Don’t you trust me? I am clean!” was the response when I suggested to my boyfriend that he should wear a condom. It didn’t matter that he goes for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) testing every six months as part of his job requirement. It’s not a matter of trust, but with each intimate relationship, we bring with us a sexual history, and there are numerous other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) out there other than HIV. In a survey conducted by the Singapore Planned Parenthood Association, about a third of the 1,790 respondents believe having sexual intercourse with someone they meet for the first time is acceptable, while nearly 28 per cent said they have had sex with someone they met online.
Here are the top five reasons (also known as the most common STIs in Singapore) why I always insist on using a condom.
It might sound like the name of a flower but, trust me, if it were a flower, it’s not the type you’d want to give or receive. Chlamydial infection can cause painful urination, as well as urethral discharge in men and vaginal discharge in women. Untreated cases may lead to infertility and pregnancy-related complications in women. It can also infect the rectum, causing painful defecation and rectal discharge. Most people infected with this STI experience no symptoms, so they may unknowingly pass it to their partners.
Get Tested: This involves the collection of either a urine sample or a specimen swab from suspected areas such as the cervix or rectum. The sample is then processed to detect the presence of the bacteria that indicates an active infection, says Dr Gavin Ong, associate consultant dermatologist at the National Skin Centre and DSC Clinic.
And now for the real flower: This is also known as the “cauliflower sex disease”. Genital warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). A number of strains of HPV specifically cause it. Most infected do not experience any symptoms. Those who do will notice cauliflower-shaped growths appearing on the genitals and sometimes around the anus (even without anal intercourse). “The majority of sufferers are male,” says Dr Roy Chan of the Singapore National Skin Centre. “Typically, there are six or seven male sufferers for every female.”
Get Tested: Other than a visual examination of the warts when they develop, there’s no single test to detect all possible types of strains of HPV that might result in the development.
This is another bacterial infection, other than chlamydia, that can cause infertility. Victims may experience a burning sensation when urinating or notice a creamy white, yellow or green penile, vaginal or anal discharge. The throat can also be infected through oral sex. The infection can also spread through the bloodstream and infect other parts of the body, including the joint and skin, says Dr Ong. Like chlamydia sufferers, a significant proportion of those infected do not experience any symptoms.
Get Tested: To detect the presence of this infection, swabs are taken from suspected areas, or urine samples are collected. They are then sent to the lab for testing.
A person can be carrying the herpes simplex virus (HSV) even if he hasn’t been humping around. HSV can cause either genital or oral herpes, the latter more commonly known as cold sores. Herpes is contracted through direct skin-to-skin contact with an infected individual via sexual intercourse or kissing. HSV carriers may not be aware that they’re infected because they may have no symptoms. The signs, if they appear, include painful urination, and sores on the genitals, anus, thighs and buttocks (ouch!). In severe outbreaks, there may also be flu-like symptoms, fever and muscle ache.
Get Tested: This disease can be diagnosed by a visual inspection of the affected area, by testing a collection of tissue samples from the sores and from a blood test.
This can be deadly if left untreated. In the early stages, an infected person may notice a painless sore in the genital region, or a widespread rash that tends to affect the palms and soles. Like most other STIs, there’s also a latent stage when an infected person looks perfectly healthy. As the disease advances, the bacteria can damage major internal organs, including the brain and heart, causing health complications such as paralysis, dementia and even death. Syphilis is spread through direct contact with a syphilitic sore, which is found mainly on the genitals, anal regions, and (less commonly) around the lips and mouth.
Get Tested: It can be diagnosed with a blood test or a swab taken from the sore.