Everything you need to know about Chlamydia

By Stephen Watkins, updated 7 months ago in Health / Sexual health

Chemist smiling holding medication

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.

What are the symptoms of Chlamydia in men?

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 service 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.

How is Chlamydia treated?

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 seven 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.

Can Chlamydia go away without treatment?

Chlamydia requires medical treatment. It will not go away by itself. If you are showing symptoms of chlamydia, a partner has tested positive for the STI, or you suspect you may have it, get tested as soon as possible so you can begin treatment.

How to prevent and avoid Chlamydia

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 per cent 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 sexual health service or doctor. They will generally treat you then and there as a precaution.

Can you get Chlamydia from kissing?

No, chlamydia is not spread through saliva. So whether you’re going in for a peck, enjoying a passionate make out or simply sharing a drink, you aren’t at risk of chlamydia transmission.

However, gonorrhea is an STI that can spread through kissing as it can be found in saliva. More on that in It started with a kiss: are we passing on gonorrhea in our saliva?  Chlamydia, gonorrhea and some other STIs can spread through oral sex. You can reduce your risk by using condoms or dams for oral sex.

Is there a vaccine for Chlamydia?

While there is currently no approved vaccine for chlamydia in any jurisdiction, research is underway. In 2016, researchers at McMaster University in Ontario published the results of a clinical trial that successfully vaccinated mice against chlamydia. So, in the future, it is highly likely we will have an effective vaccine against the STI that will completely change the game.

Does PrEP protect me against Chlamydia?

No, while PrEP is an effective prevention strategy for HIV, it does not offer protection against chlamydia or any other STIs. Using a condom every time you have sex helps reduce the risk of chlamydia transmission.

How does Chlamydia impact HIV?

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 acquiring 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 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