Many STIs may present with no symptoms or very mild and nonspecific symptoms before the disease conditions become serious, which make early detection difficult. Testing is the only way to confirm if you have an STI and to receive timely treatments if needed.
During early stage of gonorrhoea infection, some patients experience purulent urethral discharge, frequent and painful urination but female patients may show mild or even no symptoms at all. Untreated gonorrhoea could cause difficulty in passing urine, prostatitis and epididymo-orchitis in men; bartholinitis, pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy and sterility in women. When a newborn is infected by an infected mom, blindness could result.
Infected men may show symptoms such as painful urination and urethral discharge of mucopurulent material. In addition, some but not all women experience pain during sex, bleeding after sex and between menstruation periods. If left untreated, complications like epididymitis, reactive arthritis, ectopic pregnancy, pelvic inflammatory disease and/or infertility would result. Chlamydia-infected pregnant women may pass the infection to infants causing eye and lung infections.
Syphilis is distinguished by stage.
At primary stage, which is 10 – 90 days after infection, a painless sore (called a chancre) may appear on the genital area. It could be inconspicuous in women if the sore is situated deep inside the vagina. The sore will heal by itself even if left untreated; however, the bacteria will spread throughout the body.
Few weeks after chancre, secondary stage may develop giving rise to symptoms such as fever, malaise, non-itchy rash and enlarged lymph glands. These symptoms disappear even without treatment but that does not mean the patient has recovered. During latent stage, patients are asymptomatic, and the disease can only be diagnosed by blood test.
If left untreated, late syphilis may occur after few years to decades which leads to serious complications including blindness, paralysis, mental illness, and even death.
Most people who have genital herpes have very mild or even no symptoms. Tingling or itching in the genital or anal area is common. Herpes sores may appear as blisters on or around the genitals, rectum or mouth. The blisters burst and leave painful sores that may take a week or more to heal. Some may also experience painful urination or develop flu-like symptoms such as fever, body aches or swollen glands.
Women who are currently shedding the virus can pass the infection to their baby during childbirth, causing encephalitis or even death.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a group of more than 150 types of DNA viruses. Symptoms of patients may vary depending on the type of HPV infected. Some HPV infections do not cause any noticeable symptoms or health problems, but some may have abnormal rough growth call “warts” on the genitalia or anogenital areas, and the throat.
Genital warts appear between 2 weeks to 8 months after infection. For men, the most likely symptom is having small itchy or painless lumps on penis, scrotum or the anus. For women, cauliflower-shaped lumps can appear around the vulva or inside the vagina where they can be hard to notice. If a woman has warts on her cervix, this may cause slight bleeding.
HPV infection may lead to long-term complications after years or decades, for example, cervical cancer and different cancers of the anus, vulva, vagina or oropharyngeal cancer (cancer in the back of the throat).
HPV infection can occur in both men and women. The virus is not transmitted only by direct sexual contact but also skin and mucosal contacts. Currently, there is no treatment for HPV. However, vaccination can protect uninfected individuals from major types of HPV infection (depending on the type of vaccine).
Human immunodeficiency virus
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Some but not all infected people may notice flu-like symptoms like fever, chills, weight-loss, enlarged glands within 2-4 weeks after HIV infection.
Although there is no cure or vaccines available for preventing the spread of HIV, further damage to one’s immune system can be avoided if timely treatment is received. Antiretroviral therapy (ART) can effectively suppress the viral load, reduce ongoing transmission and prevent the progression to AIDS.
*Participants will be tested for this STI.
Read more about testing and prevention:
Untreated STIs can lead to serious long-term health consequences including blindness, neurologic manifestations, infertility or even death. Though some STIs are incurable, all are preventable.