The main points
- Sexually Transmissible Infections (STIs) & Blood Borne Viruses (BBVs) can affect anybody who has any type of sex.
- STIs are any infections that are passed from one infected person to another uninfected person, regardless of gender, through sexual activity.
- BBVs are viruses that are transmitted from one infected person to another uninfected person through the exchange of blood or other infected bodily fluids.
- STI and BBV symptoms vary. Some are "silent infections" without any symptoms.
- STI/BBV check ups are recommended every 3 - 12 months, depending on your risk.
Sexually Transmissible Infections & Blood Borne Viruses
Sexually Transmissible Infections (STIs) & Blood Borne Viruses (BBVs) can affect anybody who has any type of sex. However, by having the right information and learning about how these infections are transmitted, everyone has an opportunity to reduce their risk.
It is important to remember that one person must have an STI and/or a BBV in order for it to be able to be passed on to another person during sexual activity or blood to blood contact.
What are BBVs?
BBV stands for Blood Borne Viruses. These include Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV.
- These viruses are transmitted from one infected person to another uninfected person through the exchange of blood or other infected bodily fluids.
- Infected blood or body fluid needs to enter the bloodstream of the uninfected person for transmission to occur.
- Blood to blood contact can happen through unsafe (unsterile) tattooing practices or body piercings, the sharing of drug injecting and other equipment or unsterile surgical operations or procedures. Sometimes small amounts of blood are passed from one person to another person through sexual activity (if there is blood present at the time of the sexual activity (e.g. during rough sex).
- Hepatitis C is a BBV that is transmitted mainly through blood to blood contact which can damage the liver (an important organ in the body).The risk of acquiring Hepatitis C through unprotected sex, however, is usually very low. The main risk for acquiring Hepatitis C is from sharing equipment used in the preparation and injecting of drugs.
- HIV (the virus that can cause AIDS) and Hepatitis B (another virus that can damage the liver) are BBVs that are more likely to be transmitted during sexual activity because they are also found in other bodily fluids, as well as in blood. Bodily fluids that can contain HIV and/or Hepatitis B include seminal fluid (cum); pre cum (a fluid that a guy can release when he is sexually aroused, before ejaculation); cervical/vaginal fluids (fluids that are inside a woman’s vagina or on the outside of her vulva) or rectal mucous/fluids (fluids inside the bottom).
What are STIs?
STI stands for Sexually Transmitted (or Transmissible) Infections (sometimes called STDs - Sexually Transmitted Diseases). STIs are caused by some viruses (e.g. Herpes), some bacteria (e.g. syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhoea), and some parasites (e.g. trichomonas).
How are STIs transmitted?
- STIs are any infections that are passed from one infected person to another uninfected person, regardless of gender, through sexual activity. This includes all forms of penetrative sex (oral, vaginal and anal) as well as some forms of foreplay such as genital skin to skin touching. STIs can also be sometimes passed on through fluid from an infected area by fingers or sharing sex toys.
- Some STIs can be passed through skin-to-skin contact; others require contact with infected body fluids such as semen, rectal mucous or cervical/vaginal secretions.
How would you know if you had an STI?
This depends on the type of STI that someone has.
- Some STIs are known as the "Silent Infections." This is because you may be infected but not have any symptoms. So you may not know whether you or your partner has an STI – this is why it is important to use a condom correctly every time you have sex and to have regular checkups.
- If left untreated STIs can cause other health problems or complications.
- Getting regular checkups can minimize the risk of transmitting an infection or developing other health problems or complications.
How often should you get a checkup for STIs/BBVs?
- If you are under 30 once a year to be safe, even if you use condoms 100% of the time.
- If you are a male who has sex with other males, every 3 months, depending on your risk.
- If you have any symptoms.
You might also consider getting a checkup:
- If you think something is wrong with you and you think you might have an STI/BBV
- If you have nothing wrong with you but think you may have been at risk from an STI/BBV in the past
- If you have had unprotected sex or a condom has broken during sex with a casual, new or previous partner
- If you have had more than one sexual partner within the last year
- If you have a sexual relationship breakup and are worried your partner may have had sex with someone else apart from you during your relationship
- If you hear rumors about a previous partner having ‘an infection’.
Where to get more information, support or advice
- Contact your local doctor (GP)
- Contact Family Planning Victoria's clinics
- Visit Melbourne Sexual Health Centre
- Visit Pronto
- Visit Get PEP
Easy English version
This information is available in Easy English format.