You may have heard the phrase “Prevention is better than cure” before, it is a well-known phrase that emphasizes the importance of avoiding health issues before they occur. Prevention is a fundamental principle of healthcare and when it comes to sexually transmitted infections (STIs) it holds particular significance. By focusing on prevention, we can significantly reduce the prevalence of STIs and improve overall sexual health.
In this blog, we will explore the importance of STI prevention, common types of STIs, preventive measures, the significance of regular testing, and available treatment options. By enhancing education and awareness surrounding these matters, we can empower individuals to make informed decisions about their sexual health and ultimately lead healthier lives.
A sexually transmitted infection (STI) is an infection that can be transmitted from one person to another through sexual contact, including vaginal, anal, or oral sex. It’s important to note that some STIs can also be transmitted through infected blood from sharing contaminated needles or blood transfusions for example, as well as during pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding.
STIs can be caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites and can affect both men and women. Common examples of STIs include chlamydia, gonorrhoea, genital herpes, hepatitis B and C, HIV/AIDS, human papillomavirus (HPV) and syphilis.
The Importance of Preventing STIs
Prioritising STI prevention is crucial for several reasons. First and foremost, it allows individuals to take control of their own sexual health. Practicing safe sex not only protects ourselves but also helps to prevent the onward transmission of STIs to others, highlighting the importance of responsible behaviour and looking out for the wellbeing of your sexual partner(s). By making responsible choices and adopting precautionary measures, we can contribute to reducing STI transmission within society. Early detection and treatment of STIs are vital to prevent complications and long-term health issues.
Recognising the symptoms of STIs is important in early detection. Common signs to be aware of include unusual discharge from the vagina, penis, or anus, pain or burning sensation while urinating, pelvic pain, discomfort during sex, lumps or growths around the genitals or anus, rashes, itching in the genital or anal area, unusual vaginal bleeding, and the presence of blisters, sores, or warts around your genital area or anus.
Undiagnosed and untreated STIs can lead to a range of complications and long-term health issues. Neglecting treatment can have severe consequences, especially during pregnancy. Moreover, STIs can impact heart health and can cause neurological damage, affecting vital organs such as the brain, spinal cord, and nerves.
Preventive Measures – how can I protect myself and others?
There are a few effective ways to prevent the transmission of STIs, here are some key preventive measures:
- Practice safe sex – consistently and correctly using barrier methods of contraception, such as condoms during sexual activity is the most effective method of prevention when it comes to STIs. It is important to use condoms from the beginning to end of sexual contact, whether that be oral, vaginal and/or oral sex.
- Get tested regularly and #KnowYourStatus – if you are sexually active it is crucial to get tested regularly for STIs. Regular testing can detect infections early and ensure timely treatment. It may also be beneficial to encourage your partners to get tested also and be sure to discuss each other’s STI status openly before any sexual contact.
- Open communication – following on from above, it is important to have open and honest conversations with your sexual partners about STIs, testing, and sexual history. This helps to create an environment that is safe. But please keep in mind that not everyone is as open about their sexual history.
- Limit sexual partners – reducing the number of sexual partners can reduce your risk of exposure to STIs.
- Avoid risky behaviours – refrain from engaging in high-risk behaviours such as unprotected sex or sharing needles. These behaviours increase the likelihood of STI transmission.
Where to Test
Getting tested for STIs has never been easier. Testing should only take a couple of minutes and there are now a variety of ways you can get tested. You have a choice to visit your local sexual health clinic, your GP, a pharmacy, or even choose to self-test in the comfort of your own home. Just choose what is right for you and take control of your own sexual health now.
STIs: No age discrimination
STIs don’t discriminate. Anyone who is sexually active is at risk of exposure to STIs. In the UK, the prevalence of STIs remain high, with thousands of diagnoses made each year. In 2020 alone, there were 317,901 new diagnoses of STIs*. Regular testing is recommended, especially for individuals with new or casual sexual partners.
Managing an STI
If you suspect you may have been exposed to an STI or are experiencing symptoms, it is important that you seek medical attention and get tested as soon as possible.
It’s important to keep in mind that even if you have contracted an STI, it is far better to know and be aware of your condition. Early detection and appropriate treatment play a pivotal role in effectively managing the infection, minimizing complications, and reducing the risk of transmitting it to others.
In order to proactively protect yourself from STIs and maintain optimal sexual health, it is imperative to practice safe sex. Consistently and correctly using barrier methods, such as condoms, is a fundamental aspect of this.
The majority of STIs can be cured with a course of antibiotics, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis. However, some STIs cannot be cured but can be managed with medication, allowing individuals to live normal and healthy lives.
Knowing your STI Status
Many STIs can go unnoticed without symptoms, yet they can still be transmitted to sexual partners. Regular testing provides peace of mind and allows for timely treatment if an infection is detected. Just like your car needs an MOT, regular testing for STIs is an essential part of maintaining your sexual health.
Prevention is the key to combating the spread of STIs and maintaining sexual health. By practicing safe sex, testing regularly, and engaging in open communication with sexual partners, together we can reduce the prevalence of STIs and protect ourselves and others. Remember, prevention is better than cure, and investing time and resources in STI prevention can lead to a healthier future for everyone.
Disclaimer: This blog is intended to be used only for informational purposes and does not substitute professional medical advice. If you have concerns about your sexual health or suspect you may have an STI, consult a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Source: *Public Health England https://www.gov.uk/government/news/sti-rates-remain-a-concern-despite-fall-in-2020