Sexual Health and Infection

Safe Sex and Sexually Transmitted Infections

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are infections passed on through sex or at the very least, through any form of close physical skin-to-skin contact.

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Common STIs

Common STIs include:

  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhoea
  • Trichomoniasis
  • Syphilis
  • Genital warts
  • Genital herpes
  • HIV
  • Hepatitis B and C
  • Pubic lice

Am I at risk of an STI?

You could be at risk of an STI if you:

  • Have unprotected sex
  • Have sexual contact with multiple partners
  • Have a history of STIs
  • Have sex with a partner who has an STI
  • Have been forced to have any form of sexual activity
  • Misuse drugs, or alcohol
  • Are a young person (commonly under the age of 25 years)
  • Have sex with a partner who has an STI
  • Homosexual or bisexual sexual contact
  • Have a weak immune system

STIs can be passed on through unprotected vaginal, oral or anal sex.  Some infections can also be passed on through close skin-to-skin contact.  These include genital warts, genital herpes, and pubic lice.

STI symptoms

  • New vaginal discharge or change in vaginal discharge
  • Pain on passing urine
  • Lower abdominal pain
  • Pain during sex
  • Bleeding between periods
  • New lumps, spots, rashes or blisters down below or around the anus or buttocks
  • A new rash
  • …even a new itch!

Some women may not have any symptoms, so it’s always a good idea to get tested if you have unprotected sex, whether you have symptoms or not.

Symptoms of a urine infection can mimic those of an STI, which is why we advise that if you are sexually active, and experience symptoms of a urine infection, particularly if the symptoms keep coming back, it’s good practice to have an STI test.

Important facts about STIs

  • Remember, you may not have any symptoms, so it’s always a good idea to get tested if you have unprotected sex, whether you have symptoms or not.
  • The pill, the patch, coils, depot, and implant are designed to prevent an unwanted pregnancy but will not protect you against an STI.
  • To reduce your risk of getting an STI, use a barrier method of contraception each and every time you have sex from start to finish: This means using either a male or female condom.  REMEMBER, even condoms are not 100% STI proof as they can split, or fall off.
  • The risk of getting pregnant by withdrawing the penis just before ejaculation is as high as 20-30%. Don’t take the chance!
  • You can’t get rid of an STI by using alcohol or detergent, or strong cleaning fluids in the vagina.
  • STIs do not survive very long outside the body so you are very unlikely to get an STI from surfaces (like toilet seats), swimming pools, clothes, or kissing.
  • Do not have sex if you have a confirmed STI that has not been treated. You can start having sex once BOTH you and your sexual partner have completed treatment.
  • It can take 2 weeks to months before symptoms of an STI show up. During this time, you can still pass on the infection.
  • If you have an STI, it is important to notify your sexual partner to reduce the risk of being re-infected, and the risk of passing it on. Furthermore, by notifying your sexual partner, it means they can get tested and if necessary, get treated so that they don’t develop any complications later on.

Where can I get a test?

  • Any Sexual Health Clinic: To find a clinic near you, you can go online or call the National Sexual Health Line on 0300 123 7 123. Please be aware that many of the sexual health clinics are under a lot of pressure due to COVID-19 restrictions. You may have to wait slightly longer to get through but keep trying.
  • ONLINE: Sexual Health London: Please be aware that you can only request a testing kit if you do not have any symptoms or if you have mild symptoms. You may be asked to attend a Sexual Health Clinic for a face-to-face assessment.
  • 2MeClinic: Click here to get in touch and we can arrange STI testing for you.

About STIs

HPV and HPV Vaccination

HPV stands for Human Papillomavirus. This is the name given to a family of viruses, there is not just one member in this family! In fact, there are over 100 different members within this family.

HPV is spread through close skin-to-skin contact. Some people who contract HPV may not have any symptoms and will never know they have had it. For others it can cause health problems, including:

  • Warts: These look like lumps with a rough cauliflower-like surface. Warts can be found on the skin, on the soles of the feet (verrucas), and in the genital areas which include the vulva, penis and anus
  • Cancers: Cervical cancer is the main type of cancer caused by HPV. It can also cause cancer of the vulva, penis, and anus. HPV has also been linked to cancers of the mouth and throat

Gardasil helps to protect against cancers caused by HPV and can also help protect against genital warts. The best time to have it is BEFORE you’ve had sex or any close intimate contact with another person.

You can still be vaccinated even if you’re already having sex with someone – remember, there are several members of the HPV family. You may not have been in contact with the members that cause cancer or genital warts, so it’s still worth having it.

It is a course of TWO injections and young people are offered the first dose at the age of 12 and 13 in school year 8. The second dose is usually given after 6 months. Even if you missed the vaccination in your school year, you can still have it anytime up to the age of 25.

If you received the first dose of HPV over the age of 15yrs, you will need THREE doses of the vaccine.

Even if you only have sex with women you will benefit from HPV vaccine if you are under 26 and you need to attend regular smear test / HPV test appointments if you are over 25.

You may benefit from the vaccine up to the age of 45yrs.

Wearing a condom consistently and correctly can help protect you against HPV, but condoms do not cover the whole genital area so there is still a risk of getting the virus.

Cervical screening tests are now designed to detect HPV. This is why it is important to always attend your smear test / PAP smear appointments when you are due.

Please get in touch to speak about any of the above issues

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