What is an STI/STD and how can you get one?
A sexually transmitted infection (STI) or sexually transmitted disease (STD) is simply an infection or disease passed through sexual contact. This could be sexual intercourse, oral sex, anal sex, skin to skin contact, or contact with bodily fluids (including blood, semen, saliva, and vaginal discharge). How can I prevent myself from catching one?
The best way to protect yourself from STIs and STDs is by practicing safe sex every single time. This means using barrier methods of protection such as femidoms, condoms, and dental dams. Even if you're in a monogamous relationship, only having sex with one person who is also only having sex with you, don't assume you're automatically safe. Equally, it's important to remember that methods of contraception like the implant, IUD, the pill and the depo injection do not protect you from STIs and STDs. How do I know if I've got one?
Some STIs/STDs don't always present themselves with symptoms. You could be infected and not even know it. For this reason, it's really important to be regularly tested. If you are experiencing symptoms, it's important to be checked ASAP.I think I might have an STI. What should I do?
If you are experiencing symptoms or feel like you may have one, it's important to get checked ASAP. STIs don't go away by themselves, and the sooner you're tested the easier it will be to treat. If you leave it too long, you risk more serious health problems. STIs that are left can cause infertility.How regularly should I be tested?
If you are sexually active, you should be tested every 12 months. On top of that, you should also get tested when you're with a new partner. If you often have sex with different people, it's advised that you get tested even more regularly.Where can I get tested?
Some GP clinics complete STI tests, but not all. You should be able to find this information on their website or via a phone call to reception. You can also make an appointment at your local genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic or sexual health centre, and some community contraceptive clinics, and some will offer walk in services as well. To find your nearest sexual health clinic, use this tool
on the NHS website or call the Sexual Health Line on 0800 567 123 for free and confidential advice.
Depending on where you live and whether it's funded in your area or not, you can get STI
testing kits online for free. They're sent to you discreetly and following the instructions you take the test and send back what they ask you to. You can often get your results by text..What happens during an STI test?
Check out the What to expect at the Gum Clinic
page for more information about the different types of tests that you will have, but it depends on what you're being tested for. Generally, you may find you're asked to do a blood test, swabs, and/or a urine test.I'm embarrassed/scared. Will it hurt?
It's understandable that you might be embarrassed or scared, but the nurses and doctors at the clinic really have seen it all before, and they'll be very sensitive and understanding. The tests do not hurt, but can feel a bit uncomfortable, but if you think of it as 2 minutes' discomfort for peace of mind that you are safe and healthy, it's not so bad!What are the most common STIs and what are their symptoms?
Take a look at the Sexually Transmitted Diseases Information
page for the lowdown on the most common STIs, their causes, symptoms and treatment. Remember that with some, you won't always have symptoms. STIs can be silently in your system for years which is why it's so important to get tested regularly even if you don't have any symptoms.Where can I find out more?
For more information about STIs and getting checked out, check out the following places:NHSBBC Sexual HealthFamily Planning Association Information