Sexually transmitted infections are passed on by sexual activity, particularly vaginal intercourse, oral sex and anal sex. There are several different types of STI. Some have no symptoms, while others can cause infertility, blindness or paralysis if left untreated.
Chlamydia is the most common STI – a bacterial infection which can be easily cured with antibiotics. Gonorrhoea is a highly contagious bacterial infection which is spread through semen or vaginal fluids during unprotected sex. This also needs treating with antibiotics. Hepatitis B is a virus that is passed on through blood and other body fluids, such as semen. It can be serious and cause serious liver damage if left untreated. Syphilis is a bacterial infection spread through close contact with an infected sore. It will not go away without treatment and can cause serious problems. HIV/Aids is undoubtedly the most dangerous STI. It is an incurable virus which damages the immune system, resulting in death.
One in two sexually active people will contract an STI by the age of 25. 20 million new cases occur every year, with 50% of these aged 15-24 years.
Sexual health is a difficult subject to discuss but, awkward or not, if you get an infection the most important things are that you get tested at your local clinic or surgery and you tell previous and current sexual partners that you have an infection and they need to get tested immediately. When telling your partner, sit down on your own and quietly explain the situation and give advice about the testing process. Most STIs are easily treated, so the sooner you get tested the easier it will be to lessen the chances of passing something on to future partners.
Testing kits are available for certain STIs online. For example, an STI test in Bexley is available from https://www.checkurself.org.uk/plus/.
If you need to contact ex-partners, it may be easier to send an anonymous text or get the health clinic to contact them. Your GP will also speak to your partner if you feel unable to have the conversation. The important factor is that you actually do something about it. Don’t bury your head in the sand – it won’t go away. In future, use condoms will all of your sexual partners – it will protect you and them.