STIs are a collection of disorders, several of which are better regarded as syndromes for more effective management using a syndromic approach.

More than 30 different bacteria, viruses and parasites are known to be transmitted through sexual contact. Eight of these pathogens are linked to the greatest incidence of sexually transmitted disease. Of these 8 infections, 4 are currently curable: syphilis, gonorrhoea, chlamydia and trichomoniasis. The other 4 are viral infections and are incurable: hepatitis B, herpes simplex virus (HSV or herpes), HIV, and human papillomavirus (HPV). Symptoms or disease due to the incurable viral infections can be reduced or modified through treatment.

STIs are spread predominantly by sexual contact, including vaginal, anal and oral sex. Some STIs can also be spread through non-sexual means such as via blood or blood products. Many STIs—including chlamydia, gonorrhoea, primarily hepatitis B, HIV, and syphilis—can also be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy and childbirth.

A person can have an STI without having obvious symptoms of disease. Common symptoms of STIs include vaginal discharge, urethral discharge or burning in men, genital ulcers, and abdominal pain.

Prevention of STIs

General preventive measures include:

  • Give health education about STIs
  • Provide specific education on the need for early reporting and compliance with treatment
  • Ensure notification and treatment of sexual partners
  • Counsel patient on risk reduction e.g. practice of safe sex by using condoms, remaining faithful to one sexual partner, personal hygiene
  • Provide condoms
  • If necessary and possible, schedule return visits