Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

Sexually transmitted infection (STIs) are infections caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites which you catch from sexual contact: this can be vaginal sex, oral sex or anal sex. Some are common, others less so. Some have symptoms, others you can have without knowing. However they can all do damage to you or you can pass them on to other people.

If you are having sex it is important you keep yourself healthy and get yourself tested.

Chlamydia:

  • Chlamydia is the most common STI
  • Affects approximately 1 in 10 sexually active young people under the age of 25
  • May have no symptoms or you may have discharge or bleeding
  • Easy to test for with a swab you do yourself or a urine sample
  • Easy to treat with antibiotics
  • Get yourself checked at least every year or after every change of partner.

Herpes:

  • Virus related to the chicken pox virus
  • Initial presentation – Lots of painful ulcers on a red background less than a week after sexual contact. (you may have no symptoms)
  • Viral medicines from a Doctor will help
  • After that you can have repeated attacks but they won’t be so severe
  • Treatment: Aciclovir (anti-viral medicine from the Doctor or clinic), painkillers, ice packs and salt baths may help.

Slightly less common infections:

GONORRHOEA:

May have no symptoms or may have discharge (males and females) or a range of other symptoms. Need a swab for diagnosis. Can be treated with antibiotics.

TRICHOMONAS VAGINALIS:

May have no symptoms or may be painful when you pee or can have discharge (males and females) In females it is often a ‘fishy’ yellow discharge with soreness. Need a swab for diagnosis. Treated with antibiotics.

HIV:

May have no symptoms, flu-like symptoms or a range of slightly un- usual infections. Diagnosis by blood test. If you think you at high risk you need to go and get help as soon as possible—the sooner you are treated the better.

SYPHILIS:

Painless ulcer, followed by fever and rash a few weeks later. Diagnosed with blood test.

HEPATITIS B & C:

May have no symptoms or a range of symptoms including pain in joints, fever, tiredness, itching, jaundice (yellow skin and eyes). Diagnosed by blood test.

Parasites

Can catch from any close contact, it might not be sex… and they are Itchy!

Pubic Lice:

(or Crabs) can affect any hairy area (except hair on the head). Treated with solutions from the chemists.

Scabies:

Tiny burrows on side of fingers, wrist, ankles etc. very itchy especially at night. Can result in itchy spots especially on arms and legs. Treated with a special solution over the whole body.

Genital Warts:

(Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)—2nd most common STI

The same virus which causes cervical cancer Over 100 different types̶. Some, but not all, are stopped by the HPV vaccination You may have no symptoms or you may have small lumps on you skin around your vagina or anus They may go away by themselves or they can be removed by creams or freezing ( like veruccas )
Infections which are not sexually transmitted

Candida (thrush):

Fungal infection, itchy/sore skin around genitals +/- white discharge. Can be treated by antifungal cream or tablets from the Doctor or chemist.

Bacterial vaginosis:

Overgrowth of anaerobic bacteria. May have no symptoms or may have grey-white smelly discharge. May go away by itself or may need antibiotics

Getting yourself tested…

Testing… Testing… Testing……. Some of these infections can be diagnosed by looking at them and hearing about the symptoms, some will need a swab taking (a swab is like a long cotton bud which is rubbed over the area of infections and sent to a laboratory) , for some you will need to pee into a pot and some will need a blood test (HIV and syphilis). But please talk to someone if you are worried—we can talk you through when and how to get tested.

For further information on STIs and treatment please see www.letstalkaboutit.nhs.uk