Sexually transmitted diseases or infections, commonly called STDs or STIs, are a collection of diseases that are passed on to people through unprotected sex.
Anyone having sex is at risk of a sexually transmitted disease from an infected partner if they don’t use any protection (e.g. condoms or dental dams). There are over 25 different STDs which can be spread during vaginal, oral or anal sex. Take a look at the right-hand menu to read more.
If left untreated, STDs can cause infertility and permanent damage to your health. Anyone can catch an STD – even those in long-term relationships. Even if you’ve been with your partner for some time you can catch a disease. This doesn’t necessarily mean your partner has been unfaithful; some infections can lie dormant in the body for some time and may not cause symptoms.
Early diagnosis and treatment is therefore essential. That said, many STDs have no signs and you may not be aware you’re infected until it has caused damage. The best course of action if you are sexually active is to regularly check your sexual health to prevent that happening.
If you are worried about having an STD, or are planning a pregnancy, visit your doctor or local G.U.M. clinic for an STD test. GUM clinics treat all information with total confidentiality and will not even tell your doctor unless you ask them to. To find out where your nearest local GUM clinic is, click here: FIND YOUR NEAREST GUM CLINIC.
To reduce the risk of getting STDs, you should get to know new partners before having sex and always use condoms until you are certain that neither of you have any infections. Trust is a huge part of this and often the only way to know for sure is for you and your partner to be fully tested for all infections. Remember, you can’t always tell if you or your partner has a sexual infection as neither of you might have any symptoms.
Explore other ways of having sex such as kissing, stroking and touching. Use condoms on sex toys such as vibrators if they are being shared, and always wash the toy between activities. Always put a new condom on for each new partner and activity.
If spotted early enough, most STDs can be easily treated. Drugs can often control those that can’t be treated, like HIV. You can also get a vaccination to protect against hepatitis A and B if you believe you could be at risk of catching the infection.
Even in this day and age many people are still embarrassed about buying condoms, but they can be now bought in most places and are as easy to buy as a newspaper. You can also buy them in vending machines in pubs and nightclubs but always check for a kite mark as a sign of quality. Condoms are free from your local GUM clinic and family planning clinic too.
When using condoms always use them correctly and practice at home first if you have never used one before. Never use any oils or Vaseline™ with male condoms, as it will damage them. Always check the expiry date, and always keep a spare supply where they can’t get damaged by light, heat or damp.
When opening a condom, make sure that the foil, fingernails or jewellery do not damage the fine rubber. Never re-use a condom and never flush them down the toilet. Wrap them in tissue and place them in the bin.
Sex is a natural, healthy and fun part of life but it does need thought and preparation to avoid problems later on. Make sure you educate yourself on sexual health, risks and treatments and you’ll be able to carry on enjoying sex without worry.