Sexually Transmitted Infections in Aotearoa New Zealand

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are infections that you can get from unprotected sex, or sexual activity. STIs are a significant public health concern in New Zealand and more than half of us will contract an STI at some point in our lives. 

STIs disproportionately affect young people, men who have sex with men, and Māori and Pacific populations and these inequities in health care are not acceptable. In order to achieve equitable health outcomes in Aotearoa New Zealand, we must understand what is contributing to these inequities, and operate differently so that inequities are eliminated. The good news? Most STIs are curable, and all are treatable.

Three young people are pictured with their backs to the camera and watching the sun set. They are embracing each ohter and have their hands in the air in what looks like a celebration.

Here we explore some key points about STIs in Aotearoa:

1. Prevalence and Impact:

  • STIs can have serious long-term consequences, including infertility.
  • Common STIs include chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV.
  • STIs are passed from one person to another during sexual contact.
  • Many people with an STI have no signs or symptoms so are unaware they are infectious.
  • STIs can infect many areas of the body—the genital and anal area, mouth and throat.
  • STIs are caused by microscopic (invisible) organisms such as bacteria, viruses or parasites.
2. Population Rates:
  • Young people up to the age of 25 have the highest rates of STIs in Aotearoa New Zealand.
  • Rates of gonorrhoea (particularly in young people aged between 15 and 25) and syphilis (particularly with men who have sex with men) are increasing.
  • If you have had unprotected sex, get tested. Gonorrhoea is increasingly hard to treat as it is resistant to some antibiotics.
3. Equity and Cultural Safety:

4. Guidelines and Resources:

    A group of young people are sitting around a table each with a laptop open and they are all laughing together

    Remember that prevention, regular testing, and safe sexual practices are essential in reducing the spread of STIs. Learning about STIs can feel overwhelming but organisations exist to give you the facts you need to take care of your sexual health.

    Talk to your healthcare provider about getting tested if:

    • You have had unprotected sex (i.e. without a condom or dental dam, or if the condom wasn't used properly);
    • You have a new sexual partner;
    • You have more than one sexual partner;
    • You're worried you've been exposed to an STI.

    Not all STIs are prevented by the use of condoms. So, even if you used protection, it is a good idea to get tested if you notice any symptoms on yourself or your partner. If you have an STI and don't get treatment, you could pass it onto others, and it could cause more serious health problems later on. STI testing is often free, particularly for rangatahi. You can test discreetly at home for some of the most common STIs found in New Zealand using our self-test kits available here.

    If you're confused, worried or have questions about STI testing, you can speak to your GP or give your nearest clinic a ring and someone will be able to help you. Find your nearest clinic here


    This article was compiled by our resident expert and scientist, Ami Reid, CEO of The Quiet Achiever in conjunction with Just the Facts NZ. 
    The Quiet Achiever is New Zealand's only women owned and operated sexual wellness store that sells only 100% body-safe toys and tools to women and couples. You can buy their STI self-test kit here or shop their products by following the link below:
    Just the Facts NZ is a specialist sexual health education site for rangatahi by STIEF a national consumer-focused organisation which provides medically accurate information, support, education and resources for Aotearoa New Zealand.

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