Viral STIs are caused by viruses passed from person-to-person during sexual activity.

Here is some information on some common viral STIs: HIV/AIDS, Genital Herpes and Genital Warts  


HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is the virus that, if left untreated, can lead to AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome).

HIV is treatable with medication, but not curable. If left untreated it can weaken a person’s immune system. Your immune system is a complex system that fights off infection and generally keeps you healthy. A person infected with HIV is said to be HIV-positive. There are two different types of HIV. HIV-1 Is the most common type found worldwide and HIV-2 is mainly found in Western Africa, with some cases also found in Europe and India.

The only way that HIV can be transmitted from a HIV-positive person to another person is through direct contact with any of these 5 bodily fluids: semen, vaginal fluid, blood, breast milk and rectal fluid.

Activities that could result in HIV infection include:

  • Oral sex
  • Breast feeding
  • Sexual intercourse
  • Sharing/re-using of needles

Other bodily fluids, like sweat, urine, saliva and tears cannot transmit HIV.
For more information visit AIDS or HIVandHepatitis

Early stages of HIV can be similar to flu-like symptoms. These may include:

  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Sore Throat
  • Aches

Progression from HIV to AIDS

  • Extreme tiredness
  • Prolonged diarrhoea
  • Rapid loss of weight
  • Sores on genitals or mouth

For more information visit Healthline

Generally, there is a three month “window” period for HIV testing. This is the approximate time between when a person is infected with HIV and the time when an HIV test will detect the virus in his or her body. For many people, testing may be accurate after several weeks of infection, but in rare cases it takes up to six months.

If you are considering being tested for HIV, you should know that the test may not detect an infection from the past three months. Three months after infection, the test will confirm 97% of HIV cases. After 6 months, the test will confirm 99% of all cases.

Undetectable = Untransmittable (U=U)

Once your viral load has been undetectable for six months you are unable to pass HIV along through sex, as long as you continue to take your HIV treatments and remain undetectable. This means you can have sex without a condom without worrying about passing HIV on to your partner(s) This highlights the importance of access to timely HIV medication and taking the medication as directed.

You do need to consider the possibility of contracting other STI’s if you and your partner(s) make the decision not to use condoms

Combination of medicines used – antiretroviral therapy (ART). This involves taking a mixture of HIV medicines, every day and exactly as they are prescribed. The medicines prevent HIV from replicating thus lowering the amount of HIV in the body and allowing the immune system to fight other infections. If HIV is left untreated, it will ultimately attack the immune system and will advance to AIDS.

Six different classes of HIV medications:

  • Fusion inhibitors
  • Protease inhibitors
  • Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors
  • CCR5 antagonists
  • Non-nucleoside reverse transciptase inhibtors
  • Integrase strand transfer inhibitors

For more information visit AIDS

There is now a medication called PrEP (Pre Exposure Prophylaxis) available which reduces the risk of contracting HIV. This is taken before the exposure to HIV – for instance, a person who does not have HIV would take PrEP before having sex with a person who has HIV. There is also a medication called PEP (Post Exposure Prophylaxis) which is taken after exposure to HIV (within 72 hours – but the sooner it is taken, the more effective it is!) that can prevent HIV infection. Like any medication, PrEP and PEP must be taken correctly to work effectively, so please make sure you follow the instructions given by healthcare professionals. To learn more about PrEP, visit

Both HIV-1 and HIV-2 are believed to have origins in non-human primates in West-Central Africa. Both types of the virus are believed to have been transferred to humans by a process known as zoonosis in the early 20th century. Zoonosis is a disease that can be transmitted from animals to people or, more specifically, a disease that normally exists in animals but that can infect humans. The disease was originally found in wild chimpanzees. It was known as Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV). HIV-1 descended from SIV(Cpz) while HIV-2’s closest relative is SIV(smm), a virus of the sooty mangeby monkey.  Genetic investigations of the HIV virus suggest that the most modern common ancestor of the HIV M group dates back to approximately 1910. The earliest abundantly recorded case in a human dates back to 1959 in the Belgian Congo.

HIV is the earth’s number one infectious killer.
Every nine and a half minutes, someone in the U.S. is infected with HIV.
Many celebrities have been diagnosed with HIV including Freddy Mercury, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Charlie Sheen and Eric Lynn Wright (aka Eazy-E).
AIDS is the most studied disease in the history of mankind.


Genital Herpes is caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) which is from the same family of viruses that cause cold sores. There are two different types of Herpes – cold sores are generally caused by a type of Herpes Simplex Virus called HSV-1, and genital herpes is usually caused by type HSV-2. However, both types can infect the genital areas, causing painful sores.

There is no cure for genital herpes and often people will have recurring outbreaks. During these outbreaks the infected person will have sores and symptoms for a while, then the virus will go into a dormant stage and the person will have no symptoms again until the next outbreak. The number of outbreaks and the amount of time between outbreaks varies from person to person. Some people may have them frequently and others may have only one or two. It is still possible to transmit the virus during the dormant stages when a person has no symptoms.

Active cold sore infections of HSV-1 can be spread orally by kissing – oral herpes. It can also be spread to the genitals by oral sex – genital herpes HSV-2.
Genital herpes is spread through skin-to-skin contact with an infected area, typically by oral, anal and/or vaginal sex. Genital herpes can also spread to the mouth by oral sex just as cold sore infections can be spread to the genitals.
The herpes virus is unable to survive for long periods of time on non-living surfaces so there is no major risk of getting herpes from a toilet seat or shower etc.

For more information visit Herpesland

Some symptoms include:

  • Pain whilst urinating – genital herpes
  • Itching
  • Blistering sores – on genitals or mouth
  • Cracked, raw, red areas around the genitals – genital herpes

May also experience flu like symptoms. These may include:

  • Headaches
  • Fevers
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Tiredness

HSV can also be spread to the eyes where it results in a condition known as herpes keratitis. Symptoms of herpes keratitis include:

  • Eye pain
  • Discharge
  • Grimy feeling in the eye

For more information visit WebMD

Testing for Herpes is performed by taking a tissue scraping sample or by taking a sample of an active sore or blister. A blood test can also detect HSV-1 or HSV-2 infections.

Most patients with the condition are treated with an antiviral medication. Antiviral ointments or creams are used to relieve any itching or burning. Antiviral tablets and injections are also used to shorten the length of the herpes outbreak. Some prescription antiviral medications that can be used to treat both kinds of herpes include:

  • Acyclovir
  • Valacyclovir
  • Famciclovir

For more information visit AAD

Genital Warts

Genital warts is caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). The human papillomavirus or HPV is one of the most common family of viruses in the world today.

HPV is also the world’s most common sexually transmitted infection and is transmitted by skin-to-skin (including sexual) contact. There are more than 100 types of HPV. HPV infects cells inside and outside of the body. These include surfaces of the skin, lining of the mouth, tongue, throat, tonsils, vagina, penis, cervix, and anus.

Most people who get HPV don’t have any signs or symptoms and may unknowingly spread the disease. The majority of genital warts are caused by HPV 6 and 11. HPV is not related to HIV (the human immunodeficiency virus, which can cause AIDS). However, people with HIV have weakened immune systems and are therefore likely to be infected with various germs, including one or more types of HPV.

Most infections do not need treatment because your body can clear the virus itself. But in some people, the HPV infection can develop into cancer or genital warts.

In women, genital warts can appear on the vulva, urethra, cervix, anus or thighs. In men, they can appear on the penis, scrotum, anus or thighs.

In girls, HPV infection can cause cancer of the: cervix, vulva, vagina, anus, throat, head and neck.

In boys, HPV infection can cause cancer of the: penis, anus, throat, head and neck.

HPV is not transmitted by blood. The most common means of transmission is by skin-to-skin contact with the penis, scrotum, vagina, vulva, or anus of an infected person. Kissing or touching a partner’s genitals with the mouth can also transmit HPV. Using a condom does not guarantee protection since the virus can be on an area of skin not covered by the condom. Genital warts are very contagious and are spread by skin to skin contact, and during oral, vaginal or anal sex with an infected partner. Most people (66%) who have sexual contact with a partner infected by genital warts will develop warts themselves, usually within three months of contact.

HPV cannot be spread by touching surfaces such as a toilet seat or a table.

Some symptoms include:

  • Warts may appear on males on the groin, thighs, scrotum, penis or around the anus
  • In females they may appear inside or outside the vagina and anus and on the cervix
  • Genital warts may also appear on the lips or mouth of a person who has had oral sex with an infected individual
  • Other symptoms include bleeding, itching, vaginal discharge and a burning sensation

Though usually painless, symptoms for genital warts include cauliflower-like growths. They can be hard to detect as the growths can be very small.

For more information visit Healthline

The HPV vaccine was licensed in 2006.  Research has been conducted all over the world that demonstrates that the vaccine is safe and prevents cancer. The evidence has been steadily growing since 2006 and now an enormous bank of research exists which proves the safety and effectiveness of this vaccine. Studies have been conducted worldwide which confirm that HPV vaccination is the right way to protect girls from cervical cancer. The vaccine protects against, cervical cancer, genital warts and other cancers. Genital warts are a very common Sexually Transmitted Infection caused by the HPV virus that can be passed on through skin-skin contact. They pose no serious health threat and can be treated.

More than 20 countries including Italy, Norway, Australia and New Zealand give the HPV vaccine to boys and girls. Ireland and the UK have begun their programme for boys since September 2019.

There is no scientific evidence in Ireland or in any other country that the HPV vaccine causes any long-term medical conditions. Please check for further information.

There are two types of treatment for genital warts. Depending on the size, number of warts and where they are located, other methods for removal of external warts include:
· Topical treatment – use of a cream or ointment which is applied to the warts.
· Physical ablation – wart is destroyed using outside forces such has cryotherapy (damaged cells are killed by freezing them with liquid nitrogen), electrosurgery (passing an electric current through abnormal cells) and laser therapy.

Trying to remove the visible warts does not always eliminate HPV and genital warts can reappear. Chemical treatment methods can be a little painful and may cause scarring.

For more information visit HSE