According to the most recent scientific study, rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among older people doubled in the past decade.
This included infections of:
- Genital warts
- Genital herpes
It’s important to stay safe to make sure you aren’t at risk of contracting an STI or passing one on to someone else. Read on for useful information and where to go for help and further advice.
Contraception isn’t there just to prevent pregnancy, although that may have been your biggest concern when you were younger.
Condoms are the only form of contraception that will help to protect you from STIs. You should use them if you’re having sex with someone of the opposite sex or if you’re a gay man.
If you’ve just started a new relationship or are beginning to date again,consider carrying condoms with you. Lesbians are less at risk of STIs, but this does not mean you’re immune. Some types of STI can spread without penetration.
For more information on guarding against STIs, see the NHS Choices section on Sexual health.
Get checked out
If you’re sexually active, whether you’re straight, gay, lesbian or bisexual, it’s a good idea to get into the habit of having an annual sexual health check because not all STIs have symptoms.
You can make an appointment for tests at a sexual health or Genito-Urinary Medicine (GUM) clinic – some are drop-in centres. You should only stop using condoms if you and your partner are both clear of STIs.
You may feel too embarrassed to go to a clinic or ask your GP for a test. Remember, sexual health clinics as well as GUM clinics deal with STIs all the time – staff are trained professionals who don’t judge patients and do their best to minimise any embarrassment you might feel. It’s best to find out if anything needs to be treated so it can get sorted rather than leave it to possibly get worse.
The NHS Choices website tells you more about what to expect when you go to an STI clinic.
Symptoms to watch out for
It’s important to remember that some STIs don’t have any symptoms at all, so if you have had unprotected sex then it is best to get checked out, even if you don’t have any symptoms.
If you have any of the symptoms below you should make an appointment with your GP or go to a sexual health or GUM clinic for tests.
- discharge from the penis, or abnormal discharge from the vagina
- rashes or irritation near the vagina, penis or anus
- pain or burning when passing fluid.
If left untreated, some STIs can have serious health consequences. So if you suspect you have an STI, go and see your GP, primary care nurse, a sexual health clinic, or the GUM clinic. Remember that medical staff are trained professionals and will do their best to make you feel at ease. If you are worried about what will happen there or about confidentiality, see the NHS choices information on what happens when you go to an STI clinic.