Find out how to get yourself checked for sexually transmitted infections.
This January 14th is STIQ Day. Its goal is to encourage more people to think about their sexual health and to get regular checks. STIs (sexually transmitted infections) are on the increase – every year in the UK, more and more people get infected.
STIs are sexually transmitted infections, passed on through unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex. They’re a lot more common than you might think. In fact, many people who have an STI are completely unaware because they may not have any symptoms. That’s why it’s so important to get tested regularly and use condoms to keep yourself and others safe.
Here’s how you can keep yourself safe, get checked, and get treated…
Condoms are not just for preventing pregnancy. When used correctly, condoms are very effective at protecting you and your partner from catching or sharing most STIs. Warts and herpes are spread by skin to skin contact and can still be passed on even when condoms are used.
All other birth control, such as the combined pill or IUD, will not protect you from catching an STI. That’s why it’s important to use condoms in combination with your usual birth control to prevent catching chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis, HIV, or any other sexually transmitted infection. To learn more about the different types of STIs and their symptoms, click here.
STIs are common and can lead to serious health problems if left untreated. The good news is that getting tested for STIs is easy and straightforward – and most can be treated easily, often with a simple course of antibiotics. Usually, you will be asked to provide a urine sample, swab, or blood sample.
If you’re sexually active, it’s important to get regular checks. There’s no need to feel embarrassed – your health professional has seen it all before and has tested and treated hundreds, if not thousands of patients in their career. No-one is there to judge you and you can rest assured that everything will be entirely confidential.
You can get sexual health help, advice, and treatment by:
- Visiting your local sexual health clinic. To find your nearest centre, click here.
- Making an appointment with your GP.
- Checking with your local pharmacy. Some can test for chlamydia.
- Ordering self-test kits online, depending on where you live. These are free and confidential. Check here to find out if self-test kits are available in your area.
- Calling the National Sexual Health line on 0300 123 7123. Every call is handled with the strictest confidence.
Your treatment will depend on which STI you have. Quite often, a course of antibiotics is all that’s needed to clear up the infection. You may be asked to avoid having sexual intercourse until you have finished the medication. You might also be invited back to be re-tested to make sure the infection has been treated successfully.
For more serious STIs, such as HIV, you can be prescribed antiviral drugs. These medicines help to slow down and stabilise the infection, giving the body’s immune system a chance to repair itself. These medicines need to be taken daily for the rest of a person’s life and the goal is to maintain a low viral load – this means a very low level of the virus being present in your body. When HIV is successfully treated, an infected person’s viral load will become undetectable, meaning they cannot pass on the virus. So whilst HIV cannot be cured it can be managed with the right medicines.
Your doctor can refer you to additional resources to help support you if you’ve been diagnosed with HIV. If you need more information about HIV and AIDS, please click here.