Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are prevalent among most adolescents and the youth across the world.
According to a research carried out by Gates GJ and Sonenstein FL (Heterosexual genital sexual activity among adolescent males, 1988 and 1995), four in 10 Ghanaian women and two in 10 men aged 15-19 years have ever had sex.
The research also found out that by age 20, eighty-three percent of women and fifty-six of men have had sex in Ghana.
The above statistics shows that sexual activeness among the youth and adolescents in the country is high.
However, the conversation on sexually transmitted infections are usually limited to a few urban centers and they are mostly centered around a few identifiable STI like AIDS and gonorrhea.
But there are other common STI, and with little education, one can be able to spot and seek early treatment.
Knowledge is power when it comes to your sexual health and below, we provide you with some basic information on how to spot some of these common STIs and what you can do about them.
Chlamydia is caused by a bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis. It is found in infected semen and vaginal fluids.
It’s usually transmitted through sex without a condom or sharing sex toys with someone who has chlamydia (even if they don’t have symptoms), or from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby.
An increase in vaginal discharge caused by an inflamed womb (cervix)
pain or burning when urinating (peeing)
pain during sex and/or bleeding after sex
pain in the lower abdomen – especially when having sex
A white, cloudy or watery discharge from the penis
pain or burning when urinating (peeing)
pain and/or swelling in the testicles
Chlamydia can be prevented by using male or female condoms and dental dams during sex.
It is estimated that the human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most popular STI out there and nearly every sexually active individual will have it at a point.
HPV is easily spread from sexual skin-to-skin contact with someone who has it. You get it when your vulva, vagina, cervix, penis, or anus touches someone else’s genitals or mouth and throat — usually during sex.
Most types of HPV have no symptoms and cause no harm, and your body gets rid of them on its own. But some of them cause genital warts. Others infect the mouth and throat. Still others can cause cancer of the cervix, penis, mouth, or throat.
You can prevent getting HPV by abstaining from sex or getting the HPV vaccine, using condoms and/or dental dams, and getting regular Pap/HPV tests.
Herpes is a virus that causes sores on your genitals or your mouth. It is a common infection that stays in your body for life, however, it doesn’t lead to serious health problems.
Herpes is easy to catch. All it takes is skin-to-skin contact, including areas that a condom doesn’t cover.
The main symptom of herpes is painful blisters around the penis, vagina, or anus.
Genital herpes is spread from sexual skin-to-skin contact with someone who has it — including vaginal, anal, and oral sex. So the best way to avoid herpes and other STDs is to not have any contact with another person’s mouth or genitals.
Trichomoniasis, popularly known as “trich”, is caused by a tiny bacteria and one of the most common STI.
It is usually prevalent among women than men and one can contract through penis-vagina intercourse.
Irritation and itching of the vagina and surrounding area
Frothy, colored vaginal discharge
Strong vaginal odor
Pain when urinating
Pain when ejaculating
Condoms have been shown to reduce the risk of infection from trichomoniasis. They should be used consistently if either partner is infected or might be at risk of infection.
Syphilis is a tricky disease with four stages. In the primary stage, the main symptom is a sore. Sometimes syphilis is called the “great imitator” because the sore can look like a cut.
Sharing sex toys without washing or covering them with a new condom each time they are used and also vaginal, anal or oral sex without a condom or dental dam, with someone who has syphilis (even if they don’t have symptoms).
The symptoms of syphilis come in three stages. The first stage of infection comes with a painless sore (chancre) – usually on the penis or vagina, in the mouth or around the bottom. This usually heals within two to six weeks.
The second stage starts after the sore disappears you may get a rash on your body, often on the palms of your hands or soles of your feet. You might feel ill, with a fever or headache; have hair loss, weight loss or skin growths around the vulva.
The later stages can seriously damage your heart, brain and nervous system. The infection is usually detected by this point.
Protection with condoms are effective for the prevention of syphilis.
Gonorrhea is an infection caused by a sexually transmitted bacterium that can infect both males and females.
It is most commonly spread during sex. But babies can be infected during childbirth if their mothers are infected. In babies, gonorrhea most commonly affects the eyes.
Pus-like discharge from the tip of the penis
Pain or swelling in one testicle
Increased vaginal discharge
Vaginal bleeding between periods, such as after vaginal intercourse
Abstaining from sex is the surest way to prevent gonorrhea. But if you choose to have sex, use a condom during any type of sexual contact, including anal sex, oral sex or vaginal sex.