Did you have a nice Valentine’s Day? Was it filled with chocolates, roses, romance and… well, love? Hopefully you got everything you desired.
What if you got something you didn’t want? We are not talking about the wrong sort of chocolates, which you ended up giving to your Aunt Mary for her birthday.
Unromantic though it is, sexually transmitted infections (STIs for short) are much more common than you probably think, and it is very common to not even be aware that you have one.
According to the NHS, in 2014 alone, there were a staggering 439,243 cases – and that’s only the ones that were reported!
One of the main problems with STIs is that many of them present no symptoms for a long time or even at all. This means you can go merrily along with your life, unknowingly passing on a potentially nasty infection to everyone you sleep with.
You can’t tell by looking at someone if they have an STI, and more often than not, you won’t even know yourself. Not every disease causes unpleasant warts and rashes.
In fact, one of the most common STIs, chlamydia, is usually asymptomatic, which means most people who have it do not show any symptoms at all. STIs such as syphilis and gonorrhoea often show no signs of being there until they are well advanced.
It has been estimated that more than half of all human beings on the planet will have an STI at some point in their lives. Not a nice thought, is it?
What can I do?
The most obvious thing to do is not to have unprotected sex. Using a condom will protect you from the vast majority of STIs and protect your partners from getting anything from you.
The next thing to do is get tested regularly. Testing for most types of STIs is painless, free and quick, and there’s certainly no need to feel shame or guilt.
One easy way to get tested is by using the free London STI testing kits available from sexual health sites like https://www.checkurself.org.uk and https://www.bexleysexualhealth.org/ . Kits are available for HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis, and hepatitis B and C.
Getting tested just makes sense. Make sure next Valentine’s Day you don’t get – or give – an unwanted present.