Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

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Urinary tract infections (UTI) are non-contagious bacterial infections of the urinary tract when bacteria get into the urethra. They are not considered a sexually transmitted infection (STI), but sex can increase the risk of bacteria entering the urethra. A UTI can impact the bladder or kidneys as well as the urethra. 

UTI can affect anyone but occur more frequently in people with vulvas. The most common symptoms are a burning sensation when urinating and feeling the need to pee very often. UTI are easily treated with over-the-counter products or antibiotics. If left untreated, they can develop into more serious kidney infections.

Signs and Symptoms

If symptoms do occur, it will usually be within 3 – 8 days of bacteria entering the urinary tract. It is possible to have an asymptomatic UTI.

Vulva and Penis

If signs or symptoms of a UTI are present, they may include:

  • Feeling the need to urinate more often and urgently, if only a few drops 
  • Burning pain or a ‘scalding’ sensation when urinating
  • Feeling that the bladder is still full after urinating
  • Pain above the pubic bone
  • Cloudy, bloody or very smelly urine

High fever and lower back/kidney pain may indicate a kidney infection that needs urgent medical treatment.

Common Causes

The most common cause of a UTI is bacteria from around your anal or genital area getting into the urethra. This can happen easily during a range of sexual activities. Excessive friction or roughness during vaginal penetration can also increase the risk of UTI. You can’t get a UTI from wearing a condom during sex or using tampons.


Here are some ways you can prevent UTI:

  • Always change condoms between anal and vaginal sex.
  • Always pee after sex to flush the urethra.
  • Wipe genitals from front to back after going to the toilet.
  • Be sure to completely empty your bladder when you pee.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and limiting alcohol and caffeine. 
  • Avoid vaginal douches or deodorants, which can irritate or create an unhealthy vaginal bacterial imbalance.
  • Avoid using spermicide products, particularly with a diaphragm contraceptive device.


Here’s some information about testing for UTI. You can view a list of sex worker-friendly sexual health clinics on our Where To Test page.

Testing Method

  • Physical examination
  • Urine test

When to Test

If you are experiencing UTI symptoms and over-the-counter treatments do not work within 48 hours, seek medical care immediately. 

Other Info

  • You may have to pay to see the doctor, or you may be bulk billed
  • Sexual health clinic services are usually free, regardless of your Medicare eligibility. 


UTI are treatable. Here’s what you need to know about treating one.    

Treatment Method/s

  • Using over-the-counter products such as Ural® 
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Antibiotics prescribed by your doctor

Costs and Other Information 

  • See a doctor for an antibiotic prescription if symptoms continue for over 48 hours.
  • Symptoms usually go away within 3 days of starting treatment.
  • Treatment costs will depend on which antibiotic you are prescribed.
  • Sexual health clinic treatments are often bulk billed, even if you don’t have Medicare, so the treatment may be free. 
  • You may pay a fee or be bulk billed if you see a GP. 
  • Effective treatment can cure UTI, but you do not develop immunity. It is quite common to get a UTI again. See your doctor if you have a vulva and frequently get UTI. 


Cranberries (usually cranberry juice) have been used to prevent UTI. Cranberries contain a substance that can prevent the E. coli bacteria from sticking to the urinary tract lining cells. Recent research has shown that cranberry juice does not have a significant benefit in preventing UTI.

Let your doctor know if you are consuming cranberry juice, as it can alter the effectiveness of some antibiotics.

How might this impact my work? 

Practical Considerations

  • UTI are not contagious, so you cannot pass one between you and a client. 
  • UTI symptoms can make sex uncomfortable or painful.
  • Some antibiotics can reduce the effectiveness of oral contraception (‘the pill’). 
  • If you often get thrush when taking antibiotics, you may want to take probiotics during and after treatment to help prevent this.

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