STIs, or sexually transmitted infections, are a group of illnesses which can be passed from person to person during unprotected sex, or if genitals come into contact. Most can be diagnosed using a urine or blood test. Chlamydia is the most common STI and can be reasonably harmless, as long as it is treated early. HIV, on the other hand, is incurable and will affect a sufferer for life.
Symptoms can vary depending on the STI contracted, and some infections actually do not display symptoms. Most people with chlamydia, for example, don’t experience any ill effects, and 50% of women suffering from gonorrhoea aren’t aware they are infected with it. The best way to prevent STIs is to always use a condom during sex, and to have regular check ups to ensure any infections are caught as soon as possible.
Dr. Diana Gall
Our Health Care Team
"People who get an STI can find it difficult to talk about their condition because of embarrassment and the stigma surrounding them. But you should definitely speak to your GP or sexual health nurse if you think you may have an STI. Your GP, nurse or nearest sexual health clinic can get you tested for STIs and advise on the best treatment. Of course, it’s preferable to take precautions to avoid infections, but if you do get an STI, then there are treatments available that you can quickly access to avoid health complications."
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), also referred to as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), are bacterial, parasitic and viral-based illnesses which are passed from one person to another through unprotected sex or other types of sexual contact. STIs can be passed on through vaginal, anal or oral sex and they can affect anyone regardless of age, gender or sexuality.
Someone can potentially catch an STI from somebody who already has it if they make skin contact with that individual or they are exposed to one of their bodily fluids, such as their blood, semen or vaginal fluids. STIs can be transmitted in a non-sexual manner too, such as from mother to infant during pregnancy or childbirth, or through blood transfusions or shared needles.
There are numerous STIs which exist and the best treatment for them depends on what type of organisms are causing it. For example, a bacterial sexually transmitted disease can be treated with antibiotics, but antibiotics are not effective against viral STDs.
The types of STIs which exist include the following:
- Genital herpes
- Genital warts
- Pubic lice
Symptoms of an STD can vary depending on which exact one you have, but there are certain ones which are common among all of them. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, then they could be a sign that you have a sexually transmitted infection:
- Unusual discharge from your penis, vagina or anus
- Pain when peeing
- Lumps or skin growths around the anus or genitals
- Blisters and sores around the anus or genitals
- Itchy anus or genitals
- Unusual vaginal bleeding
- A rash around or near your genitals
If you or a sexual partner has symptoms of an STI or you’ve recently had sex without a condom and you’re worried, you can get tested at your nearest sexual health clinic or by visiting your GP or nurse. A blood or urine sample is taken to test most urine samples, but sometimes a physical examination of the pelvic and genital area and/or a swab of fluid from the infected area may also be required.
If you see your GP first, then they may refer you to a sexual health clinic. Sexual health clinics can usually be visited without an appointment. While you’re there, you are not obliged to give your real name or tell staff who your GP is if you don’t want to.
STI clinic near me
If you’re not sure already, you can find out where your nearest sexual health clinic is using the NHS online search page for sexual health information and support services. When you visit a sexual health clinic, a doctor or nurse will ask you some questions about your sex life, will tell you what tests they think you need and run those tests if possible. Some clinics may offer a home testing kit for checking for certain STIs.
If tests show that you have an STI, you should inform your sexual partner and any ex-partners so they can be tested and treated too. If you’re not comfortable doing this, then the clinic can usually inform those that need contacting without naming you.
The majority of sexually transmitted infections can be treated with medication. However, there are certain ones, such as HIV and genital herpes, which cannot be cured but the symptoms can be managed.
Common STIs like gonorrhoea can be treated with a prescription of antibiotic medication such as Suprax. There are also certain kinds of tablets and creams which can treat the symptoms of genital herpes and warts (such as Aciclovir).
How to prevent getting STIs
The most effective way of avoiding sexually transmitted infections from sex is to use a condom, which is over 98% effective at protecting from STIs.
Other methods you can follow to prevent getting an STI include the following:
- Getting vaccinated against certain STIs such as hepatitis A and hepatitis B
- Getting regular tests for infections (worth considering if you have numerous sexual partners and have unprotected sex frequently)
- Reduce your number of sexual partners
- Avoid having sex under the influence of alcohol and drugs, since your less likely to use protection when influenced by either
If your sex life makes it more likely that you could have sexual contact with someone who has HIV, then it’s worth considering PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) which is a preventive measure against HIV. PrEP medication can be used as protection alongside other methods such as a condom. It contains emtricitabine and tenofovir and may be sold under the brand name Truvada. It is not a cure for HIV, but someone who is at risk of getting the infection can massively reduce the chances of this happening by using PrEP.
Generic PrEP treatment is available to order with ease now from iMeds, with pricing starting from just £49.99 for 30 tablets.