Sexually transmitted infections are infections commonly spread by vaginal intercourse, anal sex or oral sex. Many STIs show no symptoms, resulting in passing on the disease to others. STIs can be passed between men and women, women to women or men to men, and if you think you have an STI you should get tested as soon as possible. The sooner you are tested, the sooner the treatment can be started.
If you have any of the following symptoms, you need to get tested.
Men and women – pain when passing urine, itching or a burning sensation in the genitals, sores, blisters, lumps or spots around the anus or genitals or pubic lice.
Men only – any discharge from the penis or any irritation from the urethra.
Women only – a yellow or green vaginal discharge, bleeding after sex or between periods, pain during sex, a discharge with an unpleasant odour or lower abdominal pain.
You can have STI tests at your local clinic, or you can get advice from your General Practitioner. Also, your pharmacist can give advice and some can give tests for Chlamydia, otherwise you can go online and look for your local STI services. Chlamydia is a common STI in women and they should, therefore, get tested every 12 months; there are kits available for you to check yourself out at home, for example, Chlamydia testing kits in London www.bexleysexualhealth.org. You simply collect your sample and return the test in the envelope provided; the results will be sent back to you.
The tests are fairly straightforward; you will be asked a number of questions regarding your sexual activity and how many sexual partners you have. Men will have an examination of their genitals, women will have a pelvic examination, and based on these findings, the doctor may take a blood sample, a urine sample, a swab from inside the mouth, a swab from the genital area or a swab of any discharge which is occurring. These tests will be sent away to a laboratory and the results will follow several days later.
Anyone who has unsafe sex is a candidate for a sexually transmitted infection; have safe sex and use a condom, this will protect you from catching or passing on an STI.