Sexual Health: STIs & (self) Testing
STIs are an unavoidable risk of being sexually active. Most sexually active people will catch one at some point in their life. Despite the unnecessary stigma surrounding catching an STI, it is nothing to be ashamed of. Most STIs are curable, but preventing infection is better.
You can catch an STI through, for example:
- unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex
- sharing sex toys that are not washed or covered with a new condom each time they're used
- your genitals coming into contact with your partner's genitals – means you can get infected by someone even with no penetration, orgasm or ejaculation
- infected semen or vaginal fluid
- skin-to-skin contact with the infected area (including vaginal, anal and oral sex)
- transferring the infection on fingers from someone else to your genitals
- by sharing sex toys with someone who has herpes
Many STIs can be asymptomatic. You can have them without knowing it. Even with no symptoms, you can pass on the infection to your sex partner.
When an STI shows symptoms they are in most cases:
- unusual discharge from the vagina, penis or anus
- pain when peeing
- lumps or skin growths around the genitals or anus
- a rash
- unusual vaginal bleeding
- itchy genitals or anus
- blisters and sores around the genitals or anus
Different STI take a different amount of time to develop symptoms. It can vary from a few days or weeks to months or never. It is therefore important to monitor your sexual health by regular testing and prevent further spreading, in case you would ever catch one.
You can get tested at:
- a sexual health clinic – find a sexual health clinic . Everyone can get a free and anonymous STI test at a sexual health clinic. Usually you can walk in without an appointment. Going to your GP is an option, although they probably won’t do the test and will refer you to a sexual health clinic instead. The test results from a sexual health clinic are generally quicker than those from a GP and in case of needing treatment you won’t have to pay a prescription fee. Sexual health clinics operate on an anonymous basis, meaning you won’t need to provide your real name or GP information. Your details won’t be shared with anyone outside of the clinic, unless you want to. Sexual health clinics also give you the option to ask for a male or female nurse or doctor.
- some community contraceptive clinics – find contraceptive services
- some sexual health services – call the national sexual health line on 0300 123 7123, or Worth Talking About (for under-18s) on 0300 123 2930
- some GP surgeries
- some pharmacies can also test for chlamydia. Find out where you can get a free chlamydia test through the National Chlamydia Screening Programme (under-25s only).
- Sexual Health London (SHL) is London’s new sexual health e-service that provides free and easy access to sexual health testing via the internet and local venues. The service is available to people aged 16 and over who are residents in most Boroughs of London. The service provides testing for a range of sexually transmitted infections including chlamydia, gonorrhoea, HIV, syphilis, hepatitis B and hepatitis C via samples you can collect at home.
- SH:24 is a free online sexual health service, delivered in partnership with the NHS. SH:24 makes it easier for people to get tested for the four most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
They provoide free test kits, information and advice - 24 hours a day. It is quick, discreet and completely confidential. SH:24 was set up by a team of public health professionals, sexual health clinicians, designers and academics.
- Fettle makes it easy to take control of your own health. Manage your health online with testing, treatment and contraception by post, and put your mind at ease with confidential support and advice from our dedicated clinicians.