When two people have sex together their bodies are very close and this can lead to germs passing between them if one of the people already has a certain disease. This can be from touching or kissing each others genitals or from having sexual intercourse.
STIs are diseases which are passed from person to person in this way.
The main STIs are:
* genital warts
* trich (trichomoniasis or TV)
* genital herpes
* pubic lice (crabs)
* syphilis (the pox).
* Hepatitis B
Most STIs are passed between people through unprotected intercourse but some can also be passed on during oral sex and other intimate physical contact. They are not usually passed on through mouth to mouth kissing, sitting on a toilet seat, sharing a drinking cup, touching someone, sharing a towel or flannel, from swimming pools etc. This is because most of the germs causing STIs need warm, moist environments to survive. There are exceptions to this rule including;
* If someone has syphilis or herpes and also has a mouth sore and you use a drinking glass, flannel or towel that has recently been in contact with their mouth.
* If you use a flannel or towel soon after it has been used by someone who has pubic lice (crabs) or thrush. Pubic lice can also be caught from infected bedding.
STIs can affect both men and women. Some are difficult to recognise because they do not have any signs or symptoms. However, general signs for STIs other than HIV include:
Unusual discharge from the penis or vagina.
Rashes, sores, itchiness or pain around the genitals.
A burning feeling when urinating or having intercourse.
Peeing more than usual.
Most STIs can be cured by medicines, although this is not true of HIV. If people think they have a STI they can go to:
* their family doctor
* a GUM (genito-urinary medicine) clinic
* a family planning clinic
* a young persons clinic
People can avoid getting most STls by not having sex or by using condoms when they have intercourse.
The pill does not protect against STIs.