Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites that can be passed from one person to another through unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex, by genital contact and through sharing sex toys. Most STIs are curable but it can take some time for STIs to show up in tests. Some, such as HIV, have no cure, but can be treated to prevent them getting worse.
Many people with STIs have no symptoms. If you do get symptoms, they can vary from obvious itchiness, soreness, rashes or redness, to pain when passing urine, discharge from the penis or vagina, and lumps or sores on the genitals. Some symptoms may also be internal - for example, pain inside your stomach or groin. Sometimes you will get no symptoms at all or the symptoms will take a long time to show. This means you could be passing infections on to other people without knowing it. The only way to know you have an infection is to have an STI test.
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 or think you might be at risk. You don’t need to have lots of sexual partners to get an infection. Safer sex involves using condoms or dams correctly every time you have sex. If you don’t use a condom or dam you are more at risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection.
Click the links below to find out more about specific Sexually Transmitted Infections: