Sexual Health

Sexual Health is the responsibility of each and every one of us.  We all, men and women, have a responsibility to look after, protect and respect our self.

As individuals we cannot pass the blame to others if we become infected by a sexually transmitted infection.

Today in the UK and here in Scotland we are seeing high rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), particularly among the 16 – 24 age groups.

Sexually transmitted infections are passed on through intimate sexual contact (vaginal, anal and oral sexual intercourse).

There have been some suggestions that the increase in the number of diagnosed cases of STIs is due to a greater awareness of the problem, more reliable diagnostic techniques, and an increase in the number of people seeking an STI tests at a sexual health and/or GUM clinic.

STIs include: HIV, chlamydia, pubic lice, hepatitis, thrush, syphilis, gonorrhoea, genital warts, genital herpes.  These are just a few

What are the Symptoms of an STI?

Most STIs vary in their symptoms, and in some cases you may not have an obvious symptom for years.

If you think you have put yourself at risk you should visit your GP, sexual health clinic or local GUM clinic who will talk to you and decide on the most appropriate test.

If you do start to experience itching, redness, swelling or unusual discharge around the penis or vagina or pains in your lower stomach you should seek medical advice.

If you have been infected by the HIV virus you may not develop any symptoms when you first become infected with HIV.  You may get a flu-like illness within three to six weeks after exposure to the virus.  The only way to know if you are HIV-positive is to have a test.

Most sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are initially diagnosed on presentation of the symptoms, and then formally through blood, urine and other tests. The results of an STI test are completely confidential.

Are There Different Kinds of Test?

Until a few years ago, GPs, sexual health and GUM clinics commonly used a swab test to take a sample of secretion from the vagina or penis using a piece of absorbent material attached to a rod, such as a cotton bud.  However, newer tests have been developed that allow a woman to carry out a simple procedure at home, using either a urine sample or by taking a swab from the lower vagina, therefore avoiding the need to have an intimate and embarrassing examination.

However, there are STIs that are difficult to diagnose as they present few or no recognisable symptoms.  For example, chlamydia sometimes presents no symptoms, and often goes undetected unless it leads to complications, such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), ectopic pregnancy or infertility. People infected by the HIV virus may only experience flu like symptoms.  A blood test will be required to diagnose HIV.

What Can I Do To Prevent Catching an STI?

Practise safe sex is the most effective way of preventing a sexually transmitted infection (STI).  This means using protection, a condom is the most effective method.

If you are entering into a new relationship, to be 100% sure that your new partner or indeed that you do not have an STI that has been lying dormant, you could both be tested for STIs before entering into a sexual relationship.

It take only a single episode of unprotected sexual intercourse (i.e. not using a condom) with an person who has an STI or HIV to be transmitted.  You may be fortunate first time not to have caught an STI or HIV from someone.  The message being promoted is ‘that,  it is never too late to start practising safer sex’.

Symptoms & Treatment of STIs

See section STIs Symptoms and Treatment for some information.