Themes » Youth Friendly Services » Sexually Transmitted Infections

“Condoms aren't completely safe. A friend of mine was wearing one and got hit by a bus.” - Bob Rubin (Comedian)

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are viruses or infections one can get through unsafe sexual activities. All STIs are preventable. Every person has the right to protect himself or herself against STIs.

There are various ways to protect oneself and one’s partners against STIs. This is true whether one’s partner is of the same or a different sex. Everyone has the right to refuse unsafe sex (or sex that is unwanted for any reason). Many people, however, cannot or do not exercise this right. This situation is especially common among women and girls who lack the power to insist that their male partners use condoms. Both partners can agree to engage in forms of sex (such as mutual masturbation) that do not carry the risk of infection transmission. Both partners can agree to use male or female condoms.

Some STIs cause symptoms or discomfort. Others do not always have symptoms (especially among females). Symptoms of STIs can be very serious and have health consequences if you don’t treat them.

HIV is also an STI, because it is transmitted mostly (but not only) through unsafe sex. HIV, hepatitis B, syphilis, chlamydia, herpes and gonorrhoea can be transferred from mother to child during pregnancy (HIV, hepatitis B and syphilis) and delivery.

Gonorrhea, hepatitis, chlamydia and syphilis are the most common STI’s. 

Some (but not all) STIs are curable. A person who completes proper treatment will no longer have the infection. Taking proper preventive measures can prevent re-infection.

Proper treatment can often reduce symptoms and/or dramatically slow the progress of those STIs that cannot be cured (for example, herpes, HIV infection, and HPV).

For more information on STIs, click here for a fact sheet on STIs of the World Health Organisation.


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See the page on Contraceptives in the course Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights to get to know more about contraceptives and where to access them.