Chlamydia is a bacterial STI that affects both guys and girls,and is easily
passed on. It usually infects the penis or vagina but it can also affect the
throat, bum and eyes. Although particularly common amongst younger people, it
can affect anyone who is sexually active.
Often people who are infected with Chlamydia have no idea that they have
it. Around 70% of girls and 50% of guys who have Chlamydia have no symptoms at all. If you do have symptoms they may be so mild that they aren’t noticed.
Antibiotics will effectively treat Chlamydia. When one person is treated, it’s important that the people they’ve had sex with are tested and treated too.
If you think you have Chlamydia check out the ‘Where Can I?’ page for more information.
Practicing safer sex by using condoms can reduce the risk of getting Chlamydia.
Pubic lice or crabs cannot jump or fly and are spread by close, usually sexual, contact. Sometimes they can be spread by sharing bedding, towels, and clothing.
Although they are commonly found in pubic hair, pubic lice can also be found in other coarse hair such as under the arms, on hairy legs, abdomens and chests, and occasionally in beards and eyebrows. They cannot travel into the hair on the head.
Avoid close contact with a person known to have pubic lice until they have been treated. Ensure people who have been in close contact with an infected person are also treated to avoid re-infection. Machine wash bedding, towels, and clothing in hot water to prevent re-infection.
A medical shampoo or lotion treats pubic lice. Anti-itch medication or cream can be used to relieve itching that may continue for a few weeks after treatment.
There is no protection for pubic lice. But you can reduce your risk of getting them by limiting the number of people you have intimate or sexual contact with. If you or your partner has them, do not have sex until the treatment is completed.
Gonorrhoea is a bacterial infection and both men and women can become infected. It is usually passed from one person to another during sex. The bacteria can live inside the cells of the entrance to the womb (cervix), the tube the urine comes out of (urethra), the bum (rectum), the throat and occasionally the eyes.
It’s important to not just test yourself but to also test and treat (if appropriate) all your sexual contacts. This helps to prevent the infection being passed on to others. Tests are generally done by swabbing the area or by a urine test.
The infection can be treated effectively with antibiotics. If you think you have gonorrhoea check out the ‘Where Can I?’ page for more information
It’s possible to have gonorrhoea and not have symptoms. When symptoms do occur, guys are more likely to notice them than girls. The symptoms depend on the site of the infection.
Symptoms in girls may include:
Practicing safer sex by using condoms can reduce the risk of getting the infection.
Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the herpes simplex virus.
There are two type of this virus: types 1 and 2. Type 2 is most commonly responsible for causing genital herpes, but type 1 (which mostly causes cold sores) can cause genital herpes when spread through oral sex.
The first attack of genital herpes is usually the most severe. Symptoms may include:
Symptoms disappear after ten to 21 days. After the first attack, the virus hides in the nerve fibres causing no symptoms. Some people never get another outbreak; others may find it re-occurs when they’re stressed or run-down. Recurrent attacks usually affect the same area but are less severe.
Genital herpes is spread through the skin during intimate sexual contact, such as penetrative or oral sex. Blisters or sores don’t have to be present for the virus to be spread, but when they are transmission is more likely. Practicing safer sex helps to reduce the risk of infection being passed on. It’s also advisable to avoid sexual contact when the blisters and sores are present.
Genital herpes will clear up without treatment. Antiviral medication can be used to help reduce the symptoms and the duration of the infection.
Painkillers, bathing in cool water, wearing loose-fitting clothing, applying an ice pack and drinking plenty of water all help to relieve symptoms during an attack.
Hepatitis is a term used to describe inflammation or swelling of the liver. It can occur as a result of a viral infection or because the liver is exposed to substances such as alcohol. There are different types of hepatitis, some which can persist for many years, and serious cases can be fatal. Hepatitis causes no noticeable symptoms, so when hepatitis is caused by a virus, many people are unaware they are infected. The most common types of hepatitis are described as:
Hepatitis A, caused by the hepatitis A virus, and is the most common type of viral hepatitis. It occurs in the UK, but is more common in countries where sanitation and sewage disposal are poor. Hepatitis A is usually caught by putting something in your mouth that has been contaminated with the poo of someone with hepatitis A. It is usually a short-term infection and symptoms will pass within 3 months. There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A other than using painkillers to relieve symptoms. A vaccination can protect you against hepatitis A.
Hepatitis B is caused by the hepatitis B virus. This can be found in blood and body fluids, such as semen and vaginal fluids, so it can be spread during unprotected sex or sexual contact and through using the same needle as someone with the infection. It is a viral infection that affects the liver and blood. It has long term complications which can include liver failure and cirrhosis of the liver, most people infected with hepatitis B are able to fight off the virus and recover from the infection within a few months. The infection can be unpleasant to live with, but normally causes no lasting harm; a small minority of people develop a long-term infection. This is known as chronic hepatitis B. A vaccination is available for hepatitis B, which is recommended for people in high-risk groups, such as drug users. To reduce your risk of getting the infection:
Hepatitis C is the most common type of viral hepatitis in England. The virus can be found in the blood and, to a much lesser extent, the saliva and semen or vaginal fluid of an infected person. It is particularly strong in the blood, so it can be passed on through blood-to-blood contact. Most often hepatitis C is passed on through needle sharing drug use. Hepatitis C often causes no symptoms or symptoms are flu-like, so people can be unaware they are infected. Around one in four people will fight off the infection and will be free of the virus. In the remaining three out of four people, the virus will stay in their body for many years. This is known as chronic hepatitis C. Chronic hepatitis C can be treated by taking antiviral medications, although there can be unpleasant side effects. There is currently no vaccination for hepatitis C.
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. If someone is infected by HIV (is HIV positive) it will stay with them for the rest of their life. HIV is a virus which weakens and damages the immune system so that person cannot fight off infections. Someone who has HIV may be diagnosed as having AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) or late stage HIV if tests show their immune system cannot cope and they develop one or more particular illnesses. With earlier diagnosis and treatment means that most people will not go on to develop AIDS.
HIV can be passed from one person to another through blood, semen, pre-ejaculation, vaginal fluids or breast milk. So using needles which have already been used by someone infected with HIV, having unprotected sex, blood entering the body through cold sores or cuts will increase the risk.
If you have had sex with someone in the last three days (72 hours) who is HIV positive, you can take a short course of anti-HIV drugs which may help to prevent infection but is not always effective.
Once you are infected with HIV you will remain infected with the virus for the rest of your life and will be able to pass it on to someone else. HIV needs to be monitored carefully and treatment given when necessary or it will cause long-term damage and could develop into the later stages, which can cause death.
Many people who are infected by HIV have no symptoms at all. About half the number of people who become infected my get flu- like symptoms within the first few weeks, these may include: fever, rash, swollen glands, sore throat, mouth ulcers and aching muscles/ joints. Some people are first diagnosed with HIV when they become ill due to their immune system becoming weak.
To be sure you have HIV you would need to have a test. About a third of people with HIV do not know they are infected.
Always use a condom when having sex and sexual contact with the other people. You and your partners should be open and honest about having HIV and taking the precautions needed. If you need some support or advice about HIV take a look at the ‘Where can I page?’ for more information.
It’s caused by the bacterium called Treponema Pallidum that enters the body through the mucous membranes of the genital area or the skin. Both guys and girls can get Syphilis and pass it on.
Symptoms develop in three stages:
In stage 1, symptoms may take up to 12 weeks to appear after infection. One or more painless sores (chancres) appear at the place where the infection entered the body. In girls, they may appear on the vulva, the clitoris, around the opening of urethra, or on the cervix. In guys they may appear on the penis or the foreskin.
In guys and girls they may appear around the anus and mouth and the sores can take between two to six weeks to heal.
At stage 2; which develops within the next two years if the infection isn’t treated in stage one, symptoms may include:
The tertiary or latent stage occurs anytime after the first two years. Some people have no further symptoms, others may develop symptoms up to 20 years later that include personality changes, mental illness, meningitis, aortic aneurysm, and joint and nervous system damage causing weakness and walking difficulties.
The 1st and 2nd stage of Syphilis is treated using a single antibiotic or course of injections, tablets or capsules. When you attend your doctors they will ask you to give a blood sample and do an examination of the genitals which may include internal examinations of penis and vagina and anus. They will check the rest of your body for general rashes and warty growths. A swab will be used to collect a sample of fluid from any sores. This shouldn’t be painful, although you may feel some discomfort; it’s only for a few seconds.
Practicing safer sex reduces the chance of contracting the infection. If one partner has the infection, sexual contact should be avoided until the infection has been treated.
Thrush is an infection that is caused by a yeast fungus. It is NOT a STI but can sometimes develop after sex. 3 of out 4 women will have thrush at some point in their lives, however guys are far less likely to have it.
Thrush is usually caused by yeast fungus Candida Albicans. This yeast is natural and lives harmlessly on the skin, in the mouth, gut and vagina.
Treatment is simple; you will most likely be given some antifungal cream, pessaries, pills or a combination. The cream is applied to the area and the pessary is usually an almond-shaped tablet which is placed into the vagina. If you are sure you have thrush you can buy treatment from the pharmacy without attending your GP.
Your chances of developing thrush are increased by:
Not everyone will have symptoms, but you might notice:
Some people get thrush once and other will experience it may times. If you get thrush 4 or more times in 12 months you should seek medical attention, this is called re-current thrush. Avoid wearing tight clothing, make sure the vagina is well lubricated before sex and girls should wash and wipe genitals from front to back.
Genital warts are caused by infection with a virus called the Human Papilloma Virus or HPV; this is different from the strain that causes warts on the fingers and hands. It’s an STI which is spread through intimate contact. This doesn’t need to be penetrative sex; close genital contact is enough. Guys and girls can get genital warts.
You would need to make an appointment at your local GUM clinic. Sometimes genital warts can be treated by painting them with a special liquid which you can apply at home.
Other treatments include cryotherapy (freezing), cauterisation (burning), laser therapy and surgical removal under general anaesthetic.
Genital warts may feel like gritty, hard bumps on the skin of the genitals or around the anus before they are seen. Usually more than one genital wart is present. When visible, they may appear as flat, smooth, small bumps, or quite large, pink, cauliflower-like lumps. They may itch, but are usually painless.
Practicing safer sex by using condoms provides some protection.