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Today marks National STI Awareness Day, a reminder to book your sexual health checkups to test if you’re free from sexually transmitted infections.
This day is perfectly timed just after the festive period when unprotected sex is more likely to occur during the party season, and one month before Valentine’s Day to ensure you’re free from STIs in time for the celebrations in February.
National STI Day is all about making people aware of their own sexual health, taking away the stigma of STIs and preventing the spread of infection.
So to start the new year healthy and free from STIs and to enjoy Valentine’s day to the full, use this national date as a prompt to get tested.
We’ve put together some answers to your burning STI questions.
I feel fine, why should I get tested?
Many people who have a sexually transmitted infection don’t know that they’re infected. This means that their general health might be fine and so there is no reason to get tested, right? Wrong! Although you feel fit and well you still might be carrying an infection which is only detectable through an STI test such as a urine or blood sample.
If you’ve had unprotected sex you should absolutely get tested whether you feel fine or not even if it’s to put yours and your partner’s mind at rest. By not getting tested you’re putting your own health at risk and the health of those who you’ve had unprotected sex with.
What are the types of STIs I should be aware of?
There are many common types of sexually transmitted infections which can be cured easily with medication if detected early enough, and there are others which may be life-threatening. If all STIs are left untreated they can cause serious long-term health conditions such as infertility.
Here are the STIs that you should regularly be tested for:
Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections and usually affects teenagers and young adults.
Symptoms of chlamydia include:
- Pain when urinating
- Unusual discharge
- Pain and swelling in the testicles
- Women may experience tummy pain, bleeding after sex and bleeding in between periods
Gonorrhoea is a bacterial sexually transmitted infection that can affect anyone who is sexually active and having unprotected sex.
Symptoms of gonorrhoea include:
- Pain when urinating
- Green or yellow discharge
- Bleeding between periods
Some people don’t experience any symptoms of gonorrhoea which is why it’s vital to get tested.
Syphilis is a bacterial infection that is contracted through having unprotected sex with someone who is already infected.
Symptoms of syphilis include:
- Blotchy red rash on the hands or feet
- Small sores/ulcers on the vagina, penis, anus or mouth which are usually painless
- White patches in the mouth
- Fatigue, fever, joint pains, headaches and swollen glands
- Skin growths around the anus, or the vulva in women
Other common types of STIs include:
- Genital warts
- Genital herpes
- Pubic lice
It’s important that you get tested regularly to detect STIs early on and get them treated straight away as leaving STIs untreated can lead to serious health complications. Syphilis, for example, can spread to the brain causing serious long-term problems if left untreated.
What about HIV, is this an STI?
An HIV test is definitely one to add to the list when getting a sexual health check-up. This is because one of the ways HIV is transmitted is through unprotected sex.
HIV is also hard to detect as symptoms are usually similar to that of flu which can be an indication of a number of health conditions. If you’ve had unprotected sex and are showing symptoms this is your cue to get HIV tested. Likewise, if you feel fine you should still get tested if you’ve had unprotected sex.
There is a treatment available to protect you from contracting HIV through sex. Pre-exposure prophylaxis, otherwise known as PrEP, is a medication used to prevent HIV infection. If taken consistently (daily) PrEP can reduce the risk of contracting HIV by more than 90% and this percentage is increased if PrEP is used in conjunction with condoms.
How to get tested
Getting tested for STIs is simple and easy and should not be embarrassing. Sexual health clinics are the best place to visit to get tested and you can find your nearest clinic here.
Sexual health clinics are completely confidential, you can turn up without an appointment, you can speak to a doctor or nurse, male or female and receive results quickly.
Testing usually involves taking either a blood or urine sample and may involve a physical examination of the genitals and a swab, although this is not always necessary.
Results are often delivered by text to your phone so only you know whether you have an STI or not, however, it’s important to let any sexual partners know that you have an STI so that they can get tested.
What treatments are available for STIs?
Fortunately, STIs are treatable and most will be cured within a few days, so why put off getting tested through sheer embarrassment when you could be cleared up in no time?
At Doctor-4-U we make getting treated discreet and confidential. If visiting the chemist to collect your STI prescription fills you with dread and makes you cringe inside then take advantage of our service.
Here at Doctor-4-U, we have prescription medication for common STIs that can all be bought online.
Chlamydia can be treated quickly and easily so the sooner you get over your embarrassment and brave the sexual health clinic, the sooner you will be cured.
As Chlamydia is a bacterial infection it is treated with a course of antibiotics such as Azithromycin or Doxycycline. These antibiotics treat a number of bacterial infections including STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea or syphilis.
The choice of antibiotic will depend on the type of infection you have, whether you are taking other medication, or if you have any allergies or other health conditions, all of which can be discussed with one our online GMC registered doctors.
Treating genital herpes and genital warts
There’s no cure for these types of STIs but there are treatments to help ease the pain and symptoms and control an outbreak.
Genital herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus. Similar to the cold sore, genital herpes will clear eventually but can return as the virus will always stay in your body. We can prescribe an antiviral medication such as Aciclovir, Famvir, and Valaciclovir which limit outbreaks of blisters and inhibit the spread of the virus as genital herpes is highly contagious.
There are a number of methods to treat genital warts such as surgery, freezing or creams and liquids which Doctor-4-U can prescribe. These topical creams and solutions include Aldara, Condyline Solution and Wartec.
Aldara is used to boost the immune system to help the body fight the abnormal skin growths, Condyline and Wartec also kill warts and prevent them from multiplying.
How to prevent getting infected with an STI
STIs do not discriminate, so whether you’re male or female, straight or gay, old or young if you’re having unprotected sex you’re at risk of catching a sexually transmitted infection.
The number one rule in avoiding getting a nasty STI is safe sex. Using a condom during vaginal, anal and oral sex will significantly reduce your chances of contracting an infection.
Keep on top of your sexual health status by getting regularly tested so you can enjoy a safe, healthy and happy sex life!
To find out more about all of the sexually transmitted infections and the signs and symptoms to look out for, visit our STI information page.