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sexual transmitted infections


What is a Sexually Transmitted Infection?

Sexually transmitted infections are passed from person to person  via bodily fluids such as vaginal fluids, semen, blood or via close to close skin contact.  Most STI’s can be easily treated with antibiotics, creams or anti-viral drugs, but not all can be cured.  If you have had unprotected sex ie sex without a condom or if you experience condom failure there is a risk that you could have an STI.  If this is left untreated there is a risk that you could pass this onto someone else.  Practice safer sex by always using a condom for vaginal, anal or oral sex.

NOT ALL STI’S HAVE SYMPTOMS so we recommend you have testing whenever you have had sex with someone new. Our standard screening tests are for chlamydia, gonorrhoea, HIV and syphilis.

What is Chlamydia?

Chlamydia is one of the most common STI in the UK and is easily passed on during vaginal, anal and even oral sex.  It affects both men and women but most people have NO signs or symptoms.  The only way to know is to get a test.  

Symptoms in Women may include:-

  • Pain or burning when peeing
  • Unusual vaginal discharge.  All women have a discharge, but an unusual discharge may be thicker than normal, discoloured, or smelly
  • Pain in your lower abdomen during or after sex
  • Bleeding during or after sex or between periods
  • Heavier periods.

Symptoms in Men may include:-

  • Pain or burning when peeing
  • White, cloudy or watery discharge from tip of penis
  • Pain or tenderness in testicles.

You can also get chlamydia in your rectum (bottom), throat or eyes.

If you have had unprotected sex or experienced condom failure contact your local sexual health department to get an appointment Click here or you can get a Chlamydia self-test kit from your local pharmacy (click here to find your nearest pharmacy).  For women/girls it is a simple self-swab and for men/boys it is a urine (pee) sample.  Your local pharmacist will take you through the process.  This is a confidential service and NO correspondence will be sent to your home address unless you authorise this.  All results go back to the pharmacist who will have arranged with you on how you would like to receive the result.

For more information Click Here to download NHS Scotland’s leaflet on Chlamydia  

What is Gonorrhoea?

Gonorrhoea is an STI that affects both men and women and is caused by a bacteria which can affect the penis, vagina, anus and eyes.   Some people have NO signs; but for those that do, then some men might notice pain when passing urine (peeing) and/or a green or yellow discharge from the end of the penis.  Some women may notice vaginal discharge or discomfort when passing urine.   

If you think you may have gonorrhoea, make an appointment with your local sexual health clinic Click here.  You could also pick up a self-test kit from your local pharmacist (click here link to pharmacies) who will talk you through the process.  For men/boys it is a simple urine (pee) test, and for women/girls it is a self-swab.  Your local pharmacist will take you through the process.  This is a confidential service and NO correspondence will be sent to your home address unless you authorise this.  All results go back to the pharmacist who will have arranged with you on how you would like to receive the result.

For more information Click Here to download NHS Scotland’s leaflet on Gonorrhoea  

What is Herpes?

Herpes results from infection with the herpes simplex virus (HSV). It causes sores or blisters to form in or around the mouth or genitals, as well as other symptoms,   you can catch HSV from someone with the cold sore virus on their lips or herpes on their genitals even when they have no symptoms and may be unaware they have this infection. 

Type 2 genital herpes is mainly passed on during sex, through skin to skin contact with skin surfaces that carry the virus; such as pubic areas, penis, vagina, anus and mouth.  Once the herpes virus gets into your system, as well as causing an initial reaction, it remains in your body permanently but not causing any harm.  It may lie dormant like this for the rest of your life, however sometimes if your system is run down with a cold or flu you may experience another outbreak.  The symptoms of herpes may begin with a tingling feeling or itching in the genital area, this may turn into several blisters and then turn into quite painful sores or ulcers.  Passing urine (peeing) might be very uncomfortable.  It is if you have an outbreak of herpes you need to start medication as soon as possible.  This is available from your GP or your local sexual health clinic.

You can only be tested for the herpes virus when there is a visible “sore” present as a special swab needs to be taken at that time, you only need to have one positive test for herpes, it does not need to be done again if you have symptoms again.  .  Although there is no cure for genital herpes, the symptoms can usually be controlled by using antiviral drugs.  You should avoid having sex or close genital contact with someone who has the virus.

For more information on Herpes Click Here to download NHS Scotland leaflet on Herpes.

What is Syphilis?

Syphilis is a bacterial infection that’s usually caught by having sex with someone who’s infected. The numbers of people who have caught syphilis continues to increase every year. Some people don’t notice any signs but the infection is in the body and can only be picked up with a test specifically for syphilis.  

10 days – 6 weeks after initial infection some people notice single or multiple red ulcers/sores, which will heal after about 3-6 weeks.  This is called a Chancre (pronounced “shanker”).  They may or may not be painful.  You might also notice swollen glands in the area near the sores.  If syphilis is not treated at this stage, it will progress to the second stage.

The secondary stage occurs 1 week – 6 months after the first stage.  And this may show as a rash on the skin often either on the palms of your hands, the soles of your feet or on your trunk (chest, stomach and back).  There may also be swollen glands, headaches, aches and pains, hair loss, deafness or eye problems.

If left untreated at any stage, damage can be done to the brain, nervous system, bones, eyes and other organs.  Syphilis can be easily spread through vaginal, anal and oral sex, as well as close to close body contact with someone who already has syphilis.  Syphilis may also be passed on through deep kissing if the infected partner has an ulcer (chancre) in their mouth.

The best protection against syphilis is to use a condom for all sexual activity including oral sex.

Syphilis can be transmitted to a foetus during pregnancy therefore every pregnant person in Ayrshire is routinely tested for syphilis early in their pregnancy.

Useful Links Syphilis Bash Leaflet Click here  Syphilis in pregnancy Click here

What are Genital Warts?

Genital warts are caused by certain variants of the human papillomavirus (HPV).  Genital warts are small fleshy growths, lumps or bumps on the skin and appear on your genital anal and pubic area. Genital warts can be present on the skin without causing any visible warts, so it can be difficult to know when you acquired the virus.  The virus can be passed on by close skin to skin contact, usually during sex with a partner who is already infected with genital warts virus.  You do not need to have visible genital warts to pass the virus on to someone else.   

If you think you have genital warts, it is important to speak to a health professional. They may want to look at the area you have noticed the changes; but this is up to you and is your decision. This might seem embarrassing for you but they are used to doing it.  Genital warts, like other warts on the skin, will eventually resolve on their own. Treatment is an option if you want to speed up this process but often warts return within 6 months of successful treatment.

Anyone with lumps, bumps or sores on their genital region  is recommended to have testing for chlamydia, gonorrhoea, HIV and syphilis.


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