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Voluntary restraint from an activity, e.g. sex, alcohol or drugs.
Age of Consent
The age at which the Law considers a person old enough to engage in sexual activity. For more information on the Age of Consent in your state (Australia only) check out our Understanding Sex & The Law section.
The insertion of a penis or toys into the anus, can sometimes also refer to using finger, young, or other body parts.
The inability to or difficulty in reaching orgasm. For more, see Orgasm.
Prescription drugs used to treat bacterial infections, but ineffective against viral infections.
A special protein produced by the immune system, generally in response to infection or vaccination.
Drugs used to treat HIV and prevent AIDS.
AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome)
The late stage of the illness caused by infection with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). See our STI information page for more on HIV.
ART (Anti-Retroviral Therapy)
Anti-Retroviral Therapy is the use of a combination of anti-retroviral drugs in a HIV+ person, used to slow the rate at which HIV makes copies of itself. As well as keeping the HIV+ person healthy, ART can also prevent onward transmission of the virus. This is called Treatment as Prevention (or TasP).
Having no signs or symptoms of disease or illness.
Someone who generally does not experience sexual attraction is asexual. Asexual people can experience sexual arousal, romantic attraction and desire intimacy, but do not feel the need to act out those feelings in a sexual, physical way. (Asexuality should not be confused with celibacy which is a distinct choice to not have sex.)
Someone who advocates for and supports members of a community other than their own.
STIs caused by bacteria including syphilis, gonorrhoea and chlamydia. These infections respond effectively to correct antibiotic treatment. see our STI information page for more on bacterial STIs.
Infections caused by bacteria and which can be cured or treated with antibiotics.
A barrier method is a physical barrier that prevents the exchange of bodily fluids (e.g. semen, vaginal fluid, saliva and blood). While barrier methods may be used as a contraceptive, they also prevent STIs by blocking the bodily fluids that carry infections . There are four main types of barrier methods: Insertive (male) condoms, receptive (female) condoms, dams and gloves.
Blood borne virus. A virus present in the blood which can be transmitted by blood to blood contact between individuals. Transmission can occur in a variety of ways including sharing needles and syringes, contamination of equipment used in tattooing or body piercing, accidents or injuries and in some instances through unprotected sex.Ssee our STI information page for more on viral STIs.
Body fluids (bodily fluids)
Fluids (liquids) within the body that are not blood e.g. vaginal secretions, semen, saliva, breast milk.
A term used to describe the sexuality of people whose physical, romantic and/or emotional attractions are to people of both the same sex and the opposite sex.
Sexual activity outside of a traditional monogamous relationship.
A type of T-cell involved in protecting against viral, fungal and protozoal infections.
CD4 cell count
A blood test that is used to assess the state of the immune system. It is used to monitor HIV infection.
Someone who is celibate has made an active choice not to engage in sexual activity (this is different from being asexual (see Asexuality). This can be made for a manner of personal, or religious reasons.
The lower, cylindrical end of the womb that can be felt right inside the vagina. There is a narrow canal running through it connecting the womb with the vagina.
Flattening breast tissue in order to create a male-appearing chest. Some FTMs and transmen don’t bind at all due to comfort issues, because they may have small chests, or because they have undergone chest reconstruction surgery. Some use different methods of layering clothing to help hide their chests. Some bind only on certain occasions; some bind all the time.
Chlamydia is a sexually transmissible infection caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. It can affect anyone and may infect the urethra, cervix, anus, throat or eyes. Chlamydia has reached epidemic proportions in Australia with over 82,500 cases diagnosed in 2014, 81% of which were amongst young people.
Most commonly an operation to remove the foreskin of the penis. Someone who has had a circumcision is referred to as circumcised, or ‘cut’. Can also refer to cutting of the the clitoral hood (see Female Circumcision).
Referring to an individual who has a gender identity which matches the gender they were assigned at birth.
Occurs when a person is forced to do something they do not agree with e.g. having sex, having tests, treatment or procedure.
Infection with two or more infectious agents e.g. HIV and Hepatitis C
Contraceptive Pill (Combined Contraceptive Pill)
Often referred to simply as ‘the pill’, this is a hormonal pill taken to prevent pregnancy. It releases hormones (oestrogen and progesterone) which stops the body producing an ovum (egg). The pill does not prevent STIs. Barrier methods like condoms should be used in conjunction with the contraceptive pill.
Often referred as DMPA (Depot Medroxyprogesterone Acetate), and sold as Depo-Provera and Depo-Ralovera – this is an injection administered every 12 weeks to prevent pregnancy. It is between 94-99% effective. Like the contraceptive pill, the injection provides no protection from STIs. Barrier methods like condoms should be used in conjunction with the contraceptive injection.
Not an STI. Caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 (HSV-1) where as HSV-2 causes genital herpes (see genital herpes)
Often simply referred to as a ‘condom’, the male or insertive condom is a readily available barrier method to prevent the spread of HIV and other STIs, as well as pregnancy. The condoms is most often rolled down over the penis before insertion – but can also be used during digital stimulation (fingering). Most are made of latex, but non-latex condoms are also available.
The female, insertive condom, femidom, or FC2 is another barrier method to prevent the spread of HIV and other STIs, as well as pregnancy. The condom is inserted into the vagina (or anus) before intercourse.
When a person willingly agrees to participate in an activity. Giving consent, when engaging in sexual activity, is giving clear and full permission for the person you are with to have sex with you. Consent can be given verbally, physically. It’s important to communicate with your partner about consent. Your ability to give consent can be affected by: your age (see Age of Consent), alcohol, drugs, and your mental state – being tired or under duress.
Prevention of pregnancy.
see Pubic Lice
Sometimes referred to as a safe sex dam, or falsely as a dental dam. A large square of stretchy rubber or latex used in oral sex to prevent the transmission of STIs. A dam can also be made by carefully cutting the tip off a condom and cutting from base to top to make a square.
Detectable viral load
A detectable viral load means that the virus can be measured in the blood (usually between 20-40 parts per million). Anything below this is classed as an undetectable viral load (see undetectable viral load). Viral loads are measured in the treatment of chronic viral infections e.g. HIV, HBV, HCV.
A dome-shaped rubber device used as a barrier method to prevent pregnancy.
The conclusion a doctor makes regarding a patient’s health condition after assessing their patient’s medical history, symptoms, signs, and test results.
In the health context, disclosure means telling someone that you have a disease. This needs careful consideration because people infected with HIV or HCV may face stigma and discrimination when they tell others about their positive status.
Treating someone unfairly because they are different (persons living with HIV, those of a different sexuality or gender, or persons with a disability) than you are. In Australia, many types of discrimination are against the law.
Washing out the vagina or anus with water, vinegar or a medicated solution. It is not an effective way to prevent pregnancy or STI.
DSG (Diverse Sexuality and Gender)
An umbrella term to describe people who identify as being gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex, non-binary, queer and questioning. It is often used in place of LGBT or GLBTIQ as a more inclusive term.
A drug is no longer effective because the bacteria or virus has developed resistance to the drug. Some STIs, namely forms of Gonorrhoea, are becoming drug resistant.
Dual protection can mean to prevent pregnancy and STIs as in when using condoms), or two forms of protection to protect against HIV (using condoms, as well as PrEP or TasP)
Expulsion of semen from the penis.
Treatment that can be given after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy. Includes “morning after pill”.
When penile tissue becomes stiff and enlarged. An erection can be caused by multiple stimuli such as physical, visual, or psychological stimuli.
Where a person has experienced an event which could potentially result in infection.
Tubes on each side of the uterus. When the ovary releases an egg it must travel through the fallopian tube to reach the womb. Fallopian tubes can become scarred and blocked by some STIs including chlamydia and gonorrhoea. This can cause infertility (being unable to become pregnant).
Some STI testing may result in a ‘false negative’, where the test comes back incorrectly stating there is no presence of infection. This is usually caused by testing too soon after potential transmission of a bacteria or virus. Many STIs have an incubation period (see Incubation Period) longer than others so you may need to wait and test again.
Some STI testing may result in a ‘false positive’, where the test comes back incorrectly stating there is a presence of a bacteria or virus. This occurs in a small number of cases when testing for viruses (like HIV) where the test picks up an antibody it thinks is a HIV antibody. You should always be retested should you return a positive test for HIV.
* See Condom (female)
* See Condom (female)
An operation to remove the clitoral hood, also known as female genital mutilation. Performed in some African, Middle Eastern, and Asian countries. Female Circumcision is considered a human-rights violation.
When proceeding sexual intercourse, sexual activity such as fondling, oral sex, grinding, or digital stimulation may be referred to as foreplay.
a term used to describe people whose physical, romantic and/or emotional attractions are to people of the same sex or gender. Gay is only one of many terms that DSG people may identify with. Others may include; bisexual, queer, lesbian, while some may prefer no label at all.
Gender / Gender Identity
Gender has historically been a binary system of referring to people based on a set of two ‘genders’, either male or female. However, a person may identify as male, female, both, or neither. Gender is not the same as sex, and a person’s gender identity may or may not match the sex they were assigned at birth.
The formal diagnosis used by psychologists and physicians to describe people who experience significant dysphoria (distress) with the sex and gender they were assigned at birth. A person who experiences Gender Dysphoria is often referred to as transgendered, or trans.
Gender-neutral (or Gender Inclusive)
Inclusive language used to describe relationships, spaces, and pronouns. Some examples are using “they/them” instead of “him/her” or “partner” instead of “boyfried/husband/girlfriend/wife”.
A term used by some people who experience their gender identity and/or gender expression as falling outside that of man and woman. They may define their gender as falling somewhere in between man and woman, or they may define it as something else entirely.
The external organs of reproduction in men and women.
Ulcers on the genitals. May be caused by trauma such as vigorous rubbing (these ulcers usually heal quickly) or they may be caused by STIs such as herpes and syphilis. The presence of genital ulcers may increase the risk of the spread of HIV infection.
Lumpy growths on the genitals or around the anus caused by Human Papillomavirus (HPV). see our STI information page for more on HPV
The tip (head) of the penis. In uncircumcised people with penises, this is covered by the foreskin.
Gonorrhoea is a sexually transmissible infection caused by the bacterium Neisseria Gonorrhoea. It can affect all genders and may infect the urethra, cervix, anus, throat or eyes. Gonorrhoea is the second most commonly reported STI in Australia with 12,000 cases in 2011. see our STI information page for more on gonorrhoea.
A general term which describes inflammation of the liver. This can be due to infection, alcohol and other toxins. Hepatitis often causes jaundice (yellow colouring of the skin and whites of the eyes), enlarged liver, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite and vomiting.
A form of hepatitis caused by the Hepatitis A virus. This virus is passed from person to person through the oral-faecal route: that means the virus can be on the hands after going to the toilet and can be passed on to others through handling food and objects. People who have anal sex are at higher risk of hepatitis A. A safe and effective vaccine is available to prevent the spread of hepatitis A.
A form of hepatitis caused by the Hepatitis B virus. The hepatitis B virus is found in blood, semen, vaginal secretions and saliva. It is spread from person to person through sexual contact, sharing contaminated drug needles, blood transfusions, and piercing the skin with contaminated instruments. Hepatitis B may damage the liver, putting people at risk of cirrhosis and liver cancer. A safe and effective vaccine is available to prevent the spread of hepatitis B.
Hepatitis C is one of the most serious types of hepatitis, and is transmitted by blood to blood contact. Currently in Australia, hepatitis C is most often transmitted through blood to blood contact caused by sharing or re-using injection equipment. However, hepatitis C can be transmitted in other ways such as via blood transfusion and blood products. In Australia, all donated blood and blood products are tested. Unsterile tattooing and body piercing practices can also pass on the virus. Mother to child transmission during pregnancy or birth is low risk. No vaccine is currently available, however there is treatment available. The effectiveness of the treatment depends on a number of factors including the type of virus and other lifestyle factors. See our STI information page for more on Hepatitis C.
Herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). There are two types of HSV, Type 1 is usually found around the lips and face, and is commonly known as a cold sore. Type 2 is usually found around the genital or anal areas. See our STI information page for more on herpes/HSV
A person who’s sexual, emotional, and/or romantic attraction to a sex other than your own.
A range of negative attitudes and feelings towards DSG people. Homophobia may include physical harm, verbal abuse (use of non-inclusive and offensive language) as well as a range of discriminating behaviours.
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is the virus that causes AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). HIV damages the immune system leading to serious infections. See our STI information page for more on HIV.
Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
Genital Warts are caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) which is one of the most commonly transmitted STIs in Australia. See our STI information page for more on HPV.
The body’s natural defences against infections and cancers.
A method of contraception. a small rod, inserted just under the skin, releases progesterone (like the mini-pill) constantly for 3 years to prevent pregnancy. The implant may stop all or many periods from occurring during the time it is implanted. Implanon provides no protection against STIs. Barrier methods should be used in conjunction with contraception to reduce the risk of STI transmission.
Incubation Period (also window period)
When referring to STIs, the incubation period is the amount of time it takes for a bacteria or virus to spread within the body. Some STIs take 24 hours to a week (Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea), where as others can take six weeks up to three months (like with HIV). If you go to get an STI test, your doctor may ask you to return at another date, or to test and then retest if there is a chance you are within the window period (see Window period)
During sex, the insertive partner is the person who puts their body part (often penis) inside their partner’s mouth, vagina or anus.
Injected directly into a vein.
Intersex people are those born with sex characteristics (including genitals, gonads and chromosome patterns) that do not fit typical binary notions of male or female bodies. Intersex people may have a combination of male or female biological characteristics.
Intrauterine device (IUD)
A method of contraception using a T shaped device containing either copper or hormones to prevent pregnancy. A IUD does not prevent STIs. To prevent STIs you should always use condoms or other barrier methods.
A very general term used to describe some abnormality on the surface of the body. This could include lumps, sores, ulcers.
an term used to describe people who identify as female whose physical, romantic and/or emotional attractions are to people of the same sex or gender. Lesbian is only one of many terms that DSG people may identify with. Others may include; bisexual, queer, gay, while some may prefer no label at all.
A substance used to make surfaces slippery. A vaginal lubricant may be helpful for women who feel pain during intercourse because of vaginal dryness. If using a lubricant with latex condoms, use one that is water-based (such as Wet Stuff or KY jelly), as oil can weaken the latex. Silicone lube can also be used with latex condoms – but not with silicone toys, so you should always use water-based lubricant.
Using the hands to stimulate the genitals of self or another person in order to achieve sexual pleasure.
Also called the progesterone-only pill. The mini-pill works similarly to the Combined Contraceptive Pill (see Contraceptive Pill) but only uses one hormone, progesterone. It thickens the uterus’ fluid lining to stop sperm. It must be taken at the same time every day and is not as effective in younger women. The mini-pill does not prevent STIs.
Morning after pill
A method of preventing pregnancy after unprotected sex. Works by preventing the egg from being released by the ovary or by preventing a fertilised egg planting into the wall of the uterus.
Men who have sex with men. This is a behavioural description which covers all people who identify as men, who sleep with people who identify as men. This is not a sexuality term, however the majority of MSM identify as gay or bisexual.
Mycoplasma Genitalium (or MG) is an STI found in both men and women. Women will often show no symptoms. Symptoms in men may include: inflamed urethra, discharge from the penis, a burning sensation when peeing. Women may experience pain in the pelvic area or vaginal discharge. MG is detectable in a urine sample, or urethra or anal swab. It is treated with antibiotics. See our STI information page for more on MG.
Any sex which does not involve penetration, often referred to as outer-course.
Opportunistic Infections (OI)
Infections that occur in persons with weak immune systems due to AIDS, cancer or immunosuppressive drugs.
Sexual activity in which the mouth is used to stimulate the vagina (cunnilingus), anus (anilingus) or penis (fellatio). Can transmit STIs.
Reproductive organ where eggs are produced. Ovaries are homologous to the testes in men, or people with testes. Unlike the testes, which produce sperm constantly, people with ovaries are born with all the eggs they will ever produce.
Over the counter
Medications which do not require a prescription, but must be purchased from a pharmacist, such as cream/lotion for treatment of public lice.
A person whose gender identity is comprised of all or many gender expressions.
The Pap Smear is a quick and simple test used to check for changes to the cells of the cervix that may lead to cervical cancer. Sexually active women are recommended to have a regular Pap smear every two years.
See Genital Warts.
Follow-up of the partners of a patient infected with an STI. Some clinics or services provide this service anonymously.
The lower part of the abdomen between the hip bones. Organs in a female’s pelvis include the uterus, vagina, ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder, and rectum.
Putting a body part (often penis) into a mouth, anus or vagina. Can also include putting a finger, tongue, another body part or an object into the vagina, anus or mouth.
Post-exposure prophylaxis (sometimes called Post-exposure prevention) is any preventative medication started after exposure to a pathogen (such as HIV) in order to prevent infection.
Sometimes referred to simply as Poly. The practice of having multiple open loving relationships.
Pre-exposure prophylaxis is the use of antiretroviral drugs used for the treatment of HIV/AIDS, taken by a HIV negative person to reduce the incidence of infection.
Treatment given to prevent infection.
Pronouns are word we use to describe one another. Him, her, and they are all examples. To some queer (especially transgender people), pronouns are very important – and using the wrong ones can be confusing and harmful. You should always ask a transgender person which pronouns they prefer to refer to themselves. It may be gender-normative (he/she his/her) or gender-neutral (they/them).
Primary HIV infection
The flu-like illness that occurs soon after infection with HIV.
The age at which the sex organs become active and external genitals mature to adult form.
A parasitic infection caused by the public louse (Pthirus pubis). The lice may be seen with the naked eye in the pubic area (and sometimes bear, chest, leg hairs) see our STI information page for more on public lice.
A term used to refer to lesbian, gay, bisexual and, often also transgender people. Some use queer as an alternative to “gay” in an effort to be more inclusive, since the term does not convey a sense of gender. Depending on the user, the term has either a derogatory or an affirming connotation, as many have sought to reclaim the term that was once widely used in a negative way.
The fluid which is ejected during ejaculation, which normally contains sperm and seminal fluid.
Sex (in biology)
The classification of people as male or female. At birth, infants are assigned a sex, usually based on the appearance of their external anatomy. However, a person’s sex is actually made up of a combination of characteristics – including: chromosomes, hormones, internal and external reproductive organs, and secondary sex characteristics.
Sex (sexual activity)
Penetrative sex (intercourse) can include inserting of the penis, fingers, tongue, or sex toys into the vagina, anus or mouth. Non penetrative sex (outercourse) may include mutual masturbation, frottage (genital rubbing) or forms of cunnilingus (oral sex)
Sexuality is about attraction, sexual feeling and how people experience and express themselves sexually.
In women, this is also known as tubal ligation or tubectomy. The fallopian tubes (see Fallopian Tubes) are surgically severed and clamped to prevent the release of ova (eggs) into the uterus. This form of contraception is permanent (but may be reversed). Sterilisation like many other contraceptives does not protect against STIs. Always use condoms or other barrier methods to prevent STI transmission.
STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection)
Any infection that is passed from person to person during sexual activity. Check out our STI information page for info on a range of STIs
Stigma is a prejudice or negative attitude toward a person or group of individuals. Certain stigmatising language is harmful to groups of people, especially marginalised communities such as people living with HIV, sexuality and gender diverse people, as well as races or religions. Discrimination is that act of expressing stigma.
Any perceptible change in the body or its functions noticed by a person that could be evidence of disease.
Syphilis is a sexually transmissible infection caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum. It can affect all genders. Syphilis is currently more common amongst men who have sex with men. If left untreated it can have serious long term effects. See our STI information page for more on syphilis.
Treatment as prevention refers to a HIV positive person using antiretroviral drugs to reduce the risk of transmission, by decreasing viral load (the amount of HIV particles present in the blood)
A type of lymphocyte.
Often shortened and stylised as trans or trans*. An umbrella term for people whose gender identity, expression or behaviour is different from those typically associated with their assigned sex at birth.
Transgender Man – (or trans* man) A term for a transgender individual who identifies as a man, aka FTM.
Transgender Woman – (or trans* woman)
A term for a transgender individual who identifies as a woman, aka MTF.
The time when a person begins to living as the gender with which they identify rather than the gender they were assigned at birth. This can include a number of lifestyle changes: changing their clothes, name, beginning hormone treatment, surgery, and using different or gender-neutral pronouns.
The spread of infection from person to person.
A genital infection caused by the organism Trichomonias Vaginalis, transmitted by having unprotected sexual intercourse with an infected person. Trichomoniasis is usually detected in women, and very rarely detected in men. It is quite uncommon in major cities in Australia, but is common in indigenous Australians living in remote communities.
Also called ‘uncut’. A person with a penis which is covered by a foreskin. All people born with a penis have a foreskin. Some elect to have it removed (see Circumcision) for religious, or other personal reason.
Undetectable (in viral load)
In a HIV+ person, a undetectable viral load is achieved by the use of anti-retroviral drugs to reduce the amount of HIV ‘copies’ in the blood. Most testing now considers a viral load as ‘undetectable’ if there are fewer than 20 copies per million in the blood. A viral load test is only a snapshot, and may be effected by stop/starting treatment, illness, and other factors. Often stylised on the web as [+u]
The tubes that carry urine from each kidney to the bladder.
Inflammation of the urethra which can be caused by STIs.
A simple test used in many STI check-ups. Urine from the patient is collected (sometimes in one or two collections), and screened for STIs like Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea.
The small, hollow pear-shaped organ in a woman’s pelvis in which pregnancy occurs.
A single or series of injections which can immunise a person against infection. Often this is done using a ‘dead’ or inactive copy of the virus itself. Vaccines stimulate the body to ‘remember’ the infection even though it has never had it – to fight it in future. Vaccines are available for a number of infectious agents (such as Hepatitis B) but not others (such as HIV)
The muscular canal between the uterus and the outside of the body.
Inflammation of the female vagina. May be caused by several infection (like STIs) or non-infectious causes.
In men, this is also known as vasoligation. The vas defrens (see Vas Defrens) are surgically severed and clamped to prevent the release of sperm into the seminal fluid. Orgasm and ejaculation will occur as before vasectomy – however sperm will be absent from the semen. This form of contraception is permanent (but may be reversed). Vascectomy like many other contraceptives does not protect against STIs. Always use condoms or other barrier methods to prevent STI transmission.
The number of viral particles (usually HIV) in a sample of blood plasma. HIV viral load is used to monitor HIV infection.
A microscopic organism that cannot reproduce without a living host cell. HIV, HPV, and Hep C are kinds of viruses.
A raised growth on the surface of the skin or other organ. See genital warts.
Women who have sex with women. This is a behavioural description which covers all people who identify as women, who sleep with people who identify as women. This is not a sexuality term, however the majority of WSW identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual.