Why should I get tested for STIs?

Using condoms will protect you from many STIs, and many of them are easily cured or can be vaccinated against. However, the transmission of some STIs is very difficult to prevent, even if you have safer sex, so sexually active people should go for a check-up about every six months to test for these infections. You may have an STI without knowing it, so sexual health check-ups are an important part of staying healthy.

Being infected with one STI can make others easier to catch. If you are living with HIV, other STIs can make it more likely that you'll pass on HIV if you have sex without condoms. If you are HIV-negative, being infected with another STI can make you more vulnerable to HIV infection.

Where can I get tested for STIs?

In the UK STI diagnosis and treatment happens at GUM clinics. These are free to use and generally provide testing, treatment, and other sexual health services, depending on where you live. Some clinics offer specialist services for gay men or trans people where clinicians are specifically trained to meet the sexual health needs of these groups. 

You can find your nearest GUM clinic using the NHS website.

How can I get treated for an STI?

Most of the infections you need to be aware of are either viral or bacterial. Most bacterial infections, such as gonorrhoea and NSU, can be treated with antibiotics, and so they should clear up pretty quickly. Viral infections are typically more difficult to treat, and some (like HIV and herpes) cannot be cured. All treatments for STIs, including antibiotics, work with your body's immune system to fight off infection. If your immune system is weakened, this process will be more difficult, and may take longer or not work at all.

Why should I tell my recent partners that if I am diagnosed with an STI?

If you've been diagnosed with an STI, don't assume that all people you have had sex with will already know if they have an STI. It is possible to be infected with an STI without having any symptoms. The person who gave you an STI probably didn't know they had one and, without knowing, you may have already passed on your STI to someone else. Untreated, STIs can cause serious medical problems and some can be life-threatening. They can also make people more likely to pick up HIV if they are HIV-negative or pass on HIV if they are HIV-positive.

So even if you feel a bit awkward about informing your sexual partners that you have an STI, it's really important you do it so they have the opportunity to get tested and treated.

Last updated: 13/01/2020