What is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI)?
The most common STIs are probably chlamydia, as it often has no symptoms so people don’t know they have it, and human papilloma virus (HPV – the virus that causes genital warts). Many people have HPV but only about 13% will get warts.
Hepatitis B is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis B virus. It is very infectious (100 times more infectious than HIV) and very easily transmitted through unprotected sex or by sharing needles to inject drugs.
STIs are infections which are spread from person to person during sex – including oral sex and anal sex. Injection drug use, tattooing or body piercing can also spread an infection if the needles and equipment aren’t clean. An STI can sometimes be passed from a mother to her baby during pregnancy, at the time of delivery and through the process of breastfeeding.
STIs can infect you in many ways. They can be caused by bacteria. They can be viruses. They can even come in the form of parasites like pubic lice. STIs are found on the body, in blood and in body fluids like semen and vaginal fluids. Sometimes, STIs like genital warts and herpes can be spread through skin-to-skin contact.
Most STIs can be cured, but some will never go away and require lifelong treatment.
What do I do if I think I have a sexually transmitted infection (STI)?
If you think you might have an STI, get it checked out as soon as possible.
You can see your family doctor or visit an Umbrella service provider in your area to find out exactly what you have and how you can treat it.
If you’re aged 16 or over and live in Birmingham or Solihull, you can order a free STI self-sampling kit. You can have a kit delivered to your home or another address, or collect one from a pharmacy or clinic. Follow the simple instructions in your kit to take some samples, then return your kit in the pre-paid package. We will then text or call you with your results.
To be on the safe side, it’s best to avoid having sex until you’ve been tested.
What are the symptoms of a sexually transmitted infection (STI)?
It’s not always easy to recognise the signs of an STI in you or your partner. In fact, some STIs have no symptoms at all, so you may not even know you have one unless you get tested, which is why testing is so important.
Recently I’ve had more discharge than usual and noticed spots around my vagina that hurt when I touch them. The discharge is clear and thin and smells. Have I got an STI?
Vaginal discharge is perfectly normal and naturally varies in consistency throughout your menstrual cycle – and you will naturally make more when you become sexually aroused.
It is a good practice idea to be aware of what is normal for you as you move through your cycle or at times of sexual arousal so that any changes that are unusual are spotted more easily.
If you have had unprotected sex recently you may have an infection.
The spots could simply be a reaction to shaving or waxing or a reaction to a change in soap, body wash, washing powder or even the material your underwear is made from. They could, however, be genital warts.
The only way to be certain is to visit your local Umbrella service provider and get yourself checked out.
I'm worried about the fake STI testing kits you can buy online. How do I know yours are genuine?
Unlike the fake STI testing kits which can be bought online, our self-sampling kits are genuine, completely free and available to residents of Birmingham and Solihull aged 16 or over. We do not charge a fee for sending kits, we include a pre-paid envelope for users to return their samples, and we test samples and send results without any charge to the user. (Please remember that some other suppliers do sell genuine STI kits online.)
The Umbrella service is run by University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB), which supplies our kits.
Returned samples are tested in the laboratory at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, which is also part of UHB.
I recently found out that I have Chlamydia but I don’t know how long I’ve had it. I’ve taken my medication but am worried that I won't be able to conceive. How can I find out if I can still have children?
It is correct that chlamydia can lead to fertility problems. However, this is usually from having chlamydia that has been untreated for a long time.
One of the key issues with sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as chlamydia is that they often have no symptoms, or the symptoms go unnoticed. As a result, people often carry the infection for years without realising.
If you have been treated without any complications and have been given the all clear, it would be highly unlikely that you have been done any lasting damage if you had the infection for a short time. However, if you are experiencing any pain or symptoms you should pop back to the service where you were treated to get checked over.
I had sex and used a condom but I've missed my period and I'm concerned that I may have an STI
There may be a number of reasons why your period is late – including stress – but, to be safe, visit your local Umbrella service provider and ask to be tested for both STIs and pregnancy.
It’s important not to panic.Umbrella sexual health service staff are used to dealing with situations like yours and will help to put you at your ease. Speaking to our staff will also provide an opportunity to discuss and review your contraception choices.
It is unlikely that you are either pregnant or have contracted an STI if you used a condom. Occasionally, however, condoms can break . To be safe, it’s always advisable to use condoms along with a form of long-acting contraception such as the pill, implant or coil.
Hepatitis B infection can be prevented by completing a course of the hepatitis B vaccination. Vaccination is done through a course of injections into the upper arm. In most people a full course of hepatitis B vaccination prevents infection.
Using condoms can protect against catching hepatitis B infection through having sex.
Can I catch a sexually transmitted infection (STI) from having oral sex?
Yes. Being wet and warm, the mouth provides the perfect environment for bacteria to grow. Infections such as gonorrhoea, chlamydia and herpes are examples of STIs which can be caught through oral sex.
Flavoured condoms and dental dams are designed to help prevent the transmission of STIs through oral sex.
If you suspect your partner may have had an infection or if you’ve developed a sore throat after oral sex, or if you have unusual mucus/discharge in your mouth, it’s worth visiting your localUmbrella clinic.
Can having a sexually transmitted infection (STI) stop you conceiving a child?
Yes, certain STIs can cause infertility if left unchecked. Chlamydia and gonorrhoea especially can cause scarring and pelvic inflammatory disease. They often have no symptoms so many people do not realise that they have them.
If you are sexually active, you should consider being tested for STIs.
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