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Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

sex; sexual; sexually; transmitted; infection; infections; STI; STIs; STD; STDs; genital; warts; gonnorhea; syphilis; discharge; herpes; crabs; pubic; lice; Chlamydia; urethritis; scabies; molluscum; contagiosum; vaginosis; balanitis; condoms; HIV; AIDS; hepatitis; thrush; PID; testing; swab;


STI stands for Sexually Transmitted Infection. An STI is passed from one person to another during sexual contact.

If you suspect you have an STI, don't give it to others – get tested and treated quickly.

The Australian Department of Health has a website which provides a lot of information about STIs.

Common STIs

Some STIs are bacterial vaginosis, balanitis, chlamydia, crabs (pubic lice), genital warts, gonorrhoea, hepatitis B, herpes, HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), molluscum contagiosum, non-specific urethritis, scabies, syphilis, thrush (candidiasis) and trichomoniasis.

Signs of infection

Some STIs have symptoms which suggest that you might have an infection, such as:

  • an unusual discharge from the penis or the vagina
  • rashes, blisters, lumps or sores in the genital area, or sometimes in the mouth if you have oral sex
  • pain low down in the tummy
  • pain when passing urine. 

However some do not have symptoms, or there are symptoms only some of the time even while the infection is still there. You may not know if you have an infection, and your partner may not know.

For more information on many of these STIs, look at the Related Topics section at the top of this page.

Ways to avoid STIs

  • Have a healthy attitude toward sex - always practice safer sex and get tested if for some reason you have not been able to protect yourself.
  • Check out our topics Are you ready for sex?, Safer sex and Using condoms.
    • Condoms will give you some protection from most sexually transmitted infections, but the condom night not cover all of the infected area and infections like herpes, crabs and genital warts, can spread through skin-to-skin contact.
  • You could choose not to have sex at all, but this is not realistic for all people.
  • Talking with your partner, and being honest are very important.
    • Learn about and stay up-to-date with your partner's activities, and share your own.
    • You could go and get tested together, making it a supportive and honest process.
  • If you make a decision to have sex without protecting against STIs, make sure you've both had recent STI tests and that both you and your partner do not have unsafe sex with others.

Remember to use a form of contraception if you do not want to get pregnant at the moment.


Why get tested?

  • Some STIs have no symptoms – chlamydia is one. Others can cause a discharge from the penis or vagina, a sore, a lump or an itch.
  • Another good reason is that many STIs are easy to treat early, but if left for a long time they can be more difficult to treat.
  • Worse still, if left, some STIs can make women and men infertile (unable to make babies).
  • Knowing that you're both healthy will also allow you to enjoy worry-free sexual contact.
  • Finally, passing on an STI is embarrassing – as well as being an unnecessary, disrespectful thing to do to a lover.
  • So find out what's going on on the inside – get tested!

Where to get tested?

  • Testing can be done by your doctor, or at a special STI clinic, many community health centres and youth health centres.
  • See the Resources list down the page for some addresses in South Australia.
  • Each service will have confidentiality rules – check these with the doctor. Some STIs need to be reported to health departments.
  • If you have one type of STI such as crabs, you might have caught something else as well – so it's always best to be tested for a range of STIs at the same time just to make sure you stay healthy.

Some STIs cause long lasting problems, so it is important to get them treated straight away. Getting treated is more important than worrying about how your parents might react if they found out - which should not happen anyway as the doctor will need to keep information confidental.

What the law says in South Australia

In South Australia, if you are 17 or over, you can have sex with another person:

  • as long as that person is also 17 or over,
  • and he or she agrees to have sex with you.

The law is the same for heterosexual sex (sex between two people of the opposite sex) and homosexual sex (sex between two people of the same sex).

If you are under 17 and the person you have sex with is over 17, that person has broken the law.

  • It is not an offence to have sex with someone who is under 17 if you are legally married to that person.
  • If you are under 18, it is against the law for a person in a position of 'care and authority' (for example, a teacher) to have sex, or to try to have sex with you.


South Australia

Several services in South Australia offer free and confidential clinics for testing. The doctor or nurse can give you advice, tests and provide treatment.

  • SHine SA (Sexual Health information, networking and education, SA)
    Sexual Healthline – 9am to 1 pm, Monday to Friday
    Telephone: 1300 883 793
    Country callers: 1800 188 171
  • The Youth Health Service 
  • Clinic 275 (the STI clinic of the Royal Adelaide Hospital)
    Telephone: (08) 8222 5075
    Country callers: 1800 806 490
  • Community health centres, hospitals and doctors.



SHine SA - 'Sexually Transmitted Infections'

Sexually Transmitted Diseases Service, Clinic 275
Royal Adelaide Hospital

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The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Youth Healthline on 1300 13 17 19 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).
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