Sexually transmitted infection
Use a condom for your protection.
Some infections can pass to another person through unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex and through sharing sex toys. Infections spread in this way are known as sexually transmitted infections. Safer sex involves using condoms correctly every time you have sex. If you don't use a condom you are at more risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection. You don't need to have lots of sexual partners to get an infection.
Can they be treated?
Most sexually transmitted infections can be treated and it is usually best if treatment is started as soon as possible. Some infections, such as HIV and herpes, never leave the body but there are drugs available that can reduce the symptoms and help prevent or delay the development of complications. If left untreated, many sexually transmitted infections can be painful or uncomfortable, can permanently damage your health and fertility, and can be passed onto someone else.
How will I know if I have an infection?
Not everyone who has a sexually transmitted infection has signs and / or symptoms. Sometimes these don’t appear for weeks or months and sometimes they go away, but you can still have the infection and pass it onto someone else. If you experience any of the following you should seek advice:
- unusual discharge from the vagina;
- discharge from the penis;
- pain or burning when you pass urine;
- itches, rashes, lumps or blisters around the genitals or anus;
- pain and/or bleeding during sex;
- bleeding between periods (including women who are using hormonal contraception);
- bleeding after sex;
- pain in the testicles or lower abdomen.
Even if you don't have any signs and / or symptoms you may wish to seek advice or have a check-up, particularly if:
- you have had unprotected sex with a new partner recently;
- you or your sexual partner has sex with other people without using a condom.
Where can I go if I am worried that I might have an infection?
You can get all tests and treatment at a GUM or sexual health clinic. General practices, contraception clinics, young people’s services and some pharmacies may also provide testing for some infections. If they can’t provide what you need, they will be able to give you details of the nearest service that can. All advice, information and tests are free, but if you go to a general practice you may have to pay a prescription charge for any treatment.
How can I protect myself against sexually transmitted infections?
- Use male or female condoms every time you have vaginal or anal sex;
- If you have oral sex, cover the penis with a condom or the female genitals, or the male or female anus, with a latex square (dam);
- If you are not sure how to use condoms correctly, contact the Family Planning Association.;
- Avoid sharing sex toys. If you do share them, wash them or cover them with a new condom before anyone else uses them.
This information is based on the FPAs 'Your sexual health: Where to go for help and advice'.
Relevant external links
Condom essential wear - www.condomessentialwear.co.uk (English only)
Society of Sexual Health Advisors website - www.ssha.info (English only)
Family Planning Association - www.fpa.co.uk (English only)