STI Advice | The Student Pocket Guide

The 18-24 age group is the demographic most affected by sexually transmitted infections in the UK. If you’re a student, then the chances are you fall into this age bracket, and although many of you needn’t worry, the number of people affected by STI’s is rising…

Last year, around 190,000 people in the UK were diagnosed with chlamydia in NHS genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics alone, not including those diagnosed by GPs or in screening programmes. Whilst statistics like these can be frightening, you shouldn’t start panicking about sexual health; there are plenty of ways to keep yourself safe, and if anything does go wrong, help is never far away…

Chlamydia
Most people who have chlamydia don’t notice any symptoms and won’t know if they have the infection. Otherwise, symptoms may include pain when you urinate, unusual discharge and, in women, bleeding between periods or after sex.

Diagnosing chlamydia is easily done with a urine test or a swab of the affected area. Chlamydia is easily treated with antibiotics, but can lead to serious long-term health problems if it’s left untreated.

Gonorrhoea
Gonorrhoea is the second most common STI in the UK. Like chlamydia, the infection can cause an unusual discharge from your vagina or penis, and pain when urinating.

Gonorrhoea can be easily diagnosed through a simple swab test and treated with antibiotics. If left untreated, it can lead to more serious long-term health problems and infertility.

Syphilis
Syphilis is a bacterial infection that causes a painless but highly infectious sore on your genitals or sometimes around the mouth. The sore lasts two to six weeks before disappearing. Secondary symptoms, such as a skin rash and sore throat, then develop.

If diagnosed early, syphilis can be easily treated with antibiotics, usually penicillin injections. But if it is left to progress untreated, syphilis can go on to cause serious conditions such as strokes, paralysis, blindness or even death.

Genital Warts
Genital warts are small fleshy growths, bumps or skin changes that appear on or around your genital or anal area. They are the result of a viral skin infection caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV).You don’t need to have penetrative sex to pass the infection on because HPV is spread by skin-to-skin contact.

Several treatments are available, such as creams and cryotherapy (freezing the warts).

HIV & AIDS
HIV is a virus most commonly caught by having unprotected sex or sharing infected needles to inject drugs. The virus attacks the immune system and weakens your ability to fight infections and disease. AIDS is the final stage of HIV infection, when your body can no longer fight life-threatening infections.

There’s no cure for HIV but there are treatments that enable most people with the virus to live a long and healthy life.

Help is at hand:
If you’ve woken up after a one night stand feeling a bit unsure, or if you want to have a general check-up, don’t panic as there are plenty of options available to you:

  • Walk-in clinics – The NHS provide excellent walk-in services nationwide that are hassle free and completely confidential. If your area doesn’t have a specific sexual health clinic, don’t worry, as general walk-in centres and hospitals (GUM) provide the same service, as will most universities.
  • Home Testing – If you would rather conduct a sexual health test in the comfort of your own home, you can relax. There are numerous services that provide accurate and legitimate tests. If tests are positive, you will be diagnosed and given medication to collect from a nearby clinic.
  • Your Local GP – Seeing someone you trust is very comforting. Your local GP will be more than happy to see you if you are concerned, and again, everything is completely confidential.

Last words?

Save yourself the risks and use contraception. Plenty of surgeries and clinics provide free condoms, so it doesn’t even have to cost you anything to stay safe. And if you do catch something, make sure you tell your sexual partner(s).