A Sex Education Series won't be complete without a focus on STIs, how to stay safe and how to deal with them, without losing your sexual life. Let's dive into this new episode together!
STIs can be passed on through unprotected (without a condom) vaginal, anal, or oral sex, by genital contact, as well as through sharing sex toys.
There are so many misconceptions about sexually transmitted infections, but the most harmful one is that if you have tested positive, it’ll ruin your sex life. It’s important to bear in mind that STIs are very common and the majority of sexually active people will get one in their lifetimes. If you do contract one, it is not a reflection of the kind of person you are, perhaps simply a reminder to be more careful with using protection.
Remember to always use protection, especially if you and your partners are sleeping with multiple people. If you do test positive, don't have sex again until you’ve completed your full treatment, and make sure to use a condom afterwards.
Even if you only have one partner, it’s important to get checked regularly
STIs can be passed and detected even if you aren’t showing any symptoms. Some people will experience symptoms but others may not have any at all. This can be true for pretty much any STI out there, so the best way to know for sure if you have one is to get tested. You should ideally get checked after every new partner, and if you only have one partner, try and get tested every three months.
If you have an STI, will you be able to tell?
It isn’t always true. A lot of STIs are asymptomatic. Chlamydia, for example, can be dormant and asymptomatic for potentially years, and only flare up if there is an altercation in your immune system such as flu, or some other serious illness. Vaginal discharge can also indicate if something has changed. Although it is completely normal for people with vaginas to have some fluid, if the colour, smell, or consistency seems different or unusual to what you’re used to, especially if it’s accompanied by itching or burning, it might be necessary to see a doctor or get tested.
Consent is key, and so are condoms
Using barrier protection massively reduces your chances of getting an STI, whether this is a condom, dental dam (used for oral sex), or internal condom. Having a shower after sex will not prevent you from getting an STI. Peeing as soon as possible after sex is important if you have a vagina, as it reduces the risk of getting a urinary tract infection but will not prevent STIs.
Remember that any penis can fit inside a condom, don’t let someone convince you otherwise. Don’t let anyone manipulate you into having unprotected sex if you don’t feel comfortable with it. There are lots of different types and sizes available, so you can find whichever one you or your partners prefer. Wearing two condoms does not provide double the protection; it actually makes it more likely that both condoms will break. This is because the two condoms rubbing against each other cause friction, which can lead to tearing. The same is true for internal condoms; don't use an internal condom at the same time as an external condom.
Although condoms are essential in preventing the spread of STIs, there is a medication called PrEP that you can take to prevent yourself from contracting HIV, and you can take it if your partner is HIV+ to reduce the risk of passing on the virus. You can also take PEP if you think you’ve been exposed to HIV, this should be done within 24 hours of exposure. This can be found in A&E, sexual health and GUM clinics. However, PEP doesn’t always work, so it’s vital not to rely on it and make sure you use condoms.
You know what’s best for your body. If sex has become painful or something doesn’t feel right, get tested. If you can’t go to the clinic in person, you can order a test online to your house through SH:24.