Sexually transmitted diseases, otherwise known as sexually transmitted infections (STI), are infections that are spread during sexual intercourse if one partner is already infected and protection is not used. Only barrier forms of contraception, such as condoms, can protect against STIs. STIs can be either bacterial, viral or parasitic.
STIs are becoming increasingly common in the UK and are a cause of concern for many health bodies. The most common STIs in the UK are chlamydia and genital warts.
Individuals between the ages of 16 and 24 are considered to be at the highest risk of contracting an STI. However, any person of any age is at risk of becoming infected if they are sexually active, especially if they do not use adequate protection.
There are three varieties of STIs and they are bacterial, viral and parasitic. There are many STIs, including bacterial vaginosis, chlamydia, genital herpes, genital warts, gonorrhoea and trichomonas vaginalis, among others.
Any STI has the potential to be dangerous, especially if proper treatment is not sought. Viral STIs such as genital herpes and genital warts are incurable, but they are not dangerous in the sense that they can cause long-term health complications. Bacterial STIs can be cured completely, but only with treatment. If they are not treated, they have the potential to lead to problems like infertility and epididymitis.
As the name suggests, STIs are spread through unprotected sexual contact. This can be vaginal, anal or oral sex. It is also possible for the infection to spread if sex toys are shared when one partner is already infected.
Contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of STIs do not present visible symptoms. It is entirely possible to be completely unaware that you have an STI. For this reason, it is imperative that you take an STI test if you have had unprotected sex, as this is the only way to know for sure if you are infected or not.
This depends on the type of STI. Bacterial STIs such as gonorrhoea and chlamydia are completely curable with a simple course of antibiotics, and this is also the case with parasitic STIs. Viral STIs like genital herpes are incurable, but they are treatable. Antiviral medications are able to control outbreaks by reducing associated symptoms and the overall severity of an outbreak.
It is generally advised that those who are sexually active should take an STI test once a year, even if they use protection. However, you should take an STI test every time you have had unprotected sex. It is strongly advised that you stay safe from these infections by using the right protection every time you have sex.
Use a form of barrier contraception every time you have sex, such as a condom. You should do this for any type of sex you engage in, including anal and oral sex. You should talk openly with any new sexual partner and ensure they have been tested, as it is possible that they could have an infection without realising it.