 'the snip'. A promising new product could be set to change all that, with animal trials indicating that it's not only close to 100 percent effective, but that it can also be fully reversed, making it less drastic than the vasectomy while still offering similar benefits.

Trademarked under the name Vasalgel, the contraceptive is a polymer gel being developed by the non-profit Parsemus Foundation in California, which aims to "find low cost solutions that have been neglected by the pharmaceutical industry".

We reported on Vasagel back in February after it showed itself to be effective in preventing rhesus monkeys from getting pregnant for up to two years.

Sexually Transmissible Infections (STI's)


  • Sexually Transmissible Infections (STIs) are passed from one person  to another during sexual contact or exchange of body fluids.
  • They are caused by micro-organisms such as bacteria, viruses, or parasites.
  • They can affect areas of the body other than the genitals.
  • They do not always cause signs or symptoms.


Having vaginal or anal sex without a condom (unprotected sex) can put you at risk of getting an STI. You can also get some STIs from unprotected oral sex and from skin-to-skin contact. Some activities put you at higher risk. Riskier activities include having unprotected sex:

  • With casual partners (the more partners, the greater the risk).
  • With a partner who has had unprotected sex with casual partners.
  • When travelling outside Australia or with a partner who has had unprotected sex outside Australia.


  • Chlamydia is the most common bacterial STI in Australia and is especially common in young people aged 15 to 30. 
  • If left untreated, chlamydia can lead to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), an infection of the uterus, and fallopian tubes, which can cause infertility. 
  • Chlamydia can also damage the tubes in the testicles and affect fertility.
  • Most people who have chlamydia do not have any symptoms. If symptoms are present they can include:
    • Lower abdominal pain, pain with sex and/or passing urine, more painful periods, bleeding between periods, and bleeding after sex. 
    • Penile discharge and pain passing urine or on ejaculation.
  • The test for chlamydia is a urine test or a simple self-inserted vaginal swab. If you are having anal sex, a self-inserted anal swab may also be needed. A throat swab may also be needed.
  • Chlamydia is treated with oral antibiotics.


  • Gonorrhoea is a bacteria that infects the penis, vagina, rectum, or throat.
  • It is becoming increasingly common in Australia.
  • You can have gonorrhoea without knowing it as not everyone gets  symptoms. The most common symptoms are:
    • Discharge from the penis or pain passing urine. 
    • Abnormal vaginal discharge, pain with sex, and bleeding between periods or after sex. 
  • If you have no symptoms, the test for gonorrhoea is a urine test or a simple self-inserted vaginal swab. If you are having anal sex, a self-inserted anal swab may also be required. A throat swab may also be needed.
  • Gonorrhoea is treated with antibiotics which are given orally and by injection.



  • Papilloma Virus (HPV) is a group of viruses. There are many types of HPV. Some HPV types can cause genital warts. Some types can cause cancers of the cervix or genitals if left undetected and untreated.
  • HPV is transmitted by skin-to-skin contact during sexual activity. Most people will be exposed to HPV in their lifetime. Most HPV infections will clear by themselves with no symptoms.
  • If genital warts occur, they can be on the penis, vulva, vagina, anus, and the skin close to these areas. They can be single or multiple lumps. They can sometimes be itchy, painful, or may bleed.
  • There is no test for the HPV type that causes visible warts — if you have symptoms, see a doctor.
  • Effective treatment for warts is available and includes freezing or use of a liquid or cream. 
  • A vaccine is available which protects against some of the strains of HPV that cause genital warts, cancer of the cervix, and some other cancers — check with your health practitioner.


  • Herpes is caused by a virus called the herpes simplex virus (HSV), that is transmitted by skin-to-skin contact during genital or oral sex.
  • There are two types: HSV 1 and HSV 2. 
    • HSV 1 causes almost all oral herpes (cold sores) and about half of genital herpes infections. 
    • HSV 2 causes the remainder of genital herpes infections.
  • The herpes virus may cause painful blisters or sores on the skin but often has no symptoms.
  • Once you have herpes, it remains in your body for life but is not always active.
  • Treatment is available to reduce outbreaks and to help manage symptoms.
  • There is no helpful screening test available for herpes. If you have any symptoms, such as a genital sore which appears from time to time, see a doctor for diagnosis when the sore is present.
  • Avoid oral sex when a cold sore is present on or around the mouth to avoid transmission from mouth to genitals. 


  • Hepatitis B is a viral infection that causes inflammation of the liver and can cause serious illness. 
  • It can be passed on by unprotected vaginal or anal sex, by sharing drug injecting equipment, during unsterile tattooing or body piercing, or sometimes through dental or other procedures in developing countries.
  • A very effective vaccine is available to prevent Hepatitis B. Check if you have had this vaccine, and if you haven’t had it discuss this with your health practitioner.
  • The test for Hepatitis B is a blood test. If you know that you have been vaccinated, you may not need this test.


  • Syphilis is caused by the bacteria Treponema Pallidum. It is very  infectious and is transmitted through close skin-to-skin contact during oral, vaginal, or anal sex with a person who has the infection. Syphilis is uncommon in Australia; however, it can cause serious health problems if it is left untreated.
  • Not everyone has symptoms. Early symptoms can include a painless ulcer-like sore on the genitals or a rash that generally appears on the hands and feet.
  • The test for syphilis is a simple blood test. 
  • If a pregnant woman is infected with syphilis, it can cause serious health problems for her baby. All pregnant women in Australia are tested for syphilis when they have their routine ante-natal blood tests.
  • Syphilis is treated with antibiotics given by injection. 


  • HIV is a viral infection that, if left untreated, breaks down the body’s natural defences against infections by weakening the immune systemand can lead to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).
  • HIV can be present in the blood, vaginal secretions, or semen of a person infected with the virus. It is passed on by anal or vaginal sex without a condom, by sharing drug injecting equipment, and through unsterile body piercing or tattooing in developing countries. The risk of HIV transmission through oral sex is very low.
  • The test for HIV is a blood test. 
  • In Australia, an HIV test is done in pregnancy as part of routine ante-natal blood tests.
  • HIV is not curable but can be managed well with medication.
  • If you are in a group that is at higher risk of HIV, medications are available which can reduce the chance of becoming infected with HIV (PrEP & PEP). For more information, see the SHFPACT PrEP & PEP brochure (available online or at reception), or talk to your health care provider.



  • Trichomoniasis is a genital infection caused by an organism called protozoa. 
  • Symptoms:
    • Vaginal symptoms may include frothy yellow-green discharge, unpleasant (fishy) vaginal odour, vaginal itching, and burning.
    • Penile symptoms may include discharge from the penis and pain passing urine.
  • Trichomoniasis is not usually serious but can be unpleasant.
  • It is treated with an oral antibiotic.



  • Pubic lice are tiny parasites that infect the pubic hair, armpits, or chest hair. 
  • They are passed on by direct person-to-person contact with the infected area or by coming into contact with infected bedding or clothes, not necessarily during sexual contact.
  • They can be treated with preparations available over the counter from pharmacies. Clothes and bedding also need to be treated.


  • Scabies is a skin infestation of a tiny mite, Sarcoptes scabiei. The main symptom is intense itching which is worse at night. Sometimes a small rash is visible. It occurs most commonly between the fingers, on the wrists, armpits, stomach, and genitals.
  • Scabies can be spread sexually as well as through non-sexual skin-to-skin contact.
  • Scabies is usually treated by applying a topical anti-scabetic crea to the skin of the entire body.


    • This is a skin infection caused by a virus which causes small painless firm lumps with a dimple in the centre. It can appear anywhere on the body but in adults they usually appear on the buttocks, thighs, lower abdomen, and genital area. 
    • It can be spread sexually as well as through non sexual skin to skin contact.
    • It will resolve on its own within 12 months but can be treated with freezing or cream.



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Acknowledgements: Melbourne Sexual Health Centre, Australian STI Management Guidelines, ASHM, Family Planning NSW

Syphilis is making a come-back — it's not looking pretty

Syphilis Eye DamageSyphilis, a sexually transmissible infectious disease that has plagued humankind for centuries.

It's currently making a come-back and causing some unusual health problems, including vision loss. Today, syphilis is diagnosed rapidly by a simple blood test, and easily treated with an inexpensive antibiotic...



Trichomoniasis is a genital infection which is caused by the organism trichomonas vaginalis. While it is common worldwide, it is relatively rare in urban areas in Australia. Trichomoniasis is a vaginal infection, more common in older populations and those living in remote areas. It is a very rare cause of symptoms in the penis.

Trichomoniasis infection during pregnancy can cause premature delivery and low birth weight in the baby.


Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI), which is passed on during unprotected intercourse.



About 50% of the time trichomoniasis does not cause any vulval or vaginal symptoms. If symptoms do occur they include:

  • An unpleasant smelling yellow or green discharge which is usually frothy and profuse.
  • Vulval and vaginal itch and discomfort.


Trichomoniasis very rarely causes any symptoms of the penis/urethra. If symptoms do occur they are:

  • Discomfort with passing urine.
  • Abnormal discharge from the penis.


Trichomoniasis is not routinely tested for, particularly in areas where it is very uncommon. If someone has symptoms of trichomoniasis, or a partner has been diagnosed, then a swab will be taken to diagnose the infection before treatment.

If your partner has been diagnosed with trichomoniasis you will need testing and treatment even if you have no symptoms.


Trichomoniasis is treated with the following antibiotics:

Tinidazole (Fasigyn) 500mg x 4 tablets as a single dose
Metronidazole, (Flagyl) 400mg three times a day for one week or 2g as a single dose.

These antibiotics need to be taken with food and can cause nausea, tiredness and a metallic taste.

Alcohol must be avoided while on these medications because they can cause nausea, vomiting and headache if taken with alcohol.

If trichomoniasis is diagnosed during pregnancy treatment options may need to be discussed with a specialist.

It is important to avoid any unprotected sexual intercourse for seven days after treatment has finished to allow the treatment to work completely and to avoid reinfection or infecting others. You may also need re-testing four weeks later if your symptoms continue.


Yes, all recent sexual partners will need to be advised, tested, and treated even if they have no symptoms. Your doctor or nurse can assist you with this.


Using condoms every time you have vaginal or anal sex is the best way to prevent trichomoniasis and other STIs.


If you are diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection (STI), it is important to be tested for other STIs such as chlamydia. Your partners should also be notified, checked and treated if required. Be sure to have another test after treatment to make sure it has been cleared up.


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Last updated December 2019. References: Melbourne Sexual Health Centre. Australia STI Management Guidelines