158 chapter 8: Sexual health
What are sexually transmitted infections?
Sexually Transmitted Infections, or STIs, are infections passed from one person to
another during sex. STIs can be passed from one person to another through any
type of sex. It can be penis to vagina sex, or penis to anus sex, or oral sex (mouth
to penis or mouth to vagina). Sometimes, STIs can be spread
just by rubbing an infected penis or vagina against another
Untreated infections are Dangerous
Many STIs can be treated with medicine. If they are not treated
early, STIs can cause: infertility in both men and women;
babies born too early, too small, or blind; pregnancy in the
tubes; lasting pain in the belly (lower abdomen); cancer of the
opening of the cervix; death from severe infection.
Signs of an STI
You may have an STI if you have one or more of the following signs:
• unusual discharge from the vagina
• unusual smell from the vagina
• pain or an unusual feeling in your belly (lower abdomen), especially when
having sex with the penis in the vagina
• itchiness, a rash, a bump, or a sore on your genitals
Depending on your disability, it may be difficult for you to tell if you have these
signs. You may need to ask someone you trust to help you check for signs of an STI.
Changes in discharge
It is normal to have a small amount of wetness or discharge in the vagina.
This is the natural way the vagina cleans and protects itself. The discharge
changes during your monthly cycle. It becomes thicker, very clear, and
slippery about 14 days before your bleeding starts. Other changes in the
amount, color, or smell of the discharge from your vagina sometimes are
signs of an infection, but it can be difficult to tell from your discharge
what kind of infection you have. For information about discharge from
infections that are not sexually transmitted (yeast and bacterial vaginosis),
see pages 111 to 113.
A Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities 2007