What are STIs and BBVs?

Sexually transmissible infections (STIs) and blood borne viruses (BBVs) can affect anybody. Some infections can be cured, some will cure themselves and some stay for the rest of the person’s life. There are things you can do to protect yourself and others from getting an infection.

How are STIs and BBVs spread?

Unprotected sex with an infected partner

STIs are mainly spread by having unprotected sex with someone who has an STI. The infections are usually passed on through sexual fluids such as:

  • Semen (cum)
  • Vaginal fluids
  • Anal fluids (from inside a person’s bottom)

There are different types of STIs:

‘Blood borne’ means that the infection is carried in the blood. BBVs are mainly spread when the blood of an infected person enters your blood.

Sharing needles with infected persons
Infection from blood products
Transmission of infected mother to fetus

Some BBVs are also STIs. For example, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can be spread through blood to blood contact and sexual fluids.

How can I lower my risk of getting STIs and BBVs?

You can lower your risk of getting an STI by having safer sex. Safer sex means using barriers, e.g. condoms, during any type of sex (vaginal, anal or oral sex). A new condom is also needed if sharing sex toys.

Condoms are not 100% effective at preventing STIs. Talk to your doctor or nurse about testing.

Condom On Erect Penis
Image of condom on erect penis

You can lower your risk of BBVs by:

  • Having regular testing
  • Using condoms correctly every time you have sex (vaginal, anal, oral)
  • Not sharing injecting equipment, razors, nail clippers and only get tattoos and piercing in regulated places
  • Talk to your doctor or nurse about PrEP

How would I know if I have an STI or a BBV?

Regular testing is the best way to know if you have an STI or a BBV.

Many people do not know they have an STI or a BBV because they do not have symptoms.

Some people might have symptoms such as:

  • Itchiness around the vagina, penis or anus
  • Pain during urination (peeing)
  • Smelly or strange colour discharge (fluid) from the vagina, penis or anus
  • Pain during sex
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding

How often should I be tested for STIs or BBVs?

  • If you are under 30, test once a year, even if you use condoms 100% of the time
  • If you are a male who has sex with other males, test every 3 months, depending on your risk
  • As soon as possible if you have any symptoms
  • If you are worried for any reason

What can I do if I think I have an STI or BBV?

If you think you might have an STI or a BBV, see your doctor or nurse to get tested and treated, if needed. Some infections can cause serious health problems if not treated. For example, untreated infections could lead to infertility (inability to have children). Many STIs can be easily treated if found early.

Practise safer sex and do not share any equipment that can pass on blood into your body or someone else’s body.

What should I do if a sexual contact (or partner) of mine has been diagnosed with an STI or a BBV?

You may be notified that a sexual contact of yours has been diagnosed with an STI or BBV in person or via a phone call, text message, letter or email. You too may have an infection and be unaware as you may not have symptoms. See your doctor or nurse to get tested and treated, if needed.

For more information:

You may also be interested in watching:

This is general information only. Speak to your doctor or nurse for advice and further instruction.

Last updated: 29 August 2018