Did You Miss National STI Day?

National STI Day took place on the 14th of January, around a fortnight after the end of the party season that covers Christmas and New Year, a period of time in which many people indulge in unprotected sex. 

The Sexual Health Service in North and North East Lincolnshire made it a point to let people know that they should be tested, for the sake of themselves and any future partners they may have. Advice and treatment on free condoms, emergency contraception and other sexual health issues were given by the Service, which is provided by Virgin Care, from their centres located in Barton-under-Humber, Grimsby and Scunthorpe. 

The service is a part of the sexual health hub of Virgin Care, a portal for advice and information that allows people to locate the clinic closest to them, and book appointments online at any time.

The importance of STI testing

The Virgin Care Sexual Health Centre’s service manager at North and North East Lincolnshire, Jill Ladlow, said that testing was very important at any time of the year, and that its importance grew after the Christmas period, given the tendency of people to have unsafe or unplanned sex during this time. 

Ladlow noted that ‘party seasons’ can often result in unprotected sex, and thus the likelihood of developing sexually transmitted infections, such as the likes of chlamydia and gonorrhoea, is increased. These are infections that carry with them the possibility of complications such as infertility later in life. 

Common sexually transmitted infections like chlamydia can take a fortnight to be detectable, which is why the decision was made to choose the middle of January for National STI Day. The fact that the 14th was also exactly one month prior to Valentine’s Day was also a factor, meaning that people would have the results of their STI test by that date, and could celebrate the occasion without worries over their sexual health.

The rate of sexually transmitted infections has been on the increase over the course of the last decade, and while increased and superior testing is the cause of some of the rise, the high level of STI transmission is also being attributed to risky sexual behaviour. Full STI screens are available from The GUM Clinic

The most common STIs

Chlamydia and gonorrhoea

Chlamydia is the United Kingdom’s most common sexually transmitted infection, and can be transmitted easily during sexual activity. The majority of people never experience any symptoms, and are unaware that they have been infected. Chlamydia can result in a burning sensation or pain during urination, for both men and women. Men can experience tenderness and pain in the testicles, and a cloudy, watery or white discharge from the penis. Women may suffer bleeding and pain in the lower abdomen after or during sex, as well as a vaginal discharge. 

A chlamydia infection can also develop in the eyes, rectum and throat. It is easy to treat with antibiotics, but left untreated can cause serious health problems in the long term. Gonorrhoea is the country’s second most common STI, and results in similar symptoms. 

Genital herpes

The herpes simplex virus causes both cold sores and genital herpes, the symptoms of which – small painful sores and blisters, tingling and itching, painful urination – can develop within days of being infected. There is no cure, but antiviral medication can control the symptoms.

Syphilis

In its early stages this bacterial infection causes a highly infectious, if painless, sore on the mouth or genitals, which can last for as long as six weeks, but will then vanish. Late stage syphilis can occur many years after infection, and can result in serious health issues such as blindness, heart problems and paralysis. The later stages can be prevented with proper treatment by antibiotics.

Genital warts

These small fleshy growths, skin changes or bumps appear on or close to the anal or genital area, thanks to the human papilloma virus. After chlamydia this is the next most common STI in the UK. Redness or itching may result, and the warts can sometimes bleed, though they are usually painless. Skin to skin contact is enough to spread HPV, though treatments are available.

HIV

Passed on via unprotected sex and contact with infected blood, HIV weakens the immune system. While there is no cure, today, treatments exist to allow people to live a normal, long life. The final stage of this infection is AIDS, where life-threatening infections can no longer be fought off by the body.