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sexually transmitted infections
STI are sexually transmitted infections. These infections can be transmitted during sex. Examples are: chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis B, syphilis and HIV, which causes AIDS.

CAUSE

Most STIs are caused by bacteria or viruses. They are present in the mucous membrane, sperm, vaginal fluid or blood of someone who is infected with an STI.

TRANSMISSION THROUGH UNPROTECTED SEX

STIs can be contracted through unprotected sex with someone who has an STD. Sex is unprotected when there is direct contact between the penis, the vagina, the anus, the throat or the mouth, without the use of a condom. You can also get infected with an STI if your fingers, a vibrator or dildo without a condom come into contact with mucous tissues of your partners without cleaning them properly.

TRANSMISSION VIA BLOOD

Hepatitis B and HIV can also be transmitted via blood. For example, via injection needles, razor blades or tattoo needles containing contaminated blood. There are also STDs that are transferred from mother to child during pregnancy or childbirth.

SYMPTOMS

Some complaints may be an indication for an STI: yellow-green vaginal discharge, urethra or anus, blood loss during or after sex, pain while urinating, itching, pain in the lower abdomen, and pain or swelling of the scrotum. Also blisters, sores or warts can also appear on or around the genitals may occur. Yet, many STI often give no complaints at all. One can be infected with and without noticing it. However, the infection can be transmitted to sexual partners.

AVOID STI BY HAVING PROTECTED SEX

Most STIs can be prevented by having sex with a condom. Make sure that no blood, semen, pre-cum or vaginal fluid gets onto your partner's mucous membrane. Always use a condom, also when you have oral (cunnilingus and fellatio) and anal sex. You can use a cut condom for this. There are also special bands for sale. Do you use a vibrator, dildo or other sex toys? Make sure you do not share them with your sex partners. Or use condoms or clean them in between.

TREATMENT

If you respond timely, most STIs are easy to treat. If you do not treat them timely, serious health issues may occur. For example, you can become infertile of chlamydia.

STABLE RELATIONSHIP

Do you have a stable relationship? Do not leave the condom until you have both taken an STI test and have been treated if necessary. Testing is ideally done three months after the last unprotected sex contact. Only then all STIs are 'visible' in the blood.

Health

Do not take risks with sex without protection. Protect your own health as well as your partner's!
Chlamydia
Chlamydia is a bacterium that is transmitted via sex.

HOW CAN YOU CONTRACT IT?

Chlamydia is usually passed on by fucking or sucking. You can also get chlamydia from fingering, jerking, licking or ass licking. Chlamydia is very contagious, even if someone has no symptoms.

SYMPTOMS

A chlamydia infection usually does not cause any symptoms. You can therefore infect your sexual partner without knowing it yourself. An untreated chlamydia can have serious consequences, such as inflammation in the epididymis, prostate and fallopian tube. Consequently, both men and women can suffer from reduced fertility.

TO TEST

Testing for chlamydia is done by examining urine (in men) or a smear from the vagina (in women). A swab of the throat or anus may also be required. You can usually self-smear with a special swab. You can get chlamydia again if you have unprotected sex with someone who has chlamydia. It is therefore recommended to be tested every six months, especially if you have sex with casual partners.

TREATMENT

Chlamydia can be treated with pills. Up to a week after completion of the treatment it is recommended not to have sex, or at least protected sex. This prevents partners from infecting each other.

PARTNERNOTIFICATION

Notify all sex partners from the last 6 months.
Gonorrhea
Gonorrhea is caused by gonococci. These are bacteria.

HOW CAN YOU CONTRACT IT?

Gonorrhea is usually passed on by fucking or sucking. You can also get Gonorrhea from fingering, jerking, licking or ass licking. Gonorrhea is very contagious, even if someone has no symptoms.

SYMPTOMS

Men often have clear complaints: pus-like discharge from the urethra that is yellow or green, and pain or irritation when urinating. Women sometimes suffer from altered vaginal discharge or blood loss after sex or pain when urinating, but they often have no complaints. If gonorrhea is not treated, the infection can go further into the body. Men can get a bum inflammation and women can get a fallopian tube infection. Both can therefore cause reduced fertility.

TO TEST

Gonorrhea can be detected by examining the urine. In women, a smear from the vagina is more reliable than urine tests. This smear can be self-sampled by a woman with a special swab. You can regain gonorrhea if you have unprotected sex with someone who has gonorrhea. So, take a test every six month, especially if you have sex with casual partners.

TREATMENT

Gonorrhea can be treated with an injection with an antibiotic. If the symptoms persist, it is critical to consult a physician.

PARTNER NOTIFICATION

Notify all partners from the last 6 months unless you agreed another period after consulting your doctor or nurse.
Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B is a liver inflammation caused by a virus. Hepatitis B is a serious STI. It is 100 times easier to transfer than HIV and can be transmitted via blood and semen. An infection with hepatitis B can lead to serious liver disease.

HOW CAN YOU CONTRACT IT?

In Belgium, hepatitis B virus is mainly transmitted through vaginal and anal sex. There is a small risk of transmission with oral sex. Transmission of hepatitis B also occurs via blood, for example via sharing needles, drug use or the sharing of razor blades or toothbrushes. Pregnant women can transmit the virus to their child.

SYMPTOMS

There are two types of hepatitis B: an acute and a chronic type. During an acute infection, symptoms may occur (jaundice, nausea and fatigue), but most people do not develop any symptoms. In acute hepatitis B infection, it is possible that your body clears the virus. This means that you clean the virus without medication. In case of a chronic infection someone is a carrier of the virus. Even without symptoms the virus can be transmitted.

TO TEST

Blood tests can show if you have hepatitis B infection.

TREATMENT

A carrier of the hepatitis B virus can take medication to slow down the virus. Sometimes the virus disappears from the body. Absence of treatment may cause permanent liver damage or liver cancer.

PARTNERNOTIFICATION

If you carry a hepatitis B infection, it is important to notify your sex partners and housemates. They can also get tested and can receive a protective vaccination against hepatitis B if necessary.

VACCINATION

Vaccination against hepatitis B protects against this infection for a long time. The vaccine is safe and effective. The vaccination series consists of three vaccinations within six months (month 1,2,6).
Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is a liver infection that is caused by a virus. The infection can eventually lead to liver disease and liver cancer. Hepatitis C is a STI is mainly diagnosed among gay and bisexual men living with HIV.

HOW CAN YOU CONTRACT IT?

Transmission of hepatitis C occurs through blood-blood contact, and may also be transmitted via semen. Risk factors for contracting hepatitis C include: (invisible) bleeding by fucking or fisting, sharing lubricant and toys, anal sex with multiple partners at the same time, ejaculation in the anus and semen in the mouth if the mucosal tissue is not intact.

SYMPTOMS

The first period of six months of a hepatitis C infection is called the acute phase. Often one hardly notices anything of the infection. During this phase, spontaneous cure of hepatitis C may occur. Among people living with HIV, the chance on spontaneous cure is unfortunately small. If the virus is still present after six months, it is referred to as a 'chronic infection'. Most people still notice little of the infection. This changes after 10-30 years when the virus causes serious liver damage.

TO TEST

Hepatitis C virus can be tested with a blood test in which antibodies or virus particles are detected.

TREATMENT

Treatment for Hepatitis C is very effective, but not always available for everyone.

PARTNERNOTIFICATION

Notify your sex partners; the reference period is determined during a consultation with your health care provider.
Hiv
HIV is a virus that breaks down the immune system. Without treatment with medicines, someone ultimately gets AIDS. You can die of AIDS.

HOW CAN YOU CONTRACT IT?

You can get HIV by having sex without a condom. With anal sex the transmission risk is higher, compared to vaginal sex. Oral sex also poses a small risk. You can also get HIV through contact with infected blood. For example, through drug use, infected needles or a blood transfusion.

SYMPTOMS

One to six weeks after you have been infected with HIV, symptoms that are similar to flu may occur. These symptoms disappear, but HIV remains in the blood. In this phase, HIV can be transmitted to partners through unprotected sex.

TO TEST

The only way to find out one's HIV status, is an HIV test.

TREATMENT

The HIV virus remains present in the body, but it can be suppressed with HIV medication. Starting a treatment shortly after infection has advantages: a healthier condition and much less transmission risk of HIV to sexual partners.

PARTNERNOTIFICATION

Notify your sex partners; the reference period is determined during a consultation with your health care provider.

RECENT RISK FOR HIV?

Contact a specialized center as soon as possible (you can consult the list here) or a hospital. A physician will assess eligibility for HIV inhibitors, also called PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis). PEP should be started as soon as possible after exposure to HIV, not than 72 hours.
Lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV)
LGV is a variant of the chlamydia bacterium that causes serious infections and especially occurs among men who have sex with men.

HOW CAN YOU CONTRACT IT?

LGV is transmitted through unprotected sex, fisting without latex gloves and possibly through oral sex. It can also be transmitted through shared use of dildos and sex toys.

SYMPTOMS

The infection often starts with a painless ulcer or blister at the site of infection three to twelve days after infection, often in the rectum or on the penis. This can pass unnoticed. After ten to thirty days an inflammation of the lymph nodes occurs; in the long term severe inflammations with complications can occur in the intestine. LGV infection can also occur without symptoms.

TO TEST

The only way to diagnose LGV is an STI test. This can be done by examining urine (in men) or a smear from anus or throat. You can usually self-collect this smear with a special swab.

TREATMENT

Unlike a classic chlamydia infection, a three-week antibiotic treatment is required for LGV. Until the end of treatment it is better to abstain from sex, or to use a condom. This prevents partners from infecting each other. You don not become immune for LGV, and can consequently regain LGV if you have unprotected sex with someone who has infected.

PARTNERNOTIFICATION

If LGV has been diagnosed, sexual partners should be notified. The reference period for notification is determined during a consultation with your health care provider.
Syfilis
Syphilis is a serious STI that is caused by a bacterium.

HOW CAN YOU CONTRACT IT?

You can contract Syphilis via unprotected penetrative and oral sex.

SYMPTOMS

In the early stage of the infection, unnoticed painless sores in or on the genitals, anus or mouth may occur. Rash on the skin (anywhere on the body, especially on the palms and soles), swollen lymph nodes, and you can get flu-like may arise. These symptoms can disappear but the disease is not cured. Without treatment, bacteria spread throughout the body through the blood in the following weeks and months.

TO TEST

Syphilis is diagnosed via a blood tests or a smear of a sore. The stage of the disease appears from the symptoms and a blood test. The phase has consequences for treatment, controls and partnernotification.

TREATMENT

Syphilis is treated using injections with an antibiotic. After completion of the treatment, a number of blood tests are necessary until it is clear that the syphilis has been cured. Up to one week after the end of treatment it is recommended to abstain from sex, or to use a condom. This prevents partners from infecting each other.

PARTNERNOTIFICATION

Depending on the stage of the Syphilis infection, a different reference period for partnernotification is required. The correct period needs to be discussed with a health care provider.
  • General
  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhoea
  • Hepatitis B
  • Hepatitis C
  • HIV
  • Lymfogranolorum venereum (LGV)
  • Syfilis