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Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI's)

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can affect you at any age, whether you're straight or gay, in a long-term relationship or with a casual partner. Symptoms don't always show up immediately, so you could have been infected recently or a long time ago. It is important to make sure that you always practice safer sex by using a condom.

If you haven't practised safer sex, you can have a FREE confidential checkup and treatment, if needed, at a genitourinary medicine (GUM) or Sexual Health Clinic.

Check out our sexual health clinics links page or contact NHS Direct for details of your nearest Sexual Health Clinic.

Choose a link to find out more:
(or scroll down to browse all STI's)

Chlamydia

Hepatitis B

HIV/AIDS

Genital Herpes

Genital warts

Gonorrhoea

Syphilis



Chlamydia
Non-specific urethritis, which simply means an inflammation or infection of the urethra, is a term which includes infection by chlamydia. Men and women suffering from this infection may complain of an intense burning sensation when passing water. There may also be a white discharge. It actually causes few problems for men other than this discomfort but can be disastrous if it is passed on to women.

This condition is often free of symptoms in women. It is not only the single biggest cause of infection of the Fallopian tubes (pelvic inflammatory disease), leading to infertility and ectopic pregnancy (a potentially lethal condition where the baby attaches to the wall of the Fallopian tube instead of the wall of the womb), but can cause blindness and pneumonia in a child born to an infected woman. Condoms provide almost total protection.

Treatment: Chlamydia is treatable with antibiotics.

Check out our sexual health clinics links page or contact NHS Direct for details of your nearest Sexual Health Clinic.

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Hepatitis B
Although Hepatitis B is one of the more deadly sexually transmitted diseases, there is now a protective vaccine to prevent it. Even so, the number of infected people is rising steadily and stands at roughly 700 men each year. It can cause as little as a flu-like illness or as much as total destruction of the liver. Typically, it will cause different degrees of jaundice (yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes). This is caused by the build-up of a pigment which is normally broken down by the liver.

Most people will not need immunisation but, depending upon your lifestyle, it may be wise to speak to your GP. It is transmitted in the same way as HIV, that is, by bodily fluids. It only needs a tiny fraction of a drop of blood to transmit the disease. For this reason it can be caught from sharing a toothbrush or kissing when there is bleeding from the gums. Worse still, the virus can survive a week or more in the dried state and so can be picked up from, for instance, a razor. There is no way of knowing if the person you are having sex with has the infection. The incubation period, that is, how long it takes before the illness appears, is six months from the time of infection. Some people can 'carry' the virus and not know.

Check out our sexual health clinics links page or contact NHS Direct for details of your nearest Sexual Health Clinic.

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HIV/AIDS
The acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) was first recognised in 1981 in groups of gay men in Los Angeles and New York. It was, however, at that time present in at least four other continents. Since then AIDS has proved to be by far the most serious plague of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

AIDS has now been contracted by 880,000 people in Europe, 920,000 in North America, 360,000 in the Caribbean, 1.3 million in Latin America, 23.3 million in sub-Saharan Africa, 530,000 in East Asia and the Pacific and 6 million in South and South-east Asia. United Nations estimates are that, worldwide, 2.6 million people died from AIDS and AIDS-related diseases in 1999. This was a larger annual total than in any year since the pandemic began. It was also estimated that during 1999, 5.6 million people became infected with AIDS. By the end of that year 32.4 million adults and 1.2 million children were living with AIDS. AIDS has now killed well over 30 million people, and in parts of Africa one person in four is HIV-positive.

In 1999, for the first time, the number of infections acquired by heterosexual intercourse exceeded the number acquired by gay intercourse. Today, a condition that, to begin with, was passed on largely by gay men is now spread far more often by male-with-female sexual intercourse.

Treatment: In spite of improvement in treatment, AIDS is still an incurable disease.  ALWAYS PRACTICE SAFER SEX

Check out our sexual health clinics links page or contact NHS Direct for details of your nearest Sexual Health Clinic.

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Genital Herpes
This is the third most common STI. Roughly 50% of people who have had one attack never have another. Unfortunately, it is impossible to completely get rid of the virus. Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) comes in two forms, HSV I and HSV II. Both infect the same places and are likely to infect parts of the body where two types of skin meet together. Both forms can infect the corners of the mouth, the outer parts of the genital areas and even the anus. Both cause crusted blisters and then ulcers that weep a thin, watery substance. This substance is highly infectious, since it contains the virus that causes the condition. Herpes comes in attacks which can last for months and then disappear for years, or even never return.

You are definitely infectious while you still have the sores. Even when sores are not present, it might be possible to pass on the infection. Other illnesses and stress can bring on these attacks. For some people, the condition will pass unnoticed, with only tiny ulcers on the penis to show its presence.

Treatment: Anti-viral drugs can be applied directly to the affected skin or taken orally. They are most effective if they are used before the sores break out. This is signalled by a tingling, itchy, painful sensation in the affected area. They are only effective during the first attack in some people and have not been shown to have any effect on later attacks. Condoms with a spermicide appear to offer greater protection than those without. You need to arrange your sex life around the condition if you are having an attack, as this means you are highly infectious. Otherwise, the use of condoms gives maximum protection for your partner.

Check out our sexual health clinics links page or contact NHS Direct for details of your nearest Sexual Health Clinic.

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Genital warts
Papilloma viruses, which cause warts, can affect any part of the skin. The virus can be transmitted by physical contact, including sex. Like the warts commonly seen on people's hands, they can vary in size from tiny skin tags to large fungating masses like cauliflowers. One in eight people going to GUM clinics has genital warts.

Around 100,000 people are treated for these warts each year in the UK, many more may simply put up with them, and many people do not even know they have them. They may be a factor in causing cervical cancer in women and rectal cancer in gay men.

Treatment: There are drugs which can be applied directly to warts which will cause them to disappear. Liquid nitrogen is now used less often as it can leave a painful 'burn' in such sensitive areas. Genital warts usually cause little discomfort, although they are often itchy and may bleed with scratching. Use a condom to prevent catching them in the first place.

Check out our sexual health clinics links page or contact NHS Direct for details of your nearest Sexual Health Clinic.

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Gonorrhoea
Caused by a bacterium, this disease is commonly misdiagnosed as it can often give only a few symptoms. It is commonly known as 'the clap' from the French word clapoir, meaning sexual sore. Gonorrhoea is not rare. It can cause a yellow or white discharge from the penis or vagina, along with pain on passing water. When infecting the anus there can be a similar discharge.

Most of the symptoms of infection will start within five days of infection and include a vague ache of the joints and muscles. Although these can disappear after a further 10 or so days, the person is still infectious. It can make it harder for people to conceive if it is not treated.

Treatment: Antibiotics are usually effective. Condoms provide almost 100% protection from infection.

Check out our sexual health clinics links page or contact NHS Direct for details of your nearest Sexual Health Clinic.

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Syphilis
Although a potentially serious condition, syphilis is now very rare in the UK. It is caused by a spirochete, a microscopic parasite, which is highly infectious. Most people are unaware of the infection but if it is not treated, it can develop over a number of years into a condition which can affect the brain.

Women show few signs of the infection in the early stages, except for small ulcers around the vagina, so it can go unnoticed by the woman or by her partner during intercourse. The parasite cannot pass through a condom, so this will give almost 100% protection.

Treatment: Penicillin that is given as a single, large dose can be given by injection and should cure the condition if it is caught in the early stages.

Check out our sexual health clinics links page or contact NHS Direct for details of your nearest Sexual Health Clinic.

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