FAQs on Sexual Health
What is a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI)?
A sexually transmitted infection (STI) is caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi or protozoa, which can be transmitted through sexual intercourse or close body contact with another person who is infected with the STI.
- Some STIs can be transmitted when there is transfer of body fluids (e.g. semen from the male genital tract or vaginal and cervical secretions from the female genital tract) from an infected person to the sex partner. Examples of these STIs include HIV, non gonococcal urethritis (NGU), Hepatitis B and gonorrhoea
- Some STIs can be transmitted when there is intimate skin-to-skin contact. Examples include syphilis, scabies, pubic lice, herpes and warts.
- Some STIs may be transmitted from an infected mother to her baby during pregnancy or delivery. Examples include HIV, syphilis and hepatitis B.
- These infections may also be transmitted through sharing of injection needles or through contaminated blood transfusions.
What STIs are common in Singapore?
The five most common STIs in Singapore are chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis, genital herpes and genital warts. Others include hepatitis B and HIV. Most of these STIs do not manifest any noticeable symptoms in the early stages; hence they may remain undiagnosed and untreated, and can lead to transmission within the community. Here are some statistics from the DSC Clinic:
What should I do if I suspect I may have a STI?
If you're sexually active, it's a good idea to go for regular STI screening, every 6 - 12 months. Although not all STIs can be cured, all of them can be diagnosed through tests and treatments precribed. Regular STI screening is important for your health and the health of your sexual partners and the rest of the wider community too, regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, sexual role, relationship status and number of sexual partners. We have found the following local sexual health resources to be LGBTQ-friendly in their services:
- Action for AIDS (AFA) Non-profit, non-governmental organisation dedicated to fighting AIDS/ HIV infection in Singapore.
- DSC Clinic Specialist outpatient clinic for the diagnosis, treatment and control of STIs in Singapore. The public website includes a section on LGBT sexual health.
- Dr Tan & Partners Private medical practice that also provides anonymous HIV testing, as well as screening and treatment of STIs.
What is HIV and how is it transmitted?
HIV stands for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is different from AIDS, which stands for 'Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome', and occurs in the later stages of HIV infection. A person infected with HIV can take up to 10 or more years to develop AIDS, without medication. With early detection and medication, along with support, people living with HIV can continue leading fulfilling lives without developing AIDS.
HIV can be transmitted through the following ways:
- Having unprotected sex with an HIV-positive person, in particular anal and vaginal intercourse (and to a lesser extent, oral sex) without condoms.
- Receiving contaminated blood or human organs from an HIV-infected donor.
- Transmission from HIV-positive mother-to-child during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
- Sharing needles with an HIV-positive person during injecting drug use.
HIV CANNOT be transmitted through the following ways:
- Non-penetrative sexual contact, such as kissing, mutual masturbation, licking of body parts.
- Non-sexual body contact, such as shaking hands or hugging.
- Insect bites.
- Regular activities like sharing food and drink, swimming, using the toilet.
How can I get tested for HIV?
You can ask to be tested for HIV at the DSC Clinic, any polyclinic or hospital. If you prefer to remain anonymous, there are anonymous HIV testing facilities available in Singapore as well. Check out this list of MOH-approved anonymous HIV testing clinics. The rapid HIV test can be administered through a finger prick, or an oral swab.
Where can I go for more information about sexual health & sexuality?