Sexually Transmitted Infections

Sexually transmitted infections can be acquired during a sexual assault. Many infections can be prevented by giving antibiotics at the hospital after the assault. Unfortunately some sexually transmitted infections cannot be cured, but by getting a timely diagnosis, you can get some relief from your symptoms and so you can take measures to prevent spreading the disease to others.

The following is a brief outline of some of the infections that can be transmitted during sexual contact.
This is not a substitution for medical evaluation or advice.

For more information, please visit:
HealthyOntario.com
Health Canada: Sexually Transmitted Infections
Middlesex-London Health Unit


Chlamydia
(pronounced kla-mid-ee-ah)

What is chlamydia?
It is a disease caused by bacteria. Although this bacteria can cause infections such as pneumonia and eye infections, it is most often seen as a genital infection in women and sometimes men. Although many people do not have symptoms when they are infected with chlamydia, it is a very serious disease. It can commonly cause problems with infertility (trouble getting pregnant) or during pregnancy.

How did I get it?
A person gets infected with chlamydia when they come in contact (usually sexual) with another person who has chlamydia.

What are the symptoms?
Often people with chlamydia do not have symptoms, but it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, vaginal discharge and pain when passing urine.

How is it treated?
Chlamydia can be successfully treated with antibiotics. Only certain kinds of antibiotics will work, so you must see a physician if you think you may have chlamydia. It is very important that you take the medication as directed. If you stop taking antibiotics too soon, chlamydia will not go away.

Can I give it to other people?
Yes. You can infect your sexual partner when you have chlamydia, even if you do not have symptoms. It is important that your past (up to 3 months) sexual partners are notified because they may have the disease. A pregnant woman can pass on chlamydia to her baby. This can lead to serious problems for the newborn.

When can I have sex again?
After you and your partner(s) have completed treatment and your doctor or clinic says that you are no longer infectious. It is very important that you return for follow-up to make sure the infection has been cured.


Genital Herpes
(pronounced hur-peez)

What is it?
Herpes is a viral infection that causes skin ulcers (sores). When a person has genital herpes, the sores occur in their genital area. A person with herpes is infected for life. The sores will go away and come back from time to time.

How did I get it?
Through direct contact, usually sexual, with another person who is infected with genital herpes. It is most often spread to others when the sores are present, but sometimes it can be passed to others by people without sores.

What are the symptoms?
There are blister-like sores in the genital area. When a person first is infected they also may have fever, joint pain, pain when passing urine, flu-like symptoms, itching, tingling and tender lymph nodes. The sores are usually painful. They will heal in about 1-2 weeks, but they can come back. Usually they are less painful and quicker to heal after the first time.

How is it treated?
There is no medication or treatment to cure herpes. The first infection can be treated with medication, but it only helps to make the sores go away quicker. It does not prevent them from coming back.

Good hygiene is important. Keep the affected area clean and dry so the sores will heal faster. Soaking in salt water can lessen the pain. Cotton underwear is best, because it helps to keep the area dry. Frequent hand washing is important. You can spread the virus to other parts of your body (especially eyes). Wash your hands after touching the sores and after using the toilet.

Could I give it to other people?
Yes. Herpes is usually spread by contact with the sores. Even without the sores, it is possible to pass it on to your sex partner.

Herpes can be spread to infants during delivery with devastating results. This can usually be prevented so it is important that you tell your doctor if you have genital herpes.

When can I have sex again?
When the sores are gone. You should not have sex when the sores are present because you can infect your partner. Using a condom when the sores are gone will also lower the risk of passing on the virus. You should inform any sexual partner that you have herpes.


Gonorrhea
(pronounced gon-or-ee-ah)

What is it?
Gonorrhea is a disease caused by bacteria. Although some people do not have symptoms, it can be very serious.

How did I get it?
By direct contact, usually sexual, with genital, anal, and oral fluids of an infected person.

What are the symptoms?
Some people do not have symptoms, especially early in the disease. In women, it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, vaginal discharge and irritation or pain when passing urine. In men it can cause sterility and difficulty passing urine. Men may also have discharge from the penis. Gonorrhea can also cause eye infections and a type of arthritis.

How is it treated?
It can be cured by antibiotics. It is very important that you take the medication as directed, even after the symptoms go away because the disease may not be cured until the treatment is finished. Some types of gonorrhea are more difficult to treat so it is important that you follow up with your doctor or clinic.

Could I give it to other people?
Yes. You can pass gonorrhea to other sex partners as soon as you pick it up. It is very important that you tell your past (1-3 months) sexual partners because they may be infected and not know it.

A pregnant woman can pass gonorrhea on to her baby. This can lead to a serious eye infection that can lead to blindness.

When can I have sex again?
After you and your partner(s) have finished treatment and the doctor or clinic says you are no longer infectious.


Syphilis
(pronounced sif-i-lis)

What is it?
Syphilis is a serious bacterial disease. It is spread by genital, anal, or oral sex with an infected person. If untreated it can progress to heart disease, brain damage and even death.

How did I get it?
By direct contact with, usually sexual, with the sores, rashes, or body fluids (saliva, semen, blood or vaginal secretions) of infected people.

What are the symptoms?
The first stage is the appearance of a painless sore at the point of contact. In a couple of weeks there will be a rash over most of the body. These symptoms will go away in about 6 months, but without treatment, in several years people will enter the third stage. This is when severe complications can occur.

How is it treated?
With antibiotics, usually penicillin. It is very important that you take the medication as directed, until treatment is finished. Even though your symptoms are gone, your disease may not be cured until all the medication is gone. It is a good idea to have additional tests over the next couple of years to be sure you are cured.

Could I give it to other people?
Yes, mainly to your sex partner(s). You can pass the disease on to others for 2 years after you become infected without treatment.

Pregnant women with syphilis can give the disease to their unborn child. It can cause serious birth defects. Women are usually given a syphilis test on their first prenatal visit.

When can I have sex again?
When you and your partner(s) have finished treatment and the doctor or clinic says you can no longer infect others. It is very important that you return for follow up.


Hepatitis B

What is it?
Hepatitis means "inflammation of the liver". It can be caused by many things including alcoholism, drugs (prescribed or street drugs), viruses or parasites. Hepatitis B is a type of hepatitis that is caused by a virus. It is a very serious disease and can be fatal, or lead to longterm problems such as liver cancer.

How did I get it?
Through blood or body fluid contact with a person who has hepatitis B. It can be sexually transmitted, or transmitted by sharing intravenous needles, tattoo needles or similar equipment.

What are the symptoms?
Many people have mild to moderate "flu-like" symptoms, fever, vomiting. In the more severe cases, jaundice (a yellowing of the skin and eyes) is evident. About half of the people infected with hepatitis B do not have any symptoms but they are still highly infectious to others.

How is it treated?
There is no medication or treatment that will cure hepatitis B. For some people, it will go away, but others will have it for the rest of their lives even though they may never get symptoms. Hepatitis B can be prevented through a series of vaccinations. After a sexual assault, we can lower the risk of getting hepatitis B by giving you an injection of antibodies.

Could I give it to other people?
Yes it is highly infectious. Even if you do not have symptoms, you could pass it on to your sexual partner(s).

Pregnant women with hepatitis B should inform their doctor. An injection will be given to the baby after it is born to prevent him or her from getting hepatitis B.

When can I have sex again?
You must practice "safe sex" and use latex condoms. Encourage your sex partner(s) and all the people you live with to get a hepatitis B test and get hepatitis B vaccinations if tests are negative. Your doctor will follow you and will tell you if and when the hepatitis virus has cleared from your body.


HIV and AIDS

HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. It is a complicated disease that affects a person's immunity (the ability of the body to fight infections). HIV is spread by contact with blood or some body fluids of a person who has HIV. There is a very low risk of getting infected with HIV during a sexual assault, especially in a community where HIV is fairly rare, such as London. It is, however, a remote possibility. The Regional Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Treatment Centre's examiner will discuss this with you in more detail. In some cases, prophylaxis therapy (medications that might prevent an infection with HIV) will be offered.


Trichomonas

What is it?

Trichomonas is caused by a parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. It is an infection of the vagina or prostate and/or urethra.

How did I get it?
It is usually, but not always, sexually transmitted.

What are the symptoms?
People do not always have symptoms, however when they do:

Women may have:

  • Frothy, green vaginal discharge
  • Unpleasant vaginal odour
  • Intense vaginal itching
  • Redness and pain in the vaginal area
  • Frequent passing of urine

Men may have:

  • Discharge from penis
  • Burning when passing urine
  • Irritation around the tip of the penis

How is it treated?
A medication called metronidazole (Flagyl) is very effective in treating trichomonas. Both partners must be treated at the same time to avoid re-infection.

Could I give it to other people?
Yes it is infectious. Even if you do not have symptoms, you could pass it on to your sexual partner(s).

When can I have sex again?
After you and your partner(s) have finished treatment and the doctor or clinic says you are no longer infectious.


Hepatitis C

What is it?
Hepatitis means "inflammation of the liver". It can be caused by many things including alcoholism, drugs (prescribed or street drugs), viruses or parasites. Hepatitis C is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis C virus. Sometimes, symptoms may not show up for 20 to 30 years, and by this time damage has already been done to the liver. This damage includes cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) and cancer.

How did I get it?
Through blood or body fluid contact with a person who has hepatitis C. It can be sexually transmitted, or transmitted by sharing intravenous needles, tattoo needles or similar equipment. Sexual contact with an infected person can result in the spread of hepatitis C but this does not occur as often as with other viruses such as hepatitis B and HIV. Sexual spread can also occur if there is traumatic sexual intercourse, anal intercourse, or sex during a hepatitis C positive woman’s menstrual period

What are the symptoms?
Many people infected with hepatitis C virus do not get sick, or only feel ill for a short time. When symptoms develop, they include:

  • Fatigue, fever, body aches and pains
  • Abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
  • Darkening urine

Could I give it to other people?
Yes it is infectious. People in long-term sexual relationships with someone who is infected with hepatitis C have a risk of infection of less than 2.5%. Sexual spread can also occur if there is traumatic sexual intercourse, anal intercourse, or sex during a hepatitis C positive woman’s menstrual period.

When can I have sex again?
Always use a condom during vaginal, anal and oral intercourse. If you are in a long-term relationship with one partner, you and your partner should discuss the risks and testing for that partner.

Last updated: Fri, 2018-03-16 12:11