Sexual Health: Protecting Yourself this Summer
‘‘A young woman asked me for some advice recently; she has had a vaginal discharge for a few days and she didn’t think it was thrush as she’d had that before. She said her discharge was a bit different and slightly smelly. She had recently started having sex with a new partner and was worried that she may have picked up an infection.’’
The number of cases of sexually transmitted infections, or STIs, in the UK is increasing. The most common STIs are chlamydia, gonorrhoea, genital warts and herpes. Young people under the age of 25 and men who have sex with men are most at risk of getting an STI.
STIs can be passed from one person to another through sexual contact; this includes vaginal, anal and oral sex. You only need to have unprotected sex once to get an STI or pass one on to someone else. The more sexual partners you have, the more at risk you are; this is true whether you have more than one partner at the same time or different times.
You can’t tell just by looking at someone whether they have an STI, so it’s important to get a check up if you have had unprotected sex or think you might be at risk.
So what are the symptoms of STIs?
Many people don’t have any noticeable symptoms when they have an STI, including most women with chlamydia. If left untreated, chlamydia can affect a woman’s ability to get pregnant.
Symptoms to look out for include:
Women and men:
- Pain when you pass urine
- Itching, burning or tingling around the genitals
- Blisters, sores, spots or lumps around the genitals or anus
- Yellow or green vaginal discharge
- Discharge that smells
- Bleeding between periods or after sex
- Pain during sex
- Lower abdominal pain
- Discharge from the penis
These symptoms don’t mean you have an STI, but it is worth seeing a doctor so you can find out what is causing the symptoms and get treatment if necessary.
If I think I might have an STI, where can I get tested?
You can get tested at:
- A sexual health clinic or genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic
- Some community contraceptive clinics
- Some sexual health services
- Some GP surgeries
- Some pharmacies can test for chlamydia. If you are under 25, you can get a free chlamydia test through the National Chlamydia Screening Programme
What can I do to avoid getting an STI?
Prevention is the best form of protection. Avoid having unprotected sex; always use a condom to help protect you from catching or passing on an STI. Always buy condoms that have the CE mark or BSI kite mark on the packet as this means they are tested to high safety standards.
Many people with sexually transmitted infections (STIs) don’t get symptoms, so it’s worth getting tested if you have had unprotected sex, even if you feel fine. If you think you have an STI, the earlier you’re tested, the sooner treatment can be given if it is needed.
Visit your local Alphega Pharmacy for advice about sexually transmitted infections. Visit our store locator to find your local Alphega Pharmacy:
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