Ask Big Sis

Ask Big Sis: What are some STIs I should know about?


Hey Big Sis! All my friends keep talking about STIs but I’m in the dark. I’m clueless about STIs and have no idea of what to look out for. Can you help?

Hey little sis! It’s a brave and dope move to ask about sexually transmitted infections (also called STIs). Don’t worry if you don’t know about them yet - I’m here to help. I Gotchu!

What Is STI? The Basics:

An STI is an infection transmitted (that means passed on) during sexual contact. STIs are caused by bacteria, viruses, and parasites. They are transmitted during the mixing of certain bodily fluids during sexual activity, when genitals come into contact with each other, or via oral sex (touching genitals with the mouth).

Because most STIs are transmitted during sexual contact, it’s important to know that any time your genitals or mouth come into contact with another person’s genitals without a condom, you can pass on or get an STI - even if you don’t know you have one, or can’t see any signs. That’s why your Big Sis is ALWAYS going on about using a condom EACH and EVERY time you have sex, even if it’s with your regular partner. Safety first sis!

What Are Some Common Signs Of STIs?

Before I get into details on specific STIs, there are few common signs of an STI that you can look out for. So keep on the lookout for:

  • Burning when you pee;
  • A rash or blister around your genitals or anus;
  • Itching around your genitals or anus;
  • Changes in your discharge - like if it’s foamy, or foul smelling, or burns or itches.

The thing is though fam - not all STIs have symptoms that you can see or notice. That’s why it’s so important to get tested for STIs at least twice a year. Knowing your STI status is a power move, and that’s the truth.

What Are Some STIs I Should Know About?

There are a couple of common STIs you should know about too. I’ll mention a few, but remember that a nurse or doctor at your nearby clinic will also be able to give you more information.

  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common STI. Its symptoms include genital warts, but most people with HPV don’t even know they have it because they don’t have symptoms. HPV is linked to several types of cancer, including cervical cancer. There is no test to find out if you have HPV, but doctors and nurses can screen to check if you have any signs of cancer if you are 30 years or older. The Government of South Africa also has a vaccination programme against HPV, which you may have heard about.
  • Genital herpes causes painful sores and blisters around the genitals.
  • Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea both usually cause changes in your genital discharge, but there may also be no symptoms.
  • HIV is an STI and a virus (the Human Immunodeficiency Virus). The three main ways that HIV is transmitted are from mother to child in breastmilk or in the womb, from sharing unsterilised needles / razors / other sharps; and from unprotected sex. Many people are born with HIV, but in Mzansi most new infections come from having unprotected sex.

Gurrl! You are so smart for wanting to know more about STIs - they’re important to know about to make sure you can have a safe and healthy sex life like you deserve. So go get tested sis - it’s a boss move!

Chat soon!
Big Sis