According to new data from Public Health England cases of STIs are on the rise: From 2017-2018 there was a 5% increase in the UK. This is worrying news and there are concerns that people are not getting tested frequently enough – or at all. The report showed that cases of gonorrhoea saw a huge 26% increase.
Dr Alex Eskander, Consultant Gynaecologist at The Gynae Centre says: ‘Many are embarrassed to get an STI check but the reality is that it’s nothing to be ashamed about – STI testing should be a normal part of being sexually active. Sex should be fun and safe for everyone. It’s better to be tested than to be responsible for putting yourself and your partner at risk of contracting an untreatable disease, like HIV. You’d be surprised how many people ignore sexual health screenings because they can’t see any symptoms.’
Alongside the 5% rise in STI cases in the UK, cases of syphilis in Europe are at an all time high with the UK seeing the steepest rise, according to a report from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). Between 2007 and 2017, the number of cases of syphilis have more than doubled. This increase has been reportedly due to men not wearing condoms and an increase in the number of sexual partners. The head of the ECDC programme has commented that there is a clear link between risky sexual behaviour and the rise in syphilis and other STIs.
But let’s get down to it – below, Dr Eskander answers some of the most frequently asked questions about sexual health and STIs.
How often should I get tested for STIs?
A: If you’re sexually active, then it’s advised that you get a sexual health screen a minimum of once a year and each time you have a new sexual partner. If you’re frequently engaging in sex with multiple sexual partners it’s important to not only practice safe sex but also get tested every three months.
If you experience any symptoms like inflammation, discharge or itching, then head to your gynaecologist for an STI check right away.
I don’t have any symptoms, do I still need to get tested for STIs?
A: Yes, the vast majority of people will not notice any symptoms if they have an STI. STIs can remain dormant for years, and can cause irreversible fertility problems – even death in the case of HIV. Additionally, even if you don’t have any symptoms you can still pass STIs on to your partner and vice versa.
The only way of knowing if you have a sexually transmitted infection is to get tested. Testing is quick and simple and here at The Gynae Centre we offer a 100% confidential and discreet service so there’s no need to be embarrassed.
Book your sexual health screen at The Gynae Centre in central London by calling our friendly admin team on 020 7580 8090. As a private gynaecology clinic, we can offer appointments without the wait.
What should I do if I think I may have slept with someone who has an STI?
A: If you’re worried you’ve had sex with someone who has an STI, make an appointment for a sexual health screen as soon as possible – even if you’re not experiencing any symptoms. We offer mini and full sexual health screening to give you peace of mind.
My partner says they have had an STI test but are all clear now – will I be ok?
A: Not necessarily. You cannot rely on a partner’s results – you’ll only know if you’re infected if you’ve been tested yourself.
What about sexual health for gay, bi-sexual or transgender individuals?
A: People whose sexual preference involve the same gender will have slightly different health concerns to heterosexuals. If you feel comfortable doing so it is useful if you can disclose your preference of sexual partner and/or provide information about your genitalia if you’ve had genital surgery to your gynaecologist – the more they know about you, the easier it is for them to advise you of the appropriate health concerns.
Although the risk of lesbian women getting STIs is lower than it is for men, it’s still important to know the risks. Engaging in oral sex and using the same hand to touch yourself and your partner puts you both at risk.
It’s recommended that gay or bisexual women get tested every time there is a change in sexual partner for herpes, genital warts and chlamydia which are passed on through the exchange of bodily fluids. Herpes, syphilis and hepatitis B can also be passed on through kissing, penetrative sex and sharing sex toys.
How to make sex safer?
A: Whilst no form of sexual contact is 100% without risk, you can take steps to reduce your risk of contracting STIs by using these three simple steps:
- Get tested for STIs each time you have a new sexual partner
- Ask your partner to also get tested
- Use condoms for any oral and penetrative sex