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Sexually transmitted diseases or STDs, are diseases that are spread by having sex with someone who has an STD. You can get an STD from sexual activity that involves the mouth, anus, vagina, or penis. STDs are serious illnesses that require treatment. 1

Symptoms of STDs

STDs often don’t always cause symptoms. 2 So, it’s possible to contract sexually transmitted diseases from people who seem perfectly healthy, and who may not even be aware of the infection. 2 Some common symptoms include: 1-3

  • unusual discharge from the vagina, penis or anus
  • pain or burning sensation when passing urine
  • bumps or skin growths around the genitals or anus
  • a rash
  • unusual vaginal bleeding
  • itchy genitals or anus
  • blisters or sores around the genitals or anus
  • lower abdominal pain
  • fever

Prevention of STDs


Even if you are using contraception to prevent pregnancy, you still need to use condoms to protect both you & your partner against STDs. 2,4 According to the Sexual Offences Act, the legal age of consent for sex in South Africa is 16 years. 5 In addition, any minor over the age of 12 years is entitled to buy or receive free condoms. 6

Read more about contraception.


Abstinence is the best way to protect you against STDs and unwanted pregnancy. 7 You may not be ready to have sex. Don’t let someone pressure you into having sex if you don’t feel ready. It is an important decision with serious emotional and physical consequences. 7

If you would think you may have an STD, speak to your Medicare Pharmacy healthcare professional about our doctor video consultations. Select Medicare pharmacies also offer pap smears (screening test for cancer of the cervix). 

Vaginal yeast infection

A vaginal yeast infection (also called vaginal candidiasis or “thrush”) is a fungal infection that causes irritation, discharge and intense itchiness of the vagina and the vulva — the tissues at the vaginal opening. 8 It affects up to 3 out of 4 women at some point in their lifetime. 8 Although a vaginal yeast infection isn’t considered a sexually transmitted disease, you can spread the fungus through sexual contact. Antifungal medication can effectively treat vaginal yeast infections. 8


Over-the-counter antifungal creams & vaginal suppositories (tablets you insert into your vagina) are effective for many women and are a safe choice during pregnancy. 6

Oral tablets are available to treat thrush, but a prescription is required. Speak to your Medicare Pharmacy healthcare professional about our doctor video consultations.

References: 1. Cleveland Clinic. Sexually Transmitted Diseases & Infections (STD & STI). [Online] 2015 April 14 [cited 2018 Jun 28]. Available from URL:–infections-std–sti. 2. Mayo Clinic. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). [Online] 2017 Aug 17 [cited 2018 Jun 28]. Available from URL: 3. UK National Health Service. Sexually transmitted infections (STI’s). [Online] 2018 April 09 [cited 2018 Jun 28]. Available from URL: 4. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You and Your Sexuality (Especially for Teens) [Online] 2015 Aug [cited 2018 Jun 28]. Available from URL: 5. Sexual Offences Act. [Online] 2007 Dec 16 [cited 2018 Jun 28]. Available from URL: 6. Children’s Act 38 of 2005. [Online] 2005 [cited 2018 Jun 28]. Available from: URL: 7. Cleveland Clinic. Birth control options. [Online] 2011 April 18 [cited 2018 Jun 28]. Available from URL: 8. Mayo Clinic. Yeast infection (vaginal). [Online] 2015 Sept 18 [cited 2018 Jun 28]. Available from URL:


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