HIV is a virus that damages a person's immune system, the body's defence against disease. A person infected with HIV is infected for life – there is still no cure. Eventually, HIV may lead to AIDS, a condition in which immune system is so weakened by HIV it becomes susceptible to certain infections or cancers.
It is estimated that a third of people living with HIV have not been diagnosed and remain unaware that they are infected. HIV can only be passed if infected blood, semen, vaginal fluid or breast milk get inside another person's body. The two main ways in which the virus is spread are through unprotected sex or sharing a syringe with an infected user.
The only way to know if you have HIV is to be tested. Although there is currently no cure for HIV, there are drugs called antiretrovirals that can help prevent someone infected with HIV from becoming ill. These drugs can significantly increase life expectancy but must be taken every day.
Hepatitis, a complex virus that inflames the liver, can be spread through sexual contact. The Hepatitis A virus is found in faeces and can be passed on through sexual contact. The symptoms include fever and general malaise, leading to jaundice. Hepatitis B and C are much easier to catch from sexual contact than HIV. Both Hepatitis B and C can cause permanent liver disease and cancer – most people have no obvious symptoms and there is no known cure. All cases of the virus are initially diagnosed by a blood test.
There are two types of the genital herpes virus, which either affect the mouth and nose as cold sores, or affect the genital and anal areas as warts or localised sores. Genital herpes is passed on by direct skin contact, mainly during intercourse.
Symptoms include blisters that leave painful sores, flu-like symptoms, itching sensations in the genitals or anal area and pain when passing urine. Symptoms can develop at any time after contact with the virus, but usually takes around 4-5 days.
Left untreated, the symptoms last approximately two to three weeks. Antiviral tablets can be taken to ease symptoms.
Symptoms can include pinkish/white cauliflower-shaped lumps on the genital area and can appear on the penis, scrotum, anus or in the vagina. From infection
, genital warts usually take 1-3 months to appear, but it can take much longer.
Genital warts should always be treated by a doctor or nurse. Treatment is simple; usually you will be prescribed an anti-wart liquid or cream, which can be used at home. Genital warts can also be removed by freezing or laser treatment, which may be uncomfortable for several weeks.
How we can help
If you still have any questions or are worried about your sexual health, you can find your local pharmacy on our Pharmacy Locator page and speak to your local Pharmacist who will be happy to offer you friendly, confidential, expert advice..