Sexually transmitted infections (or STIs) are infections that can be caught or passed on when you have unprotected sex, or close sexual contact, with another person who already has an STI. Using a condom for all types of sex is the best way to avoid STIs and HIV
If you’re worried you have got an STI, go for a check-up at a sexual health clinic as soon as you can.
• unusual discharge from the vagina, penis or anus
• pain when peeing
• lumps or skin growths around the genitals or anus
• a rash
• unusual vaginal bleeding
• itchy genitals or anus
• blisters and sores around the genitals or anus
Important: Don’t have sex, including oral sex, without a condom until you have had a check-up.
You can have an STI without knowing it and infect your partner during sex.
Go to Clinic If:
• you have symptoms of an STI
• a sexual partner has symptoms of an STI
• you’re worried after having sex without a condom
Why You Should Go to a Sexual Health Clinic
You can see your GP, but they’ll probably refer you to a sexual health clinic if they think you may have an STI. You can usually turn up at the sexual health clinic without an appointment. You’ll often get test results quicker than from your GP and you won’t have to pay a prescription fee for treatment. You don’t need to give your real name or tell staff who your GP is if you don’t want to. No information about your visit to the clinic will be shared with your GP or anyone else outside the clinic unless you ask for it to be. You can ask to see a female or male doctor or nurse if you wish.
What Happens at a Sexual Health Clinic
A doctor or nurse:
• will ask you some questions about your sex life
• may ask to take a look at your genitals or anus
• will tell you what tests they think you need
Some clinics offer home testing kits for some STIs.
If tests show you have an STI, you should tell your sexual partner and any ex-partners so they can get tested and treated as well.
If you don’t want to do this, the clinic can usually do it for you without naming you.
Many STIs have no symptoms at all, like HIV. The only way to know for sure is to get tested.
Some people have STI’s that cannot be cured (such as HIV) or that they live with long term (such as hepititas B and Hepititas C) People can still have healthy, happy sex lives and good sexual health if these infections have been diagnosed and are being treated and the sex they have is protected.
Clinics are confidential and no-one is told of your visit or what tests and treatment you receive. If you go to your GP, any test and treatments will go on your medical notes.
How Often Should You Get Tested?
This depends on how many people you have sex with, if you don’t have a regular partner and you have casual sex you should go at least once every six months.
If you have lots of sexual partners have a check-up at least every three months.
If you get any symptoms that may be an STI (eg, sores, inflammation or discharge), go to a clinic straight away and don’t have sex until given the all-clear.
Before having sex at the start of a new relationship, have a check-up, especially if you’re thinking about not using condoms (then HIV tests are strongly recommended). A sexual health screen should also include an HIV test.