Sex can be tricky to talk about, especially when it comes to sexual health. There's so many myths surrounding our bits, so Dr Radha from The Surgery has been clearing up some of the confusion around STIs.
No. Chlamydia is a bacterial infection that can be transmitted through unprotected sex or contact with sexual fluids. It can produce lots of symptoms or none. Long term if it goes untreated it can cause infertility, but it can easily be treated with antibiotics. For this reason it’s important to get screened regularly as you may not know you have it.
No. Sperm can survive in the vagina for up to five days, but they only survive in hot water for a few minutes, so before they can reach a female’s genitals. A woman’s vagina sitting in a jacuzzi is not ‘open’ like when you’re having sex so it would be very unlikely that the sperm could get in.
However, having penetrative sex in a watery environment like a jacuzzi or shower does NOT protect you against pregnancy or STIs.
Scabies is not formally classified as an STI. It’s caused by a little mite that burrows into the skin and causes itching. It can affect any part of your body, but is not necessarily passed on through sexual contact. It’s transmitted by close, prolonged skin to skin contact, for example from people you’re living with, or by sharing bed sheets.
The only STI that has a chance of being spread in this way is pubic lice. They are parasitic insects that live in pubic hair, or in your armpit hair or even in your eyebrows. They cannot jump, so they tend to transmit via prolonged, close skin-to-skin contact. Public lice are most commonly spread through sexual contact. Symptoms include itching, tiny blue coloured spots (caused by bites) and tiny blood spots on your skin.
There are two types of the herpes virus – one that affects the mouth (i.e. cold sores) and one that affects the genitals. Close contact with someone who has an outbreak of either virus may pass that virus on. A outbreak causes blisters that are quite sore and painful. The outbreaks can be treated but the virus will remain in the body and can become active again, although this happens less frequently over time. The virus can be transmitted through oral sex and anal sex as well as penetrative sex.
Yes, you can get chlamydia or gonorrhoea in your throat. Use a condom or a dental dam to protect from this.
You can go to your GP to get tested, but you can also go to a sexual health (GUM) clinic. Here you don’t have to give your name. They will ask you a few questions such as whether you have any symptoms. They’ll take a urine test and they may take a blood test too, which tests for hepatitis and HIV. It’s not as scary as it sounds – and they will see people like you every day, so there’s nothing to be afraid of – you’re doing a really responsible thing. You can get your results in different ways, and you will be able to choose which you prefer – for instance through text message or by calling them a few days later. Many STIs can be treated very easily.
No. It’s the cells underneath the rough surface of a wart that are infected by the HPV virus which causes warts. You need to get to the root of the cells in order to remove the wart, and this can only be done with specialist treatment, usually by freezing them off or by using a special cream.
The most important things to remember when it comes to your sexual health are:
- A condom is the best way to protect yourself from STIs.
- Get screened regularly - some STIs have no symptoms.
- Try and think of it like a trip to the dentist. It’s important for you and your body if you’re sexually active to keep yourself safe. There is no shame in this whatsoever.