Do you have a sexually transmitted disease (STD)?

If you are sexually active, you could have an STD without even knowing it. Know the signs.

11 February 2014
by Andreas Wilson-Späth

Nobody particularly enjoys talking about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), also known as sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Unlike most other things to do with sex they’re not a whole lot of fun, but if you’re sexually active you could be at risk.

As the name suggests, STDs are passed from one person to another through vaginal, oral, or anal intercourse.

Some STDs are little more than a nuisance, while others can be life-threatening. Some are easily treated and eliminated, while others are more persistent and require long-term medical intervention.

“If there is even the slightest possibility that you are infected, you owe it to yourself and to your sexual partners to consult your GP and have yourself tested,” says Cape Town-based doctor Jacques Badenhorst.

Here are the most common STDs:


Caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis, chlamydia can be transmitted during sex, or passed from an infected mother to her baby during child birth.


  • Painful urination
  • Fever and nausea
  • Painful sex for women and painful testicles for men
  • Lower abdominal pain
  • Discharge from the penis or vagina
  • Spotting between periods for women

Genital herpes

Herpes is a viral infection that is highly contagious. It causes outbreaks which recur periodically, for example, when the infected person is under stress or in times of reduced immunity.


  • Small red bumps, blisters, or oozing or bleeding open sores in and around the genital, anal and mouth areas
  • Pain or itching around genitals, buttocks or inner thighs
  • Painful urination
  • Fever, headaches, muscle aches and swollen lymph nodes
  • Vaginal discharge

Genital warts

Genital warts is a highly-contagious STD that is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact with an infected person.


  • Small, grey or flesh-coloured swellings and cauliflower-shaped clusters of warts in the mouth or throat, between the genitals and the anus, on the vulva and the walls of the vagina, or on the scrotum or the tip or shaft of the penis.
  • Itching or discomfort in the genital region
  • Bleeding during sex


Gonorrhoea is a bacterial infection which is transmitted via vaginal, anal or oral sex with an infected person.


  • Thick, yellowish, cloudy white or bloody discharge from the vagina or penis
  • Burning or pain when urinating
  • Painful bowel movements and anal itching
  • Abdominal tenderness or cramps
  • Abnormal menstrual bleeding or spotting between periods
  • Painful, swollen testicles


The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is an STD that causes the acquired immunodeficiency virus (AIDS), where the immune system becomes weakened allowing opportunistic infections and cancers to thrive. 


  • Headaches and fatigue
  • A sore throat and swollen lymph glands
  • Skin rashes
  • More severe symptoms, like chronic diarrhoea, coughing and shortness of breath, weight loss, high fevers, chills, night sweats and opportunistic infections, which may not appear until 10 years after the initial HIV infection.


Hepatitis B is a fairly common but serious STD which causes inflammation of the liver. There are other types of hepatitis as well, though these are not transmitted as readily through sexual contact.


  • Fatigue, fever, nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain, especially below the ribs on the right side
  • Itching
  • Pain in joints and muscles
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dark urine


Syphilis is a bacterial infection primarily transmitted through sexual contact. While rates decreased in the 1940s due to the availability of penicilin, rates are once again on the rise, often in combination with HIV.


  • A small, painless sore at the site of infection – usually on the genitals, rectum, tongue or lips, and red or reddish-brown sores in other areas, including the soles of feet and palms of hands.
  • Fever, fatigue and aches
  • Enlarged lymph nodes


This STD is caused by a parasite that affects the urogenital tract. The most common site of infection is the urethra or vagina.


  • Strong-smelling yellow, grey or green vaginal discharge
  • Discharge from the penis
  • Pain, irritation or itching of the penis or vagina
  • Pain during urination and sex

Protection is key

“Luckily, condoms are highly effective at reducing the risk of contracting or transmitting STDs,” says Badenhorst. Protect yourself and your partner by practising safe sex. A wide range of condoms are available in Clicks stores offering disease protection, birth control and peace of mind.

How Clicks Clinics can help you

Did you know Clicks offers HIV testing and counselling at our clinics? To make an appointment at a Clicks Clinic, call 0860 254 257 or book online at Clicks Clinics online

HIV home test kits are available for purchase in-store.

IMAGE CREDIT: 123rf.com


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Read More: HIV/AIDS Super Section