Everything you need to know about chlamydia: symptoms, treatment, how to avoid it and how it interacts with HIV.
Chlamydia is a bacterial infection that affects the mucous membranes of the throat, rectum (arse), penis (urethra) and eyes.
It is the most common bacterial sexually transmitted infection (STI) in Australia and is transmitted through anal sex, vaginal sex, oral sex, and even fingering if hands are then moved to other areas.
Chlamydia can have no symptoms at all, especially if it’s present in the throat or arse.
Other symptoms can take up to 21 days to show themselves after infection, these can include:
- Itching or burning in the infected area
- Pain in the testicles (balls) or rectum (arse)
- A discharge that can be watery, yellowish or grey, especially if it’s from your urethra (penis)
Though symptoms may not be present, it is possible to pass on chlamydia from the moment you have it. This means if you think you have picked it up, you should book an appointment with a doctor at your sexual health clinic or GP as soon as possible, rather than waiting to know for sure. Left untreated, Chlamydia can cause long-term problems in the body such as infertility.
Chlamydia is very easy to treat if it’s caught early. Your doctor should prescribe a course of antibiotics and may ask you to return in a week or so for further testing to make sure the infection has cleared.
It’s important not to have sex if you think you have chlamydia, or for 7 days following treatment, to avoid passing it onto someone else and possibly even picking it up again.
You should let your sexual partners know that they need to get tested and treated also. If you are not confident doing this yourself, your doctor or nurse can do this on your behalf, and anonymously if you wish.
There is also an online tool to let your partners know anonymously called The Drama Downunder, which sends an SMS or email to previous partners.
How to avoid it
Chlamydia is one of the most common bacterial sexually transmitted infections in Australia and because it is a bacterium passed on through sexual contact, it is very easy to pick up.
While condoms provide good protection from STIs, they are not 100% effective, Also, many people choose not to use them during oral sex.
The best way to prevent transmission is to test regularly – at least once every six months – and treat the infection if you have it. By letting your sexual partners know there is a possibility they may have it too, you help reduce the chances that it will be passed on to more people or back to yourself.
If you receive a notification that someone you have slept with has chlamydia, book an appointment straight away with a doctor at a sexual health clinic or GP. They will generally treat you then and there as a precaution.
HIV, PrEP and chlamydia
If you are HIV positive and on treatment, then Chlamydia shouldn’t affect you any differently than anyone else if it is caught early. If you are not on treatment however, having Chlamydia may increase the risk of your negative partners contracting both Chlamydia and HIV because it can cause a rise in your viral load and the inflamed area provides an easy point of transfer.
Similarly, if you are HIV negative, chlamydia can increase the risk of contracting HIV because it effectively creates inflamed skin where the infection is present – especially in the rectum (arse), or urethra (cock).
HIV medication doesn’t protect against STIs, but people living with HIV tend to visit our doctors at least once every six months for an overall health check, and an STI test can become a regular part of this screening.
The same can be said for guys using PrEP, which doesn’t protect against bacterial STIs like Chlamydia, but people using PrEP usually visit the sexual health clinic once every three months as part of their regimen.
There is growing evidence to show that this regular testing is leading to a decrease of STIs in our communities.
You can get an SMS reminder for your sexual health checks through by going to thedramadownunder.info