Preventing unplanned pregnancies and STIs

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What young people need to know about STIs

What are STIs?

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and (BBVs) are passed on through vaginal, oral and anal sex.

Most STIs are passed on by sharing certain body fluids (semen, vaginal fluids and blood).

Some are also passed on through skin-to-skin contact. 

STIs often have show no symptoms so lots of people don't realise they have them.

If left untreated, they can cause long term health issues such as infertility.

How common are STIs in young people?

STIs are very common in young people with most occurring in people under 30 years old.

Chlamydia and gonorrhoea are most common in young women aged 15 to 24 and young men aged 20 to 24 in WA. 

Using condoms and getting regular STI tests are the best way for people to reduce their risks of getting or passing on STIs. 

What you can do to help

Many teens worry about privacy and confidentiality when it comes to accessing health services.

Concerns about judgement from their parents (and other family members and friends) can stop young people seeking help at all. 

Let them know that they have options: 

  • Explain that doctor visits and STI tests are often free (or very low cost) for young people and are confidential. 
  • Visit the HealthSexual website and show your teenager how they can access free online STI testing and information about STIs and safer sex. 
  • Let your teenager know that the Sexual Health Helpline provides confidential information by phone or email. 
  • At age 15, show them information online about how to get their own Medicare card
  • Talk to your teenager about My Health Record. Explain to them that their account becomes private at age 14 (and they have the option to opt out of this record altogether). 

Things your young person needs to know

Key messages about STIs and safer sexSTIs can be passed on through unprotected vaginal, oral and anal sex.

Most people don’t realise they have an STI so they can spread very quickly and easily.

STIs are very common in young people.

Most STIs are easy to treat. For some STIs it is just a single dose of antibiotics.

Some STIs and BBVs can’t be cured but treatments are available to ease symptoms and reduce the risk of passing them on. (e.g. herpes and HIV).

Most people don’t have any symptoms at all but some may notice pain, discharge, itchiness, rash or sores in their sex parts.

If untreated, STIs can cause long-term harm (e.g. infertility).

If young people are having sex, the only way to know for sure if they have an STI is to get tested.

People who are sexually active should consider getting tested once a year or when they have a new sexual partner.

An STI test is very quick and easy.

It usually just involves weeing in a specimen jar at the doctors or sexual health clinic. The urine sample is analysed in a laboratory.

Sometimes blood samples and/or genital and mouth swabs are taken.
You can’t tell by looking at a person whether they have an STI or not.

You can be reinfected with an STI.

Condoms and dams (a thin latex square held over the anal or vaginal area during oral sex) reduce the risk of getting an STI.

The Pill, contraceptive implants and injections and the Emergency Contraception pill do not protect you from STIs.

The human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccination, given in high school, prevents genital warts and genital cancers (e.g. cervical cancer).

It is important to have both doses for the best protection. (If a dose is missed, a catch up dose can be given by a doctor.)

Talk honestly with your partner/s - if you and your partner are only having sex with each other, you might agree to stop using condoms after getting tested and treated (if needed).

Remember, other forms of contraception will still be needed to prevent pregnancy.

Some kinds of sex are safer than others when it comes to reducing the risk of STIs.

Lower risk activities include kissing, masturbating, mutual masturbation, touching your partner's genitals, touching over clothes, oral sex.

Lower risk does not mean no risk at all - it is still possible to get some STIs from these activities.

Condoms and dams are the best ay to avoid contact with skin and fluids to prevent STIs.


When I was at school all we got shown were the ‘horror’ pictures of STIs. It made you think that you would know for sure if someone had an STI…which is not the case at all! Now there is so much information on the internet, it’s really hard to know what is real and what is not. Internet searches on topics like this bring up all sorts! It’s great to know reliable websites and services to use.

Parent of boy 16 and girl 14

Syphilis rates

are increasing all across Western Australia

Anyone who has vaginal, anal (bum) or oral (mouth sex) without a condom can get syphilis. You may not have any noticeable symptoms. The only way to know is if you get tested. It is generally simple to cure with the right treatment. Left untreated, it can have very serious long term health issues.
Remember the key message is to Talk. Test. Protect.