Staying safe from STIs
Getting an STI is not the end of the world, but it can be very distressing, especially if it is an STI that causes painful or uncomfortable symptoms, or if it is incurable. Even having an STI that can be completely cured by medication can be an upsetting experience, and many people find it embarrassing to discuss the infection with their doctor and people close to them. STIs are certainly nothing to be happy or proud about, and not something a person would choose to experience, so why do so many people put themselves at risk?
The answer frequently cited is a lack of awareness and education about STIs, especially amongst young people. This is something we have discussed previously in this very blog. Aside from the obvious methods of avoiding STIs - practising abstinence or using a barrier method of contraception - there are other things you can do to minimise the risk of infection.
Making sure your communication lines are open with your partner - and any sexual partner you have - is crucial, not just in terms of your sexual health but for the well-being of your relationship as well. When it comes to making sure you remain sexually healthy, communication is particularly key in the early stages of a relationship. Remember that you can never know for sure if someone is clear of STIs unless they take an STI test. If you are planning on having sex with a new partner without using a condom, it is strongly recommended that you both take an STI test to ensure you are both in the clear.
Did you know experts recommend that sexually active individuals should take an STI test every year? Despite this recommendation, a shocking number of people admit that they have never taken a single STI test. This means people could have an STI and be entirely unaware of it, because often they do not display any symptoms. You should never assume that you are clear of STIs unless a test has confirmed this for you. If you have had unprotected sex, you should take an STI test after about two weeks, as this the amount of time it takes for an infection to appear in your urine, which is analysed as part of the testing process. Many people make the mistake of thinking that they will wait until they notice symptoms to take a test but, as many STIs are asymptomatic, this is not a good idea.
Using the right protection
It's astonishing but, despite attempts to provide comprehensive education in these matters, many people still hold the mistaken belief that oral contraception will protect them from contracting an STI. In reality, oral contraceptives are extremely effective at preventing pregnancy but do absolutely nothing in terms of protection from sexually transmitted infections. A condom is the only method of protection which can protect against the majority of STIs. However, you should still be aware that some STIs - such as genital herpes - can spread through direct skin-to-skin contact, and thus there is no guarantee that using a condom will prevent the spread of this STI during an outbreak.
What to do if you become infected
Firstly - don't panic! Even STIs that are incurable can still be treated and managed, so there is really no reason for you to be too distressed. The most important thing to do is seek the treatment you need. Take an STI test to confirm the diagnosis and you will then be able to find out which treatment you will need to take. Most STIs can be cured completely with just one course of antibiotics. If you are concerned you may have caught an STI, you can take a test here at LabsDirect.