Sexual health is a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled. (WHO)
Sexual Health covers many aspects from ways to have healthy, fulfilling sexual relationships to physical health and contraception.
There are 15 types of contraception available in the UK. Find out what they are, how to use them, where to get them and the advantages and disadvantages of each method here
Sexually Transmitted infections
Sexually transmitted infections are infections which pass to another person through unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex, by genital contact and through sharing sex toys. You don’t need to have lots of sexual partners to get an infection.
Safer sex involves using condoms correctly every time you have sex. If you don’t use a condom you are more at risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection.
Most sexually transmitted infections can be treated and it is usually best if treatment is started as soon as possible. Some infections, such as HIV, genital warts and genital herpes, never leave the body but there are drugs available that can reduce the symptoms. Drugs can also help prevent or delay the development of complications in HIV.
If you think you might have a sexually transmitted infection you can get tested by going to a
sexual health clinic or genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic. For information about how to find your local clinic click here. Alternatively you can go to your GP and the Terance Higgins Trust have rapid testing clinics if you think you may have HIV.
Not everyone who has a sexually transmitted infection has signs and/or symptoms. Sometimes these don’t appear for weeks or months and sometimes they go away, but you can still have the infection and pass it on to someone else.
If you experience any of the following you should seek advice:
- unusual discharge from the vagina
- discharge from the penis
- pain or burning when you pass urine
- itches, rashes, lumps or blisters around the genitals or anus
- pain and/or bleeding during sex
- bleeding between periods (including women who are using hormonal contraception)
- bleeding after sex
- pain in the testicles
- pain in the lower abdomen.
Even if you don’t have any signs and/or symptoms you may wish to seek advice if:
- you have had unprotected sex with a new partner recently
- you or a sexual partner have sex with other people without using a condom
- a sexual partner has any symptoms
- you are planning a pregnancy and may have been at risk of infection.
If left untreated, many sexually transmitted infections can be painful or uncomfortable, and can permanently damage your health and fertility, and can be passed on to someone else.
Further information about the different types of STIs can be found here