Health and Relationships

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

If you have sex without a condom, the odds of catching a sexually transmitted infection (STI) are quite high, and cases of STIs are increasing. You can't tell by looking at someone whether they've got an STI. These infections don't always have any symptoms, which means that you might not even know if you've caught something. You then run the risk of not getting treatment and of passing it on to others.

You only need to have unprotected sex once to get an STI or pass one on. So if you've only had sex once, you could still be infected. The more sexual partners you have, the more at risk you are.

If you have unprotected sex, your health is at risk, whatever your gender or sexuality.

In July 2009, the Health Protection Agency released figures on STIs in the UK for 2008.

They showed that 12% of the population is 16 to 24 years old, yet this age group accounts for more than half of all newly diagnosed STIs in the UK:

  • 65% of chlamydia
  • 55% of genital warts
  • 47% of gonorrhoea
  • 44% of herpes
  • 17% of syphilis infections diagnosed in GUM (genitourinary medicine) clinics last year.

Worried about STIs?

If you think you might have an STI, or have been at risk, get tested at a Sexual Health Wirral clinic. Some community contraceptive clinics also offer STI testing. If you've started seeing someone new, or you and your partner want to stop using condoms, have a sexual health check first.

If you notice anything different, such as an unusual discharge, pain during sex, sores or rashes, or irregular periods if you're a woman, contact a clinic straight away so that you can be treated if you have an STI.

Find out opening times for your nearest Sexual Health Wirral clinic.

Even if you don't have symptoms, you might have an STI if you've had unprotected sex. Get yourself checked. The sooner you go, the sooner it can be treated, and the sooner you can stop worrying about it.

Getting tested

Chlamydia is the most commonly diagnosed STI in the UK, and is most common in men and women under 25. The National Chlamydia Screening Programme offers chlamydia tests to as many under 25s as possible, through various healthcare settings.

Most people with chlamydia have no symptoms, so they may not know that they're infected. If left untreated, chlamydia can spread to other parts of the body, which can lead to long-term health problems, such as infertility.

If you're under 25 and have had sex, you should be offered a test when you visit your GP, contraceptive clinic or other health service. You can easily get access to testing in a range of places that are convenient to you. Some places will send you a test to complete at home, which you post back. The test and any treatment you might need is free and confidential. Find out about Wirral's Eazeescreen programme here.

Your privacy

At Wirral Community NHS Trust and Wirral Brook clinics, you can be sure of patient confidentiality. You don't have to give your real name, but make sure that the clinic can contact you to give you the results of any tests. This can be done by letter, phone or text message, depending on the clinic.

A doctor or a nurse will ask you questions about your relationships and sexual partners, what contraception you use and any relevant medical history. This is to help them work out what tests you need. For more information about getting tested, check out visiting an STI clinic on the NHS Choices website.

Getting the right treatment

Most STIs can be cured with antibiotics. Some, such as HIV, have no cure but there's treatment to stop it from getting worse.

If you test positive for an infection, staff at the clinic will explain your treatment to you and advise you on how to avoid infections in the future. Using a condom properly every time you have sex is the most effective protection against infections.

If you have an infection, you'll need to tell anyone you've had sex with in the last six months so that they can be tested too. If you haven't had sex during this time, let your last sexual partner know. If you don't want to do this, the clinic can usually contact a partner (or ex) for you, without mentioning your name.

Visit the Sexual Health Wirral Facebook Page to download your free mobile phone App to locate your nearest Sexual Health Wirral clinic and check opening hours.

Source: NHS Choices website

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