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Understanding Sexually Transmitted Infections
Sexually transmitted infections are mainly passed from one person to another during intimate sexual contact. They can be contracted during vaginal, anal and oral sex.
STI's are also referred to as sexually transmitted diseases, however, infection is a more accurate term. A person can be infected without experiencing any of the traditional symptoms of a disease but, be that as it may, they still have an infection that needs treating.
The number of people who have been diagnosed with STIs has risen significantly over the last few years. In the UK, the number of people diagnosed with chlamydia, the most common STI, tripled between 1995 and 2005.
Consult our checklist if you are worried that you may have contracted an STI
While some STI's show no symptoms, others show standard signs of infection.
STI's affect more than one person. It is vital to discuss STI's with your partner
Am I at Risk?
- I have discharge, pain or sores in my genital area.
- I have had unsafe sex (without a condom, condom not used properly, condom fell off).
- I have a new partner or many partners.
- My partner and/or I inject or have ever injected drugs.
- I have had contact with someone else's blood (eg getting a tattoo or body piercing, fighting).
If you said YES even once, or are thinking of having a baby, GET AN STI TEST.
Please Note: Urine based tests are unlikely to pick up signs of an STI infection if you caught the infection within the last two weeks.
The following symptoms could indicate that you have an STI:
- Unusual discharge from the vagina, penis or anus
- Pain on passing urine, or needing to pass urine more often
- Sores, blisters, warts, rashes, irritation or itching near the genitals or anus
- Pain during sex
- Bleeding after sex or between periods
- Pelvic or lower abdominal pain
You may have an STI but have no symptoms. STIs can still be passed from person to person even if this is the case.
Find out more about specific symptoms by clicking on the titles;
Talking to Your Partner
It's completely understandable to be afraid to tell your partner about having an STI. There is a stigma attached to STI's, that they are somehow 'dirty' and a sure sign of sexual promiscuity. You have to overcome this fear and be as open and honest as you can possibly be. This is a situation that affects more than just you. You have to make sure that your partner gets tested as well so they can get the proper treatment. If is very important that you are both treated at the same time, to avoid a 'ping pong' effect of passing the infection back and forth between you.
Be armed with the facts: The important thing to remember is - all the STI's that FirstMed test for are highly treatable and manageable. The more you know about your STI, the more you can relieve your partner's fears. Approaching the conversation in a confident manner can help your partner to feel that this is something that you can deal with together.
Avoid blame and jumping to conclusions: Often, when someone in a monogamous relationship becomes aware of a sexually transmitted disease or infection, it is automatically assumed that it means that someone in the relationship must have cheated. This may or may not be true. Many STI's can stay dormant in your system for months or years without showing any symptoms so you or your partner may have contracted it from a former boyfriend or girlfriend.