An STI is an infection passed on through sexual contact. Infections can cause ill health, which can have long-term physical and psychological health consequences if not treated. Some might even lead to death.
Most STI’s can be treated – some people may be embarrassed if they have caught an STI and this could stop them from getting help, but a visit to the GUM (Genito-Urinary Medicine) Clinic will soon help to get you checked out – it’s free, confidential and non-judgemental. Some clinics and GP’s test for Chlamydia, but the GUM Clinic test for everything!
Male and female condoms can protect against many STI’s. This section is designed to be used for some fast information but if you want more info… visit some sexual health websites or search on Google.
* There are always risks when you have sex, but you can make sure the sex you have is safer by using a condom every time.
If you have decided to have sex with your partner, by using condoms correctly it can stop you from catching most STI’s – including HIV. There are other things that can be done to make sex safer;
- Discuss with your partner before you have sex how you are both going to protect yourselves from pregnancy and STI’s, (i.e. use a condom and go on the pill)
- Practice using condoms so you know you are putting on properly, and use a new one every time you have sex.
- Always have a supply of condoms. You can get them free or cheap at many places – see contraception.
- Try different types of condoms until you’re both happy with your choice. For gay men it is recommended that ‘extra strong’ condoms are used.
- Lubricant (‘lube’) helps to prevent a condom from splitting – and it is especially recommended for gay men. Lube is also really good fun as it can be used for massaging into the genital areas during foreplay, and it helps to prevent friction.
- Learn about how infections and STI’s are spread and what symptoms to look for – just in case.
What is a GUM clinic?
A GUM Clinic stands for Genito-Urinary Medicine Clinic and it is one of the most confidential places you will ever visit. Any records of you being there will stay there – meaning that it won’t be recorded on your medical notes and it can never be passed on, not even to your GP. * [Confidentiality may be broken in exceptional circumstances, for example, for child protection issues, but you will be told about this wherever possible].
It’s also a free service – treatment, tests, emergency contraception and condoms are all free. Nobody will judge you – whatever your reason is for being there.
What will happen to me there?
You will see a doctor or nurse, and they will ask you some questions about your sexual health and then they might take a swab, (a sample taken with something similar to a cotton bud) from a girl or boy’s genital area during the examination. You may also be asked to do a urine test, which means you just wee into a container and bring it back to them. Sometimes the doctor will need to do an internal examination which doesn’t hurt – it’s just a gentle examination of the vagina / penis. Finally, they may ask for a simple blood test. All of this is up to you – if you don’t want to have these tests you don’t have to. Have a chat with the staff at the Clinic.
What is infertility?
Infertility means when a man or a woman is unable to conceive a child, (or the woman is unable to have a baby). Difficulty or inability to have children can affect men and women and there are many causes.
What does symptom mean?
A symptom is when you get signs of something, for example a symptom of illness, for example, an STI could be a cold, sore throat, blocked nose… etc. – it doesn’t necessarily mean you have that illness but you are showing symptoms that could relate to it.
What are genitals?
Genitals are the sex organs you find between your legs. Genitals in females are known as the vagina, vulva, clitoris, labia. In males it’s the penis, scrotum, testicles…they have many names!! They may also be known as genitalia.
What is a virus? What is a bacterial infection?
A virus is a micro-organism (bug / germ) that, once infected, it stays in your body forever. The infection can be treated and the ‘problem’ will go away, but it can come back at any time throughout your life.
A bacterial infection can also cause illness / symptoms but can be treated with antibiotics and may not come back again, unless you are exposed to the infection again (like Chlamydia, for example).
Rashes, sores, burning, smelling, itching and generally feeling unwell are some symptoms that you may have an STI. BUT most people don’t have any signs or symptoms that they have an STI so always get checked!