If you suspect that you have a sexually transmitted infection (STI) don't panic. You simply need to get tested, then treatment can be given if it's needed. Many people with STIs don't get symptoms, so it's worth getting tested even if you feel healthy.
An STI can be passed from one person to another through sexual contact, including vaginal, anal and oral sex. You can get or pass on an STI whoever you're having sex with.
Women can pass infections on to women, and men can pass infections on to men. For more information, see sexual Health for women who have sex with women and sexual Health for men who have sex with men.
Many STIs can be cured with antibiotics. Some, such as HIV, have no cure but can be treated to prevent them getting worse.
You can't tell by looking at someone (including yourself) whether they've got an infection, so it's important to get a check-up if you've had unprotected sex.
Many people don't notice symptoms when they have an STI, including most women with chlamydia. If it's left untreated, chlamydia can affect your ability to get pregnant. Around 50% of women and 10% of men with gonorrhoea don't have symptoms.
If you have any of the symptoms listed below, get tested.
In women and men:
- Pain when you pass urine (pee).
- Itching, burning or tingling around the genitals.
- Blisters, sores, spots or lumps around the genitals or anus.
- Black powder or tiny white dots in your underwear (this could be droppings or eggs from pubic lice).
- Yellow or green vaginal discharge.
- Discharge that smells.
- Bleeding between periods or after sex.
- Pain during sex.
- Lower abdominal pain.
- Discharge from the penis.
- Irritation of the urethra (the tube where urine comes out).
These symptoms don't necessarily mean that you have an STI, but it's worth seeing a doctor so that you can find out what's causing the symptoms, and treat it. For example, it's possible to get thrush without having sex, but it can cause STI-like symptoms, such as soreness, itching and discharge. Thrush is easily treated.
Where can I get tested?
You can get tested at:
- some GP surgeries,
- a sexual health clinic or genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic,
- some community contraceptive clinics (Find contraceptive services), and
- some young people's services (call 0800 567123).
Some pharmacies can test for chlamydia.
Finding your nearest sexual health service
You can look up Sexual health in the phone book, or call the fpa helpline on 0845 122 8690.
You can also use the service search. Enter your postcode in the box, click Search, then click Sexual health/STI testing.
Find out where you can get a free chlamydia test under the National Chlamydia Screening Programme (under-25s only).
Have safer sex
Always use condoms to help protect yourself from catching or passing on an STI. Buy condoms that have the CE mark on the packet. This means that they've been tested to high European safety standards. Condoms that don't have the CE mark won't meet these standards, so don't use them.
Find out what happens when you visit a sexual health clinic.