Frequently asked questions about STIs
Below are some frequently asked questions about STIs. Click on each question to show the answer.
STIs are infections that can be passed on when you have unprotected sex, or other close sexual contact with another person.
Many people with STIs don’t have symptoms, so it is worth getting tested if you think you have put yourself at risk. For a woman, signs and symptoms may include:
- a change in discharge from the vagina;
- pain or stinging when passing urine;
- itchiness, soreness or redness in the genital area;
- swelling of the genitals;
- blisters, ulcers or warts around the genital area;
- bleeding between periods;
- bleeding after sex;
- pain having sex;
- abdominal pain.
Often women have no symptoms - that’s why it’s important to have a check-up if you have had unprotected sex.
For a man, signs and symptoms may include:
- discharge or pus from the tip of the penis or anus;
- pain or a burning feeling when passing urine;
- itchiness, soreness or redness around the penis or under the foreskin;
- blisters, ulcers or warts around the genital area.
Men should try not to pass urine for at least an hour before attending the clinic for a check-up. This will help with tests to find out if there is an infection.
Common STIs include: chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis, HIV, genital warts, genital herpes, Non Specific Urethritis (NSU). Other infections that can be triggered by sexual contact include bacterial vaginosis and thrush and these can also be treated at GUM clinics.
Anyone who has vaginal, anal or oral sex can get or spread STIs. Find out more about protecting yourself from STIs.
It is important to get tested if you think you have put yourself at risk. Many people with STIs don’t have symptoms, so it is worth getting tested even if you feel healthy. If you think you have an infection, you should not have sex until you have had a check-up. Both you and the person/s you had sexual contact with should go to a GUM clinic or your GP as soon as possible. Find out more about getting tested.
Most STIs are easy to treat. Treatment for each infection is different. Following consultation with a doctor and tests, it may include lotions, tablets or injections. It is important that the course of treatment is completed. You should follow any advice given by the doctor about not having sex during treatment. Treatment and medication are free of charge.
If not treated early, some STIs can do permanent damage to your health. You also risk spreading the infection.
Different STIs can cause a range of serious implications for your health if you are not treated including:
- pelvic inflammatory disease;
- pain or swelling in the testicles;
- pregnancy complications;
- passing on infections to your new born baby;
- weakened immune system;
- liver damage;
- liver cancer;
- cervical cancer.
There are lots of ways to reduce your risk of getting an STI. Find out more about protecting yourself.