Sexual health can be a sensitive subject, but if you want to protect yourself from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like chlamydia, gonorrhoea, genital herpes, syphilis and HIV, it’s important that you know the facts. To help ensure you’re clued up, here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions.
Will you know if you’re infected?
Some STIs are associated with clear symptoms, but others aren’t. This means that you may not know if you’ve contracted an infection. For example, chlamydia is the most common STI in Britain and most people who have it don’t show any signs. Because certain STIs can lead to serious health problems, including infertility, it’s vital that you don’t take risks. If you’ve had unprotected sex with someone who may have had an infection, it’s crucial that you investigate your STI health testing options. Don’t simply wait for symptoms to show up. This could be putting you and anyone you have sexual contact with at risk.
Where can you get tested?
You can get tested at most doctors’ surgeries, sexual health clinics and genitourinary medicine centres. Simply look online to find out which services are available in your area. However, there is another option if you don’t want the hassle or embarrassment of going to a health centre to get checked out. It’s now possible to get tests for certain STIs, including chlamydia, gonorrhoea and HIV, from trusted online pharmacies. To do this, you have to register with a pharmacy and then place an order. Your kit will then be sent to your address. Once you’ve given a sample and returned it through the post, you will be able to check your results on your online patient record.
What happens if you get a positive result?
Getting a positive result can be a frightening experience. However, it’s important to realise that the majority of STIs can be cured with a simple course of antibiotics. For instance, if you test positive for chlamydia, you may be offered azithromycin tablets. You can get prescriptions for these treatments from your doctor or an online pharmacy. Some infections, like HIV, have no cure but can be treated in order to stop them from getting worse. The important thing if you do test positive for an STI is to seek treatment as soon as possible.
How can you protect yourself from infections?
From the pill to the patch, contraceptive implant and intrauterine device, there are lots of different forms of birth control to choose from now. However, when it comes to protecting yourself from STIs, there’s no substitute for a condom. This is the only type of contraceptive that provides protection against both unwanted pregnancy and sexual infections.
If you want to start having unprotected sex with a new partner, it’s a good idea for both of you to get yourselves tested so you can be sure you’re not going to pass any infections to each other. Bringing this subject up can seem a little embarrassing or unromantic, but getting tested will mean you can enjoy carefree sex afterwards.
This Q&A covers many of the sexual health basics, but if you’d like more information about this topic, you can speak to your doctor or another trained healthcare professional.