STIs

Sexually transmitted infections

Whilst there are a range of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), there are some that are more prevalent within the gay community. The main STIs that can end up causing serious damage if left untreated include:
  • Gonorrhoea
  • Chlamydia
  • Syphilis

Gonorrhoea

What is it?

This is an infection of your cock (urethra), arse (rectum), throat or eyes caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae.

How do you get it?

Gonorrhoea is passed on by giving or receiving anal sex, oral sex, and arse play such as fingering and fisting with an infected person. Touching an infected cock or arse and then touching your own cock, arse or eyes can also transmit gonorrhoea.

What are the symptoms and signs?

It is quite common to have no symptoms, especially if the infection is in your rectum or the throat. However symptoms can include a dry or sore throat, itchiness and pain during bowel movements (shitting), or a clear or yellow discharge from the cock and pain or burning when urinating. Throat infections may also cause discharge however this is less common. These usually take between two and 10 days to show up after being exposed.

STI’s are on the rise and there are certain things you can do to help prevent the transmission of them.

How do you test for it?

Gonorrhoea is usually detected by a urine test as well as swabs collected from the arse and throat. It is preferable not to piss for at least one hour prior to having a urine test.

Can it be treated?

Gonorrhoea is easily cured with antibiotics. Sexual contact should be avoided for at least one week to ensure the infection has cleared after treatment. If you had sex whilst you were infected with gonorrhoea then your sexual partners may also need to get tested and possibly treated.

How can it be prevented?

Using a condom for anal sex can reduce the risk of transmission if the infected area (for example cock or anus) is covered. Condoms may not always cover the infected area so there is a risk of passing on gonorrhoea. It can also be passed on through oral sex or by touching an infected area and then touching your own penis, anus or eyes.

Chlamydia

What is it?

Chlamydia is the most common STI in Australia and is caused by bacteria (Chlamydia trachomatis). Chlamydia can cause infections of the urethra (the tube that runs through your cock), the throat or the arse.

How do you get it?

You can get chlamydia in your cock (urethra) or arse through giving or receiving anal sex, or in the throat through oral sex. Although uncommon, you can also get infected in your cock through oral sex and in your arse through fingering and fisting.

What are the symptoms and signs?

Symptoms can include:
  • A watery, white or grey discharge from your cock which is most noticeable in the morning
  • Itching or pain in the opening of your cock which often fades after you piss
  • Irritation or soreness around the urethra
  • Pain in the testicles or arse
  • Pain when you cum

Symptoms usually appear between two and 14 days after being exposed, but may take as long as 21 days; however it is quite common to have no symptoms, or for the symptoms to go unnoticed, especially in the throat or arse. Most men do not have any symptoms and if left untreated chlamydia can cause infertility.

Getting tested for STI’s is a quick, easy and painless experience, and it means you are taking control of your sexual health!

How do you test for it?

A medical practitioner can diagnose chlamydia by swabbing the throat or arse. Testing for urethral infection is usually done through a urine test; however, if you have symptoms a urethral swab may be required.

Can it be treated?

Chlamydia is treated with a course of antibiotics. If you had sex while you were infected with chlamydia your sexual partners may also need to be tested and possibly treated.

How can it be prevented?

Using condoms can reduce the risk of transmission if the infected area, for example cock or arse, is covered. However condoms may not always cover the infected area so there is a high chance of passing on chlamydia even when condoms are used.

Syphilis

Syphilis has been increasing among gay men. Although syphilis is very easy to catch, it is more common among men with a high number of sexual partners (more than 10 in the last six months), men who are into group sex, sharing sex toys or fisting, and men who are HIV-positive. If you fit any of these categories, you should get tested for syphilis every three to six months.

What is it?

Syphilis is an infection in your blood caused by a bacterium called Treponema pallidum.

How do you get it?

Giving or receiving anal or oral sex can transmit syphilis. It can also be passed on through arse play or direct contact with sores or lesions.

What are the symptoms and signs?

It is common for the symptoms of syphilis to go unnoticed however when they do appear they usually occur in 3 stages.

Stage 1:
  • A red sore (chancre), which is usually but not always painless, will appear on your cock, balls, mouth, throat or arse that turns into a scab and then heals. It usually appears at the site of infection. This stage may show up 10-90 days after infection and may go unnoticed. If left untreated the sore will disappear after a few weeks, but the infection will progress to stage 2.
Stage 2:
  • A rash will appear on the palms of your hands, soles of your feet or other parts of your body. In addition to rashes, second stage symptoms can include fever, swollen lymph glands, sore throat, patchy hair loss, headaches, weight loss, muscle and joint aches, and tiredness. These symptoms can occur 2-6 months the after initial infection and last for 6 months or longer. Without treatment syphilis will progress to stage 3.
Stage 3:
  • If untreated, syphilis remains in your body and begins to damage the internal organs, including the brain, nerves, eyes, heart, blood vessels, liver, bones, and joints. In about one in 10 of untreated people, this internal damage shows up many years later in the late or tertiary stage of syphilis. This damage may be serious enough to cause death.

Although a person may show no visible signs of infection they are still able to pass on syphilis.

How do you test for it?

Diagnosis is through a blood test but swabs may also be taken if there are sores. If you're HIV-positive, it is recommended to get tested for syphilis every 3 months when getting your regular blood tests to monitor your HIV.

Can it be treated?

Syphilis can be treated with a course of antibiotics. Syphilis can be cured particularly if it is diagnosed in the early stages and treated with penicillin. Other drugs may be used if a person is allergic to penicillin.

Syphilis can be one of the more serious STI’s, and therefore it’s important to get regular checkups to see whether you may have it or not.

How can it be prevented?

Only areas covered by condoms, dams or gloves are protected from infection. Touching any sore or rash should be avoided.

Syphilis and HIV

Syphilis is more common in HIV-positive gay men. There can be significant differences in how syphilis disease progresses in people with HIV. There can be a rapid progression from early syphilis to nervous system involvement in a matter of months, rather than the years or decades it takes in HIV-negative people. The complications to the nervous system may also occur in the early stage of infection, not just in the later stages.

There have also been cases of treatment failure in patients with secondary syphilis, all of whom were HIV-positive. People with HIV can also progress to neurosyphilis despite standard treatment. If you have syphilis (early or latent), careful monitoring is advised so that any abnormality is treated immediately.

The diagnostic tests for syphilis may fail more frequently (producing false positives and negatives) in people with depleted immune systems. However, these failures are still believed to occur only rarely.