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Health Library - Sexual Health

Anytime Doctor has published this health library as a resource to provide an accurate and modern view on Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) / Sexually transmitted Diseases (STDs).

We have intentionally not provided details for the symptoms of HIV. The symptoms of HIV are very similar to infections such as tonsillitis, chest infections, common colds etc. If you have these symptoms it is much more likely you have one of these infections than HIV. Anxiety is powerful emotion. If you are worried, the best thing to do is to get the required tests done through Anytime Doctor or within the NHS.


General Information on STDs/STIs

Why are STDs/STIs increasing so rapidly?

We are currently in the grip of an UK epidemic of STDs, new cases of herpes, chlamydia, syphilis, HIV and gonorrhoea are at record levels.

There were 621,300 diagnoses of STDs in 2006, up 70% percent on 1997, of which 376,508 were new infections (Health Protection Agency). NHS GUM clinics cannot cope, there were over 1.8million attendances at NHS GUM clinics in 2006 an increase of 350 percent from 1997 (400,000 attendances).

The Government's Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health and HIV is calling for urgent action to tackle this epidemic.

A number of reasons have been put forward as to why STDs are increasing so rapidly:

1Age of first intercourse is decreasing. A 30 year old woman has now potentially been sexually active for 15 years.
2The proportion of men and women who have concurrent relationships (having more than one sexual partner) has increased.
3The proportion of the population who reported two or more partners in the past year and who did not use condoms consistently has increased since 1990 from 13.6% to 15.4% for men and from 7.1% to 10% for women.
4The proportion of men in the United Kingdom who have ever had a homosexual partner in the last five years increased between 1990 and 2000. Unsafe sex in homosexual men has increased, particularly in London.
5Populations are now more mobile nationally and internationally. Certain groups (tourists and professionals business travellers) are at risk. They are separated from their families and social restraints and are more likely to have sexual contact outside a stable relationship.

Common Symptoms for STDs/STIs

The following symptoms could indicate a STD. However, some infections, while still spreadable, may have no symptoms:
ʼn  an unusual vaginal discharge in women

ʼn  a discharge from the urethra (the tube that runs from the bladder to the tip of the penis) in men

ʼn  bleeding after intercourse or between periods in women

ʼn  sores, blisters, warts, rashes, irritation or itching near the genitals or anus

ʼn  pain on passing urine, or needing to pass urine more often

ʼn  pain during sex

ʼn  pelvic or lower abdominal pain


Safer Sex

Anyone who is having sex can pick up a STD. Whether you are young or old, straight or gay, do it once in a while or all night every night, unprotected sex will put you at risk of getting a STD so it makes sense to make your sex safer.

Safer sex is any sex that does not allow an infected person's blood, semen, pre-ejaculatory fluid (precum) or fluid from the vagina to get inside the other person's body.

Use a condom every time you have sex. Only condoms provide 'all-in-one' protection against unintended pregnancy and most STDs, including HIV.

It seems obvious, but the more sexual partners you have the more chance you have of getting an STD - so be careful who you sleep with.

Just because you've been with someone for a while, don't stop using a condom until you've both had a check-up. Some of the most common STDs have no noticeable symptoms. Don't forget to use another form of contraception to avoid unplanned pregnancies.

Always carry condoms with you when you go out, not just when you are going to a party or a club. Sex isn't something you always plan in advance.

For more information on sexual health (including HIV), call the Sexual Health Line free (from the UK) on 0800 567 123, textphone (for people with hearing impairments) 0800 521 361.

 

Specific Information on common STDs/STIs


Bacterial Vaginosis
Chlamydia
Genital herpes
Genital Herpes in pregnancy
Genital warts
Gonorrhoea
HIV & AIDS
Non-specific urethritis (NSU)
Pelvic inflammatory disease – PID
Syphilis
Trichomonas
Ureaplasma & Mycoplasma
Viral Hepatitis - Type A
Viral Hepatitis - Type B
Viral Hepatitis - Type C

Syphilis

How does someone get infected?
Syphilis is usually contracted during vaginal, anal or oral intercourse without a condom with someone who has the infection. It can also be transmitted during pregnancy from infected woman to the developing baby.

What are the symptoms?
In primary syphilis a chancre (ulcer) appears at the site of infection approximately 10-90 days after contact. The chancre is usually painless and, because it can vary in size (from a small chafe to a large sore), it is often unnoticed. The chancre heals spontaneously within 2-6 weeks. Secondary syphilis develops approximately 7-10 weeks after the initial infection. During this time a person may feel unwell with flu-like symptoms and a general rash which may include the palms of the hands, soles of the feet or face. These symptoms are usually mild and transitory and again may go unnoticed.

The infection then becomes latent. In latent syphilis there are no physical symptoms and the infection can remain in this stage for years to life. Between 5-35 years later some people may develop tertiary syphilis. Tertiary syphilis is a result of damage to internal organs which may include the brain, spinal cord and heart.

Is there any treatment?
Once detected syphilis is relatively easily cured by antibiotic injections. The duration of treatment depends on the stage of infection and may require up to 3 injections a week apart.

What advice should be given to people with syphilis?
- Make sure treatment is completed.
- Flu-like symptoms are a normal reaction during the first days of treatment. These symptoms do not imply the person has an allergy to the antibiotic.
- If a body rash or any other symptoms develop after the first day of treatment they should inform the nurse or doctor. These symptoms may indicate an allergic reaction to the treatment.
- Once the treatment is completed, follow-up blood tests are recommended. These are to ensure the infection has been adequately treated.
- Sexual intercourse is safe after the course of antibiotics. Ask a doctor or nurse when it is safe to resume sexual intercourse after the treatment course.
- Will the follow-up blood test be negative after the treatment has been completed?
- Syphilis is diagnosed by the interpretation of several antibody tests which are performed on a single blood sample. Two of these tests will usually remain positive for life. Unfortunately these antibiotics do not offer protection against re-infection with syphilis.

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