STIs affect fertility
Can’t conceive? Your past sex life could have damaged your fertility.
(Getty Images)
With the emphasis on HIV, other STIs have become a secondary concern. Diseases that were once known as life-threatening such as syphilis and gonorrhoea are more treatable than ever. HIV gets more media attention, and the other STIs are mentioned in passing.

This comfortable acceptance of these other STIs is a mistake, especially for couples who want to start a family. Both syphilis and gonorrhoea are among the top causes of infertility, along with other STIs such as chlamydia, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and HPV (the virus that causes genital warts). 

Living in Africa, we are more susceptible to the effects of these illnesses on our reproductive future: ‘STD-related infertility occurs three times more often in Africa than in other parts of the world, while one in ten US couples are affected,’ according to the American Fertility Association.

Chlamydia is one of the most common STIs and - because it is often symptom-free - may affect fertility without the couple even knowing they have become infected. Like other STIs, it affects fertility in both men and women.

HIV and fertility

According to, fertility is reduced in women who are HIV-positive. This is particularly true in later stages of HIV infection.

Fertility is on the decrease in South Africa, according to a report by the HSRC (Human Sciences Research Council), and we have one of the lowest fertility rates in Africa. When it comes to keep population growth under control, this is a good thing. But behind the statistic lies a complicated set of factors, included the effect of HIV on fertility.

The report suggests that, in addition to physical factors that may reduce fertility, the way we behave in relation to HIV will also reduce overall fertility. Increased use of condoms among young people is a possible factor, as is the fact that HIV-positive women who fall pregnant face more complications.

Get tested for STIs

If you have been trying to fall pregnant for more than a year and not succeeded, ask your doctor to check for signs that you may be, or may have been infected with an STI. This will give a better idea of how your fertility treatment should progress, as some damage may mean that natural conception is unlikely at best.

The more you know about the causes of infertility, the better your chances of making the move from TTC to welcoming a new family member.

Visit Health24 for more detail on specific STIs.

Has an STI affected your fertility? Comment in the box below.

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