Women and Sexually Transmitted Infections
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 Women and Sexually Transmitted Infections

 Women and Sexually Transmitted Infections

What is an STI?

A sexually transmitted infection (STI) is an infection passed from person to person through sexual contact, either through infected body fluids or direct contact.

Anyone who has had sex or is sexually active may be at risk of an STI.

What are the signs and symptoms?

Many women with an STI have no symptoms. However, the infection still needs to be treated.

• If you do have symptoms, they may include the following:
• Thicker, yellowish/greenish or blood-stained discharge
• Itching, swelling or redness at vagina/vulva
• Pain at vagina/vulva during sex
• Pain or increased frequency when passing urine
• Broken skin, abnormal growths or ulcers in the genital areas
• Pain in the lower abdomen
• Abnormal bleeding e.g. after sex

If you have any symptoms, or have no symptoms but are sexually active, or feel you may have been exposed to an STI, please see a doctor.

Common STIs among Women

Chlamydia & Gonorrhoea

• Both are bacterial infections that may cause heavier yellowish vaginal discharge or abnormal bleeding.
• However, both infections often do NOT cause noticeable symptoms at all.
• If untreated, they may lead to pelvic infection and infertility or spread in the blood (with gonorrhoea) to cause a more serious illness.
• Gonorrhoea and chlamydia can be treated with antibiotics.


• It is caused by a protozoan (small organism) called Trichomonas vaginalis.
• Women with trichomonas may have no symptoms or may have changes in the vaginal discharge or itching.
• If untreated, the cervix may become inflamed. It can also cause pregnancy complications.
• Trichomonas can be treated with antibiotics.

Genital Herpes

• Genital herpes is a viral infection caused by the Herpes simplex virus type 1 or 2.
• Painful blisters and ulcers may form on the genital skin. Type 1 also causes cold sores on the lips.
• The whole outbreak may last from 1 to 3 weeks.
• Genital herpes can recur but frequent episodes can be suppressed by using antiviral drugs.
• Unless someone has symptoms of herpes, it is usually not routinely tested for.

Genital Warts

• Genital warts are a viral infection caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV).
• People with HPV can have no symptoms or they can have small growths on the skin, which can increase in size and number.
• Warts can be treated with liquid nitrogen, medicated solutions or creams. Severe cases may need surgery for removal. Repeat treatment may be necessary for recurrent warts, which is common.
• Some HPV infections can lead to cervical or genital cancers.
• A vaccine is available to prevent HPV infection (warts and cervical cancer).
• Regular Pap smears (every 3 years from the age of 25) are advised to help detect early changes that can lead to cervical cancer. 


• Syphilis is a bacterial infection caused by Treponema pallidum.  People infected with syphilis can have a variety of signs and symptoms.


Primary Stage​ Secondary Stage​ Tertiary Stage​
Painless ulcer on genitals​ Rashes on palms, soles and body;
Mouth ulcers;
Hair loss​
Heart and brain complications​

• Most often, syphilis has no symptoms and can only be detected on a blood test.
• Syphilis can be cured with antibiotics, usually penicillin injections.

Hepatitis B

• This is a viral infection of the liver which is passed through infected blood and sexual body fluids.
• It may cause a flu-like illness with jaundice or no noticeable symptoms at all. Most people recover fully from the infection although some may become long-term carriers of the virus and may infect sexual partners. A small percentage of these people may develop liver disease.
• A vaccine is available to protect against the infection.


• HIV is the virus that causes Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) and can be passed through infected blood and sexual body fluids.
• Initially, HIV infection may cause no symptoms at all.
• People who are newly infected may sometimes experience a flu-like illness with fever, rash, swollen neck and armpit glands. Symptoms may progress to fever, weight loss, diarrhoea, night sweats and oral thrush.
• Other infections of the skin may appear before a more serious illness and AIDS begins.
• Anti-HIV medications are available to control the infection. Early treatment helps keep people healthy and prevents AIDS. It also prolongs the lifespan of people living with HIV.

Other vaginal infections

• These are infections that are NOT sexually transmitted but can also cause changes in the vaginal discharge.
• Bacterial vaginosis causes a thin, fishy smelling discharge. If untreated there is a slight risk of pelvic infection and problems during pregnancy. It is treated with oral antibiotics.
• Vaginal candidiasis (thrush) is caused by a fungus that causes vaginal itching, redness and swelling with a thick yellow-white discharge. It is treated with anti-fungal medication.

What should I do if I have an STI?

If you think you have been exposed to the above infections or have ever had sexual intercourse, visit the DSC Clinic for a sexual health screen.

If you have been diagnosed with an STI, avoid sexual contact until you have completed treatment. With some types of STIs (e.g. chlamydia, gonorrhoea, trichomonas, syphilis), your sexual partner(s) needs to be treated as well before you resume sexual activity.

A specialised Women’s Clinic is also available at the DSC Clinic every Wednesday (8am to 11am), and every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday (1pm to 4pm). It provides confidential screening, treatment, basic contraception and consultation.


We have attempted to provide full, accurate and up to date information in this patient information leaflet, based on current medical evidence and opinion. However, information and advice may vary from different sources, and over time. If you have any further questions, see your doctor or healthcare provider.

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Last update on 23 Sep 2014
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