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Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI’s)

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Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI’s)

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI’s)

Chlamydia

Image by Eduardo Garcia Cruz CCO 2 via Flikr https://www.flickr.com/photos/128511347@N05/15758733175

Chlamydia is one of the U.K’s most commonly caught bacterial STI’s (Sexually Transmitted Infections). People under the age of 25 are more at risk of catching Chlamydia.

Chlamydia can be caught from sexual contact (vaginal, anal or oral sex) with someone who already has the bacteria, it is often passed on through vaginal secretions (discharge) or semen but can even be caught from receiving oral sex or sharing sex toys.

You can’t catch Chlamydia from hugging, kissing, sharing a bed, sharing towels and clothes or toilet seats.

You should get a test if:

  • You or your partner think you have symptoms
  • A partner you’ve had sexual contact with in the past tells you they have Chlamydia
  • You’ve had sexual contact with a new partner

The infection can affect some or all of the following: vagina, cervix (entrance to the womb), urethra (where you pee from), rectum (anus), throat or eyes.

A lot of people don’t get any signs or symptoms that they have Chlamydia and so if you change partners often or get together with anyone new it’s important to get a check-up at a local sexual health clinic, most of the time this is done through a simple urine sample or swabs.

Chlamydia is really easy to treat with antibiotics but it’s important to treat it as soon as it’s caught otherwise the infection could spread and cause painful complications.

Chlamydia can take up to 2 weeks to show up in a test but you should attend a sexual health clinic straight away if you think you have been put at risk, they will advise you when to go back to repeat any tests. Some GP’s will offer a test for Chlamydia and even some pharmacies. All information is treated in strict confidence.

There is no charge for testing, receiving results or treatment (if you have Chlamydia), all services for sexual health are free in the U.K.

If you think that you have symptoms or have put yourself at risk of Chlamydia then you should stop having sexual contact and make an appointment as soon as possible, some clinics offer a walk-in service (where you don’t need an appointment).

Condoms will reduce the risk of catching any STI’s including Chlamydia, condoms are free at all sexual health clinics and services.

 

Gonorrhoea

By USCDCP via Pixnio free images https://pixnio.com/science/microscopy-images/gonorrhea-neisseria-gonorrhoeae/culture-of-neisseria-gonorrhoeae-stained-with-oxidase-reagent-after-40-hours-of-incubation

By USCDCP via Pixnio free images https://pixnio.com/science/microscopy-images/gonorrhea-neisseria-gonorrhoeae/culture-of-neisseria-gonorrhoeae-stained-with-oxidase-reagent-after-40-hours-of-incubation

Gonorrhoea is a bacterial STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection).

If you get symptoms, they are likely to be;

  • An unusual discharge from the penis or vagina (watery, yellow or green)
  • Pain when passing urine (pee’ing)
  • Lower abdominal pain (those with a uterus/womb) or rarely pain, swelling or tenderness in the testicles (those with a penis)

Gonorrhoea can be caught from sexual contact (vaginal, anal or oral sex) with someone who already has the bacteria, it is often passed on through vaginal secretions (discharge) or semen but can even be caught from receiving oral sex or sharing sex toys.

The infection can affect some or all of the following: vagina, cervix (entrance to the womb), urethra (where you pee from), rectum (anus), throat or eyes.

You should get a test if:

  • You or your partner think you have symptoms
  • A partner you’ve had sexual contact with in the past tells you they have Gonorrhoea
  • You’ve had sexual contact with a new partner

You can’t catch Gonorrhoea from hugging, kissing, sharing a bed, sharing towels and clothes or toilet seats.

Many people don’t get any signs or symptoms that they have Gonorrhoea and so if you change partners often or get together with anyone new it’s important to get a check-up at a local sexual health clinic, most of the time this is done through a simple urine sample or swabs.

Gonorrhoea is really easy to treat with antibiotics (quite often an injection) but it’s important to treat it as soon as it’s caught otherwise the infection could spread and cause painful complications or health problems.

Gonorrhoea can take up to 2 weeks to show up in a test but you should attend a sexual health clinic straight away if you think you have been put at risk, they will advise you when to go back to repeat any tests. Some GP’s will offer a test for gonorrhoea and even some pharmacies. All information is treated in strict confidence.

There is no charge for testing, receiving results or treatment (if you have gonorrhoea), all services for sexual health are free in the U.K.

If you think that you have symptoms or have put yourself at risk of Gonorrhoea then you should stop having sexual contact and make an appointment as soon as possible, some clinics offer a walk-in service (where you don’t need an appointment).

Condoms will reduce the risk of catching any STI’s including Gonorrhoea, condoms are free at all sexual health clinics and services.

 

Genital herpes

Public domain files.com http://www.publicdomainfiles.com/show_file.php?id=13533751216752

Public domain files.com http://www.publicdomainfiles.com/show_file.php?id=13533751216752

Genital herpes is a really common STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection), It is caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV).

There are two types of the same virus HSV-1 and HSV-2, both can affect the genital area including the anus, the hands or fingers (sometimes called whitlows) and the mouth and nose (sometimes called cold sores). The virus is caught when there are tiny cracks (Sometimes impossible to see) in the skin or through the mucous membranes -these are places on the body where we normally see moisture e.g. mouth, vagina, urethra (where we pee from), rectum (anus), nose or under the foreskin of the penis.

Symptoms of having the virus include;

  • Stinging, itching or tingling in the genital or anal area
  • Discharge from the vagina or urethra (where you pee from)
  • Cuts, sores or ulcers on the genital or rectal area which are often painful or sting to touch
  • Pain when passing urine (pee’ing) this is when the urine passes over the broken skin, blister or ulcer

Some people have the infection without even knowing it, some people may never get symptoms, some might have mild symptoms or others may have painful symptoms.

You don’t have to have full sex (penetration) to catch herpes as it can be passed on through skin to skin contact. If you have contact with someone who has the virus then you are at risk of catching it, this includes:

  • Vaginal or anal sex
  • Sharing sex toys
  • Genital contact without penetration (naked spooning, dry humping, rubbing together of genitals)
  • Receiving or giving oral sex
  • If someone with the virus on their hands touches your genital area

If you get any of the above symptoms you should stop having sexual contact and go to a sexual health clinic to have an examination, the doctor or nurse will need to take a look at the area to give you their opinion and sometimes they will take a sample with a dry cotton bud to send off to a lab for diagnosis (to see if you have herpes). If the nurse or doctor think that you have herpes then they will normally offer you treatment on the day to clear up the symptoms, this is normally a short course of tablets (antivirals). They will also give you advice of how to relieve any pain associated with herpes until the tablets start to work.

You can catch herpes the first time you have sexual contact, the symptoms (if you get any) can sometimes take days, weeks or even years to show, it is unlikely you will know who or when you caught it, especially if you have ever had more than one sexual partner.

There is no charge for testing, receiving results or treatment (if you have herpes), all services for sexual health are free in the U.K.

If you think that you have symptoms of herpes then you should stop having sexual contact and make an appointment as soon as possible, some clinics offer a walk-in service (where you don’t need an appointment).

Condoms will reduce the risk of catching any STI’s including herpes, but will not cover all of the areas where your own skin touches your partners. Condoms are free at all sexual health clinics and services.

 

Genital warts

Unknown photographer public domain https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Papilloma_virus_(hpv).jpg

Unknown photographer public domain https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Papilloma_virus_(hpv).jpg

Genital warts are one of the U.K’s most commonly caught STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection), they are usually passed on by sexual contact with someone who already has the virus, they may not even know that they have it as it does not always have symptoms.

Genital warts are caused by HPV (Human Papiloma Virus). There are over 100 different types of HPV (more commonly called warts) but only around 30 of those will cause genital warts, more commonly just 2 (types 6 & 11) these 2 types may cause unsightly looking bumps on the skin but will not lead to cancer.

If you catch the virus you may not get any signs yourself and the virus may clear from your body on its own. It is not possible to get a test at a sexual health clinic to see if you have the virus if you don’t have any symptoms as clinics will only offer treatment if they can see a wart on your genitals. It is possible to catch the virus without knowing and not have any symptoms for weeks, month or years. Once a wart develops it is not possible to tell you how long you have had the virus.

You might notice small fleshy lumps, bumps on the genital or anal area, if you do it is important to not have sex or shave (in case you spread the virus more) and book an appointment at your GP or sexual health clinic. Genital warts aren’t often painful but can sometimes be a little itchy or become inflamed if they are on a part of the body where clothes can rub them.

Genital warts are passed on through skin to skin contact, you don’t have to have penetrative sex to catch them. Condoms will reduce the risk of catching warts but because not all skin is covered with a condom you could still easily catch them when your skin rubs with the skin of someone who is infected. Some people might not have visible signs of warts but may still have the virus so it’s impossible to know from look at someone if they have the virus.

Warts will only be confirmed if a doctor or nurse can see them, they will then offer you further advice and sometimes treatment.

Treatment for warts is normally either a cream or ointment to use at home or cryotherapy (freezing) in some clinics. It is important to let the nurse or doctor know if you may be pregnant as this will affect the treatment that they offer you. Whilst being treated for warts it is helpful if you can make your immune system as strong as possible to help fight the virus this can include; drinking lots of clear fluids (i.e. water), eating lots of fruit and vegetables and stopping smoking (smoking can prolong the virus from clearing). Sometimes warts clear very quickly with treatment other times they may take a little longer.

You can catch genital warts the first time you have sexual contact, the symptoms (if you get any) can sometimes take days, weeks or even years to show, it is unlikely you will know who or when you caught it, especially if you have ever had more than one sexual partner.

There is a vaccine which can protect against catching the virus, it is offered in most schools at around 14 years old and in some sexual health clinics (to men who have sex with other men and transwomen)

There is no charge for testing, receiving results or treatment (if you have Genital warts), all services for sexual health are free in the U.K.

If you think that you have symptoms of genital warts then you should stop having sexual contact and make an appointment as soon as possible, some clinics offer a walk-in service (where you don’t need an appointment).

Condoms will reduce the risk of catching any STI’s including genital warts, but will not cover all of the areas where your own skin touches your partners. Condoms are free at all sexual health clinics and services.

 

HIV

BruceBlaus / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

BruceBlaus / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a blood borne virus which attacks the immune system.

Often there are no symptoms at all but if you do catch HIV from someone who is infected with the virus you may get mild symptoms such as: a sore throat, flu-like symptoms or an all over body rash. It is important to get regular check-ups at a sexual health clinic if you have multiple partners or start seeing someone new.

HIV can be caught by:

  • Having unprotected vaginal or anal sex with someone who has the virus (and is not on treatment for HIV)
  • Sharing drug equipment (if the person that you’re sharing with has HIV and is not on treatment)
  • Sharing sex toys (if the person that you’re sharing with has HIV and is not on treatment)
  • Mother to child (if the mother is not on treatment)
  • Coming in to contact with the blood of someone who is infected (and not on treatment)

If somebody is not on treatment for HIV then they can pass on the virus through:

  • Vaginal fluid
  • Anal mucous
  • Semen and pre-cum
  • Blood
  • Breast milk

HIV cannot be passed on through kissing, hugging or non-sexual contact, nor can it be caught from sharing towels, cutlery or toilet seats.

If someone is on treatment for HIV, reliably taking their medication and go for regular blood tests at a HIV service then they can become undetectable- this means that their virus is so low that they cannot pass it on to anyone else- untransmittable, you might see the symbol U=U (undetectable equals untransmittable).

Testing for HIV is quick and simple through a blood test at a sexual health clinic or your own GP. Normally the nurse or doctor will ask you a lot of questions, sometimes quite personal, to assess if they need to test you for anything else, they will then take a sample of your blood with a needle and send it off to a laboratory for testing, results normally come back within 4-14 days. Some clinics can offer rapid testing if you are at high risk of catching HIV, these results can be as quick as 20 minutes.

It can take up to 4 weeks for HIV to show up in a blood tests, sometimes 12 weeks (depending on the type of test), but if you think you have put yourself at risk you should not wait to be tested! You should go to a sexual health clinic as soon as you can, the nurse or doctor will offer you further appointments to check again in the following weeks.

If you think that you have put yourself at risk of catching HIV then you should go to a sexual health clinic as soon as possible, sometimes if the nurse or doctor thinks that you are at high risk they can give you medication called PEP (Post Exposure Prophylaxis) , this can reduce the risk of HIV infecting your body. PEP needs to be taken within 72 hours of the risk (e.g. unprotected sex) but should be taken as soon as possible (ideally within 24 hours). If you are at risk of catching HIV and your local sexual health clinic is closed then you can also get PEP from A&E services. PEP is not guaranteed to work so condoms are the best thing at reducing the risk of catching any STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection) including HIV.

Another medication called PrEP (Pre Exposure Prophylaxis) can be taken before having sex to reduce (or even stop) the transmission (catching) of HIV. If you have multiple unknown sexual partners (people you’re not in a relationship with) or have sex with people who are at risk of having HIV then it is a good idea to speak to a doctor or nurse at a sexual health clinic about PrEP, they can assess your risk and give you more information about PrEP.

You cannot tell if someone has HIV from looking at them, always use a condom to reduce the risk.

There is no charge for testing, receiving results or treatment (if you have HIV), all services for sexual health are free in the U.K.

If you think that you have symptoms of HIV then you should stop having sexual contact and make an appointment as soon as possible, some clinics offer a walk-in service (where you don’t need an appointment).

Condoms will reduce the risk of catching any STI’s including HIV. Condoms are free at all sexual health clinics and services.

 

Pubic lice

Doc. RNDr. Josef Reischig, CSc. / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

Doc. RNDr. Josef Reischig, CSc. / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

Pubic lice (sometimes known as crabs) is a tiny parasite which will live in thick body hair, usually pubic hair but also underarm hair, beards and even eyelashes!

Often you can’t see pubic lice as they are so small, sometimes you might see one crawling across the skin, they are yellow-grey in colour. You are more likely to see their eggs which are brown and normally attached to strands of hair, sometimes you might even see little black dots on the skin, this is their droppings (poo). Sometimes you might notice nothing at all.

Getting pubic lice used to be quite common as they spread very easily but now more people are shaving which has seen a reduction in pubic lice but it’s important to remember that shaving can cause little micro cuts and tears in the skin which can put you at risk of catching other STI’s (Sexually Transmitted Infections) as it leaves a small opening in the skin for infection to easily get in.

Pubic lice can easily move from one person to another when their bodies are close e.g. through sexual contact or by using the same towels bedding or clothes as someone with pubic lice. After coming in to contact with someone who has pubic lice it may take a couple of weeks before you notice anything. Firstly you might notice that the skin is irritated or you might feel itchy, if scratched the skin might become inflamed or sore.

If you think that you have pubic lice you can get checked at a sexual health clinic or your own GP, it is worth being tested for other STI’s whilst you’re there if you are sexually active (having sexual contact with someone). If the nurse or doctor find that you have pubic lice they will offer you treatment, sometimes they will give you some for your partner too.

The treatment for pubic lice is normally a cream to put all over the body, you may have to leave it to soak in then leave it on overnight before washing it off the next day. They will also advise you to wash any towels, clothes or bedding you have used in a washing machine at 50 degrees or higher, this is to kill any remaining eggs or lice. You must tell the doctor or nurse if you think you are pregnant as this may affect the treatment that they offer you.

There is no charge for testing, receiving results or treatment (if you have pubic lice), all services for sexual health are free in the U.K.

If you think that you have symptoms of pubic lice then you should stop having sexual contact and make an appointment as soon as possible, some clinics offer a walk-in service (where you don’t need an appointment).

Condoms will reduce the risk of catching STI’s but not pubic lice. Condoms are free at all sexual health clinics and services.

 

Syphilis

https://www.needpix.com/photo/858229/syphilis-bacteria-microbiology-micro-organism-health-free-pictures-free-photos-free-images-royalty-free

https://www.needpix.com/photo/858229/syphilis-bacteria-microbiology-micro-organism-health-free-pictures-free-photos-free-images-royalty-free

Whilst not as common as other sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) Syphilis cases are increasing in the U.K.

If left untreated syphilis can cause serious health problems.

Many people will not get any symptoms when they catch syphilis and so the only way to know if you have it is to get tested regularly.

Syphilis is a blood borne bacteria which can be easily passed on through vaginal, oral or anal sex. It can even be passed on if you share a sex toy with someone who has the virus.

Syphilis cannot be passed on through hugging or non-sexual contact, nor can it be caught from sharing towels, cutlery or toilet seats.

If you do get symptoms with syphilis they are likely to be:

  • In the first stage(0-3 months after coming in to contact with syphilis)- An ulcer or multiple ulcers (called chancre) Often they don’t cause any pain and so are quite different to the ulcers seen with herpes.
  • In the second stage- a rash across the body and quite often on the palms of the hands or soles of the feet. Sometimes you may feel like you have the flu and have swollen glands.

If syphilis isn’t treated or if you don’t have or notice any symptoms then you will still remain infectious (pass it on to other people through sexual contact).  If you don’t have any symptoms then it is difficult to pinpoint when you caught the virus. Having regular check-ups can reduce the risk of passing it on if you catch syphilis.

Testing for syphilis is quick and simple through a blood test at a sexual health clinic or your own GP. Normally the nurse or doctor will ask you a lot of questions, sometimes quite personal, to assess if they need to test you for anything else, they will then take a sample of your blood with a needle and send it off to a laboratory for testing, results normally come back within 4-14 days. Some clinics can offer rapid testing if you are at high risk of catching syphilis or if they think you have symptoms, these results can be as quick as 20 minutes.

Treatment for syphilis is often a course of antibiotic injections and follow-up appointments to check that the treatment has worked. The nurse or doctor will advise you when it is safe to start having sexual contact again.

Because it is quite common for people who have caught syphilis to not have symptoms it is important to get a test if you are sexually active and to have regular tests if you change partners.

If it is less than 12 weeks since you had sexual contact with a new partner (or one with syphilis) then the nurse or doctor at a sexual health clinic will give you another appointment to check again.

There is no charge for testing, receiving results or treatment (if you have Genital warts), all services for sexual health are free in the U.K.

If you think that you have symptoms of syphilis then you should stop having sexual contact and make an appointment as soon as possible, some clinics offer a walk-in service (where you don’t need an appointment).

Condoms will reduce the risk of catching any STI’s, including syphilis. Condoms are free at all sexual health clinics and services.

 

Acknowledgement: Thanks to Kelly Walker-Reed for the information on these pages.

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