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STIs – prevention is better than cure

STIs – prevention is better than cure

Worldwide, more than one million sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are contracted each day. With STI/Condom Week (10th – 16th February) just around the corner, SMASA gives you the low down on STIs.

What is a STI?

Infections that are passed from one person to another during sexual contact can cause a STI. Engaging in, or having sexual contact with someone who is already infected puts you at a higher risk for infection. The good news is that we can easily protect ourselves from STIs by practising safe sex.

Types of STIs

– Chlamydia

– Gonorrhoea

– Hepatitis B

– Herpes


– Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

– Pubic Lice (Crabs)

– Scabies

– Syphilis

– Trichomoniasis

– Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)


Symptoms vary from one STI to another. Symptoms, which are not often visible, include sores or blisters on and around the genital area or mouth, pain during urination, unusual discharge, itching, swelling, pain in the pelvic area or abdomen or bleeding other than your menstrual cycle if you are a woman. As these symptoms could also be caused by other infections, talk to your healthcare professional before taking any sort of medication.


– Bacterial STIs (chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis) and parasitic STIs (trichomoniasis) are treatable with existing, effective single-dose regimens of antibiotics.

– Herpes and HIV rely on antiretroviral to modulate the course of the disease, though it cannot cure the disease.

– Hepatitis B would need immune system modulators (interferon) and antiviral medications to help fight the virus and slow any damage to the liver.


The following are ways you can help prevent STIs:

– Abstain – the most effective way to avoid STIs is to abstain from sexual intercourse.

– Stay with only one partner – stay in a long-term monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner.

– Get vaccinated – getting vaccinated before exposure to sexual interaction is also a very effective way to prevent getting some STIs.

– Use condoms – use a new latex condom when engaging in sexual activities. It reduces the risk of contracting a STI but does not prevent it 100%.

– Consider male circumcision – if you are circumcised, it puts you at less risk for contracting a STI.

– Communicate – know your partner’s status. Before any serious sexual contact takes place, communicate with your partner about practising safe sex and reach a mutual agreement of consent.

For more information on STIs and how to deal with it, visit Love Life, South Africa’s largest HIV prevention initiative for young people.