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Information on HIV & STI’s

Information on HIV & common STIs

In this section find about HIV and some of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STI’s)

We are here to support you – not to judge you. If you would like to talk about HIV or STI’s we’re here to help. Contact the sexual health team on 0121 643 0821 or sexualhealth@blgbt.org

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HIV

What is HIV?

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is a virus that attacks and weakens the immune system. If it is left untreated, HIV causes so much damage that the body is no longer able to defend itself.

People who have been infected with HIV are generally referred to as being HIV positive. Although there have been many advances in treatment in recent years, and treatments are very effective in controlling the advancement of HIV, there is still no cure for HIV infection.

There are ways to prevent HIV infection, but as with many health conditions and illnesses, the sooner after infection someone is diagnosed the better their outlook. This is why we encourage people to get tested regularly. Testing is simple, quick and easy and of course completely confidential.

What is AIDS?

AIDS is a term that is now being used less and less. The term more frequently used nowadays is ‘Advanced HIV disease’.

AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome and is seen by the appearance of the opportunistic infections that are a result of HIV. HIV is the virus that can lead to AIDS.

If you are diagnosed with HIV early, and respond well to treatment, you are less likely to develop AIDS.

As treatment for HIV infection becomes more effective, fewer people in the UK are now given an AIDS diagnosis.

How is HIV passed on? How might you get HIV?

HIV is most often passed on sexually, through unprotected sex where certain bodily fluids are exchanged. (By unprotected we mean sex where condoms are not used, also referred to as raw, bareback or BB sex).

HIV can also be passed on by sharing needles during injecting drug use or from HIV positive mother to child.

How is HIV passed on during sex?

  • HIV is most likely to be passed on when someone who has HIV (HIV positive) who is not on HIV treatment/medication has penetrative sex (fucks) someone who does not have HIV (HIV negative) without using a condom. This means that the person without HIV is exposed to the virus.
  • The cum, vaginal fluids or anal mucus of a HIV positive person (who is not on effective HIV treatment*) is more likely to have a high enough quantity of HIV (a high viral load) in it to infect the HIV negative person.
  • *If someone who is HIV positive is on and responds well to HIV treatment and has a fully suppressed viral load (often referred to as an undetectable viral load) and has no STIs, it is very unlikely that they can pass on HIV to another person, even if they have unprotected sex. Use of condoms, however is an effective way to prevent HIV from being passed on.

What body fluids cause HIV to spread?

Only some body fluids contain a sufficient quantity of the virus to enable HIV infection to occur.

These body fluids are:

  • Blood and blood products
  • Cum and pre-cum
  • Discharge from STIs (such as gonorrhea)
  • Vaginal fluids
  • Anal mucus (anal mucus is a naturally occurring fluid that lines the inside of the arse)

You cannot become infected with HIV through exposure to urine (piss) or saliva (spit)

How can I avoid getting HIV?

Using condoms or femidoms for anal and vaginal sex is the most effective way to prevent HIV from being passed on sexually.

Don’t share injecting equipment if you inject drugs.

Methods for reducing the likelihood of transmission if you are exposed to HIV include:

  • medical preventions, such asPEPSE, PrEP (see these sections on our website)Mucous membranes are thin tissues which protect openings in the human body. There are many mucous membranes in or on a person. They occur in places like the mouth, inside the eyelids, in the stomach and along the digestive tract. HIV can travel through the surface of a mucous membrane, enter the tiny blood vessels inside and attach itself to the mucous membrane. However, the mucous membranes that are most commonly involved in HIV transmission are in in the arse, the foreskin and head of the penis, the urethra (the tube you piss through), the mouth and the throat.With the exception of the mouth and throat, none of the mucous membranes need to be damaged to provide an effective route for HIV transmission to occur. However, damage to the mucous membranes, like a sore or a cut, does make transmission more likely. Of the four mucous membranes that can allow HIV to enter the bloodstream, the mucous membrane in the arse provides the most effective route for HIV transmission. This is because the mucous membrane in the arse is designed to absorb liquids directly into the bloodstream. It is therefore extremely efficient at absorbing HIV. Whilst a couple of studies have reported that circumcision is protective of gay men who are exclusive tops, recent studies indicate that this may not actually be the case and circumcised gay men can still catch HIV when the penis is exposed to HIV-infected fluids.

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What symptoms might I get after being infected with HIV?

Shortly after infection with HIV most people experience some symptoms, however some do not. This is known as seroconversion illness, or primary HIV infection. It usually occurs around two to six weeks after someone has been infected.

The most commonly experienced symptoms are often described as ‘flu-like’ and can include:

  • A sore throat
  • Fever
  • Body aches
  • A rash

Other common symptoms might include:

  • Mouth ulcers
  • Joint pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Muscle pain
  • Feeling overly tired or sick.

These symptoms are only linked to infection with HIV if you have put yourself at risk (such as fucking without condoms) in the last six weeks. Because these symptoms are common to other illnesses, many people do not realise that they are a sign that they have become infected with HIV and may simply think that they are run down or have had the flu.

What do I do if I have these symptoms?

If you have any of these symptoms and have had unprotected sex in the last six weeks, it is worth getting tested for HIV so that you know what your HIV status is.

People who have recently been infected will have very high levels of HIV in their body. This increases the likelihood of further transmission of the virus if they continue to have unprotected sex.

Even if you have had unprotected sex, it does not necessarily mean that those flu-like symptoms are caused by HIV infection. It could just be the flu! But the wise thing to do is to get tested if you’re in any doubt.

Where can I get a HIV test and what’s involved?

  • At Birmingham LGBT we offer HIV rapid testing which give results given in just a few minutes.

(Please call and book an appointment with a member of the sexual health team for a test).

  • At Birmingham LGBT Centre – Walk in sexual health clinic every Thursday 12 midday to 7.15pm (Last walk in slot at 6.30pm)
  • You may also use a free home self-sampling kit. These kits are available to people with a Birmingham or Solihull postcode and may be obtained online at umbrellahealth.co.uk or you can collect a self-sampling kit free of charge from the Birmingham LGBT centre.

A HIV test involves taking a small sample of blood which is then tested for the presence of HIV.

With our HIV rapid testing and self-sampling kits this blood sample is taken from a simple finger prick. Some clinics however may take the blood sample from a vein in your arm.

I’ve recently had unprotected sex with someone with HIV. What can I do?

If you’ve had unprotected sex with someone who may be HIV positive, you can reduce your chances of HIV infection by taking post-exposure prophylaxis after sexual exposure (PEPSE) within 72 hours of exposure to the virus (See our section on PEPSE).

If you’ve had unprotected sex with someone who may be HIV positive within the last 72 hours, please visit Whittall Street Clinic or your nearest A&E department immediately.

We are here to support you, not to judge you.

All of our services are free and confidential

Bacterial Vaginosis

What is Bacterial Vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a common condition in which the balance of bacteria inside the vagina becomes disrupted.

How could I get BV?

It is unclear what leads to these changes in the levels of bacteria.

BV isn’t classified as a sexually transmitted infection (STI), but you’re at a higher risk of developing the condition if you’re sexually active. There’s evidence that having BV can make you more at risk of catching STIs such as  chlamydia. This is possibly because the change in bacteria levels inside the vagina reduces the protection against infection.

Women with BV may be able to pass the condition to other women they have sex with, although it’s not clear how this happens. There’s no evidence to suggest the bacteria causing BV can affect male sexual partners.

There are also a number of other factors that can increase your risk of developing BV, including:

  • using scented soaps or bubble baths
  • having an  intrauterine device (IUD) fitted
  • using vaginal deodorant

BV is more common in women who use a coil for contraception and those who perform vaginal douching (cleaning out the vagina).

How can I avoid getting BV?

The causes of BV aren’t fully understood, so it’s not possible to completely prevent it. However, you may be able to lower your risk of developing the condition if you:=

  • Avoid using scented soaps, perfumed bubble bath and antiseptic bath liquids
  • Avoid using vaginal deodorant
  • Avoid vaginal douching
  • Avoid using strong detergents to wash your underwear
  • Use condoms when having penetrative sex, either by penis or sharing sex toys, or by using dams if having oral sex

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What are the symptoms?

Vaginal soreness or itching does not usually occur although there is often a vaginal discharge. The discharge may:

  • Develop a strong fishy smell, particularly after sexual intercourse
  • Become white or grey
  • Become thin and watery

Around half of women with BV show no symptoms.

How is it treated?

See your GP or visit a sexual health or genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic if you notice any abnormal discharge from your vagina, especially if you’re pregnant. It’s important to get this checked to rule out other infections and prevent complications.

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and may examine your vagina. In some cases, a small sample of the vaginal discharge will be taken using a plastic loop or swab, so it can be examined for signs of BV.

BV can usually be successfully treated using a short course of antibiotic tablets or an antibiotic gel you apply inside your vagina.

In most cases, you’ll be prescribed antibiotic tablets to take twice a day for five to seven days.

However, it’s common for BV to return. More than half of women successfully treated with BV find their symptoms return, usually within three months. Women who have frequent episodes of BV may be referred to a GUM specialist.

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All of our services are free and confidential

Chlamydia

What is chlamydia?

Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a bacterial infection.

It is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the UK.

How could I get chlamydia?

Chlamydia is easily passed from one person to another during oral, anal or vaginal sex. It can also be spread by sex toys if, they are not washed or covered by a new condom each time they are used.

The bacteria infect the urethra (the tube you wee out of), arse, vagina and sometimes the eyes or throat.

You cannot catch chlamydia from kissing, hugging, sharing towels, swimming pools, toilets or sharing cups, plates or cutlery, etc.

How can I avoid getting chlamydia?

It is recommended to use condoms or femidoms when having anal or vaginal sex and condoms or dams for oral sex, and rimming.

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What are the symptoms? 

Men may have a clear white/cloudy or watery discharge (liquid) from the cock, pain when pissing, possible pain or heavy feeling in the balls.

Women may can have bleeding between periods and/or heavier periods (including women who are using hormonal contraception), bleeding after sex, pain and/or bleeding when having sex, lower abdominal pain (pelvic pain), an unusual discharge.

How do I get tested for Chlamydia?

Chlamydia tests can be done either by a urine sample or swabs taken from the genitals (cock, vagina or arse) or throat.

How is it treated?

Chlamydia is treated with antibiotics – usually a course of tablets.

If you are treated for chlamydia, we strongly suggest that your partner(s) also gets tested and treated before you have sex again.

We are here to support you, not to judge you.

All of our services are free and confidential

Genital Warts

What are genital warts?

Genital warts (sometimes called anogenital warts) are caused by a virus known as the human papilloma virus (HPV). There are many different types of HPV, but types 6 and 11 are the common causes of genital warts. Warts may sometimes disappear on their own without treatment but can often persist for months or even years. Warts may sometimes reappear after they seem to have gone on their own or after treatment.

How could I get genital warts?

The human papilloma virus is easily passed from one person to another through skin-to-skin genital contact. This doesn’t need to be penetrative sex (vaginal, anal or oral sex), but could be close genital contact.

It is not possible to catch warts (HPV) from kissing, hugging, sharing towels, swimming pools, toilets or sharing cups, plates or cutlery.

How can I avoid getting genital warts?

Unfortunately, warts are common and can be passed on through skin-to-skin genital contact.

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What are the symptoms? 

Most people who get HPV do not show any signs or symptoms (they do not get any warts), and the virus can go away by itself. This means you might not know if you or your partner has the virus.

If you do get warts you might notice fleshy growths, bumps, or skin changes which may appear anywhere in the genital or anal area.

Warts can appear from three weeks to a few months, or even years, after getting the virus.

How do I test for Genital Warts?

There is no routine test available for HPV. Genital warts can be diagnosed at a sexual health clinic by the doctor or nurse looking at your skin.

How are genital warts treated?

The most common treatment is a cream or lotion that you put on the warts a few times a week at home. These treatments may take weeks or months to work. Other options include cryotherapy (freezing), electrocautery (heat), surgery or laser.

Once the warts have gone, there is a chance they may come back.

There is now a vaccine which protects against getting the main types of HPV. This is now being given to all girls aged 12 – 13, and there is a catch-up program for all girls up to the age of 18. (HPV vaccination is not currently offered at Birmingham LGBT or in Umbrella clinics). The vaccine is not currently given to boys.

If you are diagnosed with genital warts, you should advise your partner(s) to come for a sexual health check-up too.

We are here to support you, not to judge you.

All of our services are free and confidential

Gonorrhoea & Drug Resistant Gonorrhoea

What is gonorrhoea?

Gonorrhoea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a bacterial infection.

It is the second most common bacterial sexually transmitted infection in the UK.

How could I get gonorrhoea?

Gonorrhoea is easily passed from one person to another during oral, anal or vaginal sex. It can also be spread by sex toys if, they are not washed or covered by a new condom each time they are used.

The bacteria infect the urethra (the tube you wee out of), rectum (back passage), vagina and sometimes the eyes or throat.

You cannot catch gonorrhoea from kissing, hugging, sharing towels, swimming pools, toilets or sharing cups, plates or cutlery.

How can I avoid getting gonorrhoea?

It is recommended to use condoms when fucking. Oral sex or sucking cock still carries a risk (even if he doesn’t cum in your mouth). You can reduce risks further by using condoms or dams for oral sex and rimming

GET FREE CONDOMS, DAMS, GLOVES AND LUBE: http://blgbt.org/sexual-health/

CONDOM SIZE GUIDE: http://www.pasante.com/condoms/

What are the symptoms? 

Men may have a yellow, green or white discharge (liquid) from the cock, a burning sensation or pain or tingling when you wee or cum, inflammation of the testicles, or discharge or discomfort in the anus.

Infection in the arse may be noticeable by a yellowish discharge, fresh blood in your faeces, mild diarrhoea, or itching and pain when going to the toilet. Infection via your mouth can result in a sore throat.

Women may have a yellow, green or white discharge (liquid) from the vagina, a burning sensation or pain or tingling when you wee, pain or discomfort in the lower abdomen, bleeding between periods, heavier periods or bleeding after vaginal sex.

Gonorrhoea in the eyes can cause redness and irritation. Less commonly, gonorrhoea can cause inflammation of the joints and tendons, skin lesions or, rarely, can affect the brain and heart.

How do I test for Gonorrhoea?

Gonorrhoea tests can be done on a urine sample or swabs taken from the genitals (penis, vagina or back passage) and throat, depending on whether you have any symptoms and what they are.

How is it treated?

Gonorrhoea is treated with antibiotics – this could be a combination of an injection and some tablets.

If you are treated for gonorrhoea we strongly suggest that your partner(s) also gets tested and treated before you have sex again.

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All of our services are free and confidential

“Super Gonorrhoea” What you should know:

In April 2016 Public Health England (PHE) issued a statement about a highly drug-resistant type of gonorrhoea with the warning that it may become untreatable.

A powerful strain of the STI, first seen in the north of England, had since been found in the West Midlands and the south east.

The strain is highly resistant to the antibiotic azithromycin, which means clinicians are relying on a second drug, ceftriaxone, to treat it. But there are no other effective drugs to tackle the strain, raising the prospect of it becoming untreatable if it builds further resistance.

PHE urged people to use condoms with new or casual partners to cut the risk of catching the disease. If untreated, gonorrhoea can result in severe complications and in rare cases can lead to infertility or septicaemia.

Dr Gwenda Hughes, the head of PHE’s STI section, said: “Fortunately, the current outbreak strain can still be treated with ceftriaxone. Nonetheless, we know that the bacterium that causes gonorrhoea can rapidly develop resistance to other antibiotics that are used for treatment, so we cannot afford to be complacent.

If strains of gonorrhoea emerge that are resistant to both azithromycin and ceftriaxone treatment options would be limited as there is currently no new antibiotic available to treat the infection.”

Between November 2014 and 17 April 2016 there had been 34 confirmed cases of super gonorrhoea. Since September 2015, 11 cases had been confirmed in the West Midlands and in the south of England, 5 of them in London.

At least 16 cases were first detected in northern England, including 12 in Leeds, where the mutated strand was first recorded, PHE said in September 2015.

Hepatitis A & B

Hepatitis A

What is hepatitis A? 

Hepatitis A is a type of viral infection which affects the liver. It can be passed on in various ways including sexually from some sex acts and as such can be considered a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

How could I get hepatitis A?

Transmission of hepatitis A happens by an orofaecal route. Simply put, this means getting the shit of an infected person into your mouth.

The most common cause of hepatitis A is eating food contaminated by the shit of an infected person as a result of poor personal hygiene or by drinking contaminated water (eg in places where there is poor sanitation).

Hepatitis A could also be acquired by getting shit in your mouth through sex acts such as rimming.

How can I avoid getting hepatitis A?

You can be vaccinated against hepatitis A which involves having two injections 6 months apart. You can get this vaccination at most sexual health clinics or at GP and travel clinics. It is recommended that men who have sex with other men get vaccinated, as well as people travelling to countries where hepatitis A is more prevalent and where sanitation may be poorer than in the UK.

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What are the symptoms?

Symptoms can appear two to six weeks after infection and may include headaches, fever, nausea, vomiting, joint and muscle pains and tiredness. After a while your skin and eyes may become jaundiced (turn yellow), and you may notice that your shit becomes paler and your wee darker, though not everyone gets such severe symptoms.

How do I get tested for hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is tested by taking a blood sample and can be tested for at a sexual health clinic. You can also ask your GP.

How is it treated?

The only way of treating hepatitis A is based on making you feel as comfortable as possible until the infection passes. This means getting plenty of rest, a low-protein and high-carbohydrate diet, and avoiding fatty foods and alcohol. The illness generally clears up by itself within one to three months, causing no lasting damage. Once you have had hepatitis A you will be immune to catching it in the future.

Hepatitis B

What is hepatitis B? 

Hepatitis B is an infection of the liver and is caused by the hepatitis B virus which can be passed on sexually.

How could I get hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B can be passed on through unprotected anal, vaginal or oral sex (sex without a condom). It is much more infectious than hepatitis A, hepatitis C or HIV.

Hepatitis B virus is found in the blood, cum, vaginal fluids, wee, spit and shit, as well as other body fluids of a person who is infected. The virus can be spread through unprotected sex, or by getting blood or other infected body fluids in the mouth, eyes, or broken skin. It can also be passed on by sharing needles or snorting straws if you take drugs in this way.

How can I avoid getting hepatitis B?

You can be vaccinated against hepatitis B. The best best way to prevent infection is by getting vaccinated. The vaccine is available from sexual health clinics and involves having a short course of injections (usually weeks to months between injections depending on what clinic you attend). The number of injections you need will depend on your age and response to the vaccine but is usually three. This is to ensure the vaccine has worked and that you remain immune to hepatitis B. This vaccine is not effective for everybody and some people will not be able to acquire full immunity to the virus.

Using condoms, femidoms and dams can prevent catching hepatitis B infection through having sex.

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What are the symptoms?

Not everyone who gets infected with hepatitis B will show symptoms. Any symptoms that may appear could be one to six months after exposure to the hepatitis virus and infection can persist for several years and silently cause severe liver damage. Many people with hepatitis B may not even realise that they are infected.

If you do become infected with hepatitis B you may have some symptoms after the initial infection. These symptoms are similar to that of flu – feeling sick and vomiting, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, jaundice (yellow skin and whites of eyes) and dark wee, pale shit or itchy skin.

How do I get tested for hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B can be tested at a sexual health clinic. It is tested for by taking a blood sample.

How is it treated?

If you have chronic or acute hepatitis B you will be referred to a specialist for further assessment and/or treatment. Not everyone needs treatment immediately. People who have chronic (more than 6 months) hepatitis B infection should see a specialist and have blood tests and a liver scan done, which will determine when treatment may start. Treatment for hepatitis B may involve injections, but most often people are treated with antiviral medication. Anyone with chronic hepatitis should avoid alcohol.

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Hepatitis C

What is hepatitis C? 

Hepatitis C is a viral infection affecting the liver. It has usually been associated with injecting drug use but we now know that it can be passed on sexually, particularly with certain sex practices.

How could I get hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is mainly found in the blood (including dried blood) of an infected person. It can also be present in cum. Hepatitis C can cause long term damage to your health and there is no vaccination to prevent it. The virus is spread through injecting drug use as well as through condomless sex, particularly high risk sex (long sex session/parties, fisting, etc), and chemsex is associated with hepatitis C infection. HIV-positive gay men particularly are getting hepatitis C sexually. However, this does not mean HIV-negative people are not at risk also.

Hepatitis C could be passed on in the following ways:

  • Sex without condoms with someone who has hepatitis C.
  • Sharing needles or works for injecting drugs with someone who has hepatitis C.
  • Being fisted by someone with hepatitis C who may have cuts or sores on their hand and isn’t wearing a glove.
  • Being fisted by someone who has just fisted another person with hepatitis C and who hasn’t put on an unused latex glove or thoroughly washed his hands between partners.
  • Being fucked by someone who has just fucked someone else with hepatitis C and who didn’t change condoms between partners (or use condoms at all).
  • Using a dildo or other sex toy that has just been used on someone else with hepatitis C and which hasn’t been thoroughly cleaned, or had a new condom put on it.
  • Sharing snorting straws/banknotes etc. with someone with hepatitis C, as small specks of infected blood could be on the snorting equipment.

How can I avoid getting hepatitis C?

You can reduce the risk of getting hepatitis C by:

  • Using a new condom when you have anal or vaginal sex, whether you fuck or get fucked.
  • Not sharing, but using a new sterile syringe and needle for injecting steroids or recreational drugs.
  • If you are being fisted or fisting by wearing a new unused latex glove, especially if they/you have just fisted someone else.
  • Using a new condom on your dildo if it has been used on someone else.
  • Using your own drug snorting straw, banknote etc.

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What are the symptoms?

Most people do not notice any symptoms when they are first infected. Hepatitis C produces many of the same symptoms as hepatitis A and B.

There is no set symptom pattern with hepatitis C. Many people remain asymptomatic (without symptoms) for years. For some people symptoms are severe enough to significantly affect their quality of life whilst others may experience none at all, but for many people they will come and go and their severity varies. Symptoms related to the chronic stage of the disease can include:

  • Fatigue with non-refreshing sleep
  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Short-term memory problems, difficulty concentrating
  • Mood swings
  • Digestive problems
  • Joint and muscle aches and pains
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Discomfort or pain in the liver area or abdominal pain
  • Itching

Without treatment, hepatitis C can eventually lead to liver failure, which is life-threatening.

How do I get tested for hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is diagnosed by a blood test and can be carried out at a sexual health clinic

How is it treated?

If you are found to have hepatitis C you will be referred to a liver specialist.

When first diagnosed with hepatitis C (within the first six months) this stage is called Acute Hepatitis C infection. It is sometimes the case that people will clear the virus themselves within the first six months though they would still need regular blood tests to ensure it has completely gone. The majority of people will not clear hepatitis C without treatment. If diagnosed in time they can be treated early, usually with a course of injections and tablets for six months, which aims to cure the infection.

If you not treated early or if a person has chronic (more than six months) hepatitis C infection there are new treatments becoming available which can also cure the infection. The choice of treatment depends on the strain of hepatitis C. This would be discussed with you and your specialist.

Hepatitis C treatment course lasts for several months and the drugs can have frequent side effects which may be severe.

Important: You will not become immune to catching hepatitis C again in the future even if you are treated and cured or if you cleared it yourself. You still have no protection or immunity from catching it again if you continue to take the risks mentioned above.

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Herpes

What is Herpes?

Genital herpes is a common infection caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). It causes painful blisters on the genitals and the surrounding areas. Herpes is a chronic (long-term) condition. The virus remains in your body and can become active again.

How could I get Herpes?

There are two types of herpes simplex virus (HSV), type 1 and type 2. Both types are highly contagious and can be passed easily from one person to another by direct contact.  Genital herpes is usually transmitted by having sex (vaginal, anal or oral) with an infected person. Even if someone with genital herpes doesn’t have any symptoms, it’s possible for them to pass the condition on to a sexual partner.  At least eight out of ten people who carry the virus are unaware they have been infected because there are often few or no initial symptoms. However, certain triggers can activate the virus, causing an outbreak of genital herpes.

HSV can affect any mucous membrane (moist lining), such as those found in the mouth (cold sores).

How can I avoid getting Herpes?

The virus is highly contagious and spreads from one person to another through skin-to-skin contact, such as during vaginal, anal or oral sex.

There are two types of HSV:

  • type 1 (HSV-1)
  • type 2 (HSV-2)

Genital herpes is caused by both type 1 and type 2 HSV.

Whenever HSV is present on the surface of your skin it can be passed on to a partner. The virus passes easily through the moist skin that lines your genitals, mouth and arse.  In some cases it is also possible to become infected by coming into contact with other parts of the body that can be affected by HSV, such as the eyes and skin. For example, you can catch genital herpes if you have oral sex with someone who has a cold sore. A cold sore is a blister-like lesion around the mouth that is also caused by HSV.

Genital herpes cannot usually be passed on through objects, such as towels, cutlery or cups because the virus dies very quickly when away from your skin. However, you may become infected by sharing sex toys with someone who has the virus.

Genital herpes is particularly easy to catch when an infected person has blisters or sores. However, it can be caught at any time, even when someone shows no symptoms at all.

Once you have been infected with HSV it can be reactivated every so often to cause a new episode of genital herpes. This is known as recurrence.

Recurrence triggers

It is not completely understood why HSV is reactivated, but certain triggers may be responsible for the symptoms of genital herpes recurring.

For example, friction in your genital area during sex may cause a recurrence. Using a lubricant can help.

Other possible triggers include:

  • being unwell
  • stress
  • drinking excess amounts of alcohol
  • exposure to ultraviolet light, for example, using sunbeds
  • surgery on your genital area
  • having a weakened immune system

What are the symptoms?

Most people with the herpes virus don’t experience any symptoms when first infected, as a result many people don’t know they have the condition. Symptoms may not appear until months or sometimes years after you’re first exposed to the virus.  If you experience symptoms when first infected, they usually appear four to seven days after you have been exposed to the virus.

The symptoms of genital herpes include:

  • small blisters that burst to leave red, open sores around your genitals, rectum, arse, thighs and buttocks
  • blisters and ulcers on the cervix (lower part of the womb) in women
  • vaginal discharge in women
  • pain when you wee
  • a general feeling of being unwell, with aches, pains and flu-like symptoms

These symptoms may last up to 20 days. However, the sores will eventually scab and heal without scarring.

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How do I get tested for Herpes?

If you think you may have genital herpes you should visit your local sexual health clinic as soon as possible.

The initial diagnosis of genital herpes should be made by a genitourinary medicine (GUM) specialist at a sexual health clinic.

When being tested for genital herpes you may also be asked

  • Whether you have experienced similar symptoms before
  • Whether you have ever had a cold sore (which are also caused by the herpes simplex virus)
  • Whether you have ever had a sexually transmitted infection (STI)
  • About your history of sexual partners

A swab is used to collect a sample of fluid from a blister. A swab is a small piece of absorbent material, such as gauze or cotton, which is attached to the end of a stick or wire. The sample will be sent to a laboratory to be tested for the herpes simplex virus (HSV). You may also be screened for other STIs.

You should be aware that even if your swab result comes back negative for HSV, you may still have genital herpes and a diagnosis will only be confirmed by any recurrent outbreaks.

How is it treated?

Primary infection – If you have genital herpes for the first time, see your GP or visit your local GUM clinic. They may prescribe antiviral tablets, such as aciclovir, which you will need to take a course of.  Aciclovir works by preventing HSV from multiplying. However, it does not clear the virus from your body completely and does not have any effect once you stop taking it.  You will need to take a course of aciclovir for at least five days, or longer if you still have new blisters and open sores forming on your genital area when your treatment begins.

Recurrent outbreaks – You should visit your sexual health clinic or GP if you have been diagnosed with genital herpes before and are experiencing a recurrent outbreak.  If the symptoms are mild, they may suggest things you can do at home to help ease your symptoms without the need for treatment.

  • Keep the affected area clean using either plain or salt water. This will help prevent blisters or ulcers from becoming infected and may encourage them to heal quicker. It will also stop affected areas from sticking together.
  • Apply an ice pack wrapped in a flannel, or cold, wet, tea bags on the sores to help soothe pain and speed up the healing process. Do not apply ice directly to the skin.
  • Apply petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, or an anaesthetic (painkilling) cream, such as 5% lidocaine, to any blisters or ulcers to reduce the pain when you wee.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to dilute your urine. This will make passing urine less painful. Passing urine while sitting in a bath or while pouring water over your genitals may also help.
  • Avoid wearing tight clothing because it may irritate the blisters and ulcers.

If your symptoms are more severe, you may be prescribed a course of antiviral tablets (aciclovir).

Suppressive treatment – If you have more than six recurrent outbreaks of genital herpes in a year, or if your symptoms are particularly severe and causing you distress, you may need to take aciclovir every day as part of a long-term treatment plan.

This is known as suppressive treatment and aims to prevent further outbreaks developing. In this instance, it is likely you will need to take aciclovir twice a day for six to twelve months.

It is important to note that while suppressive treatment can reduce the risk of passing HSV on to your sexual partner(s), it cannot prevent it altogether. Suppressive treatment will usually be stopped after twelve months. As long as recurrent outbreaks of genital herpes are infrequent and mild, you will only need to take a five-day course of aciclovir as and when it is needed. Episodes of recurrent genital herpes usually become less frequent and less severe after around two years.  Suppressive treatment may be restarted if you have further severe outbreaks.

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LGV (Lymphogranuloma Venereum)

What is LGV?

Lymphogranuloma venereum is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by certain types of chlamydia bacteria. These chlamydia bacteria are different from those which cause genital chlamydia. It is caused by strains L1, L2 or L3 of Chlamydia Trachomatis bacteria and is more invasive (gets into the tissue of the body) than other types of Chlamydia.

In the UK, LGV is mostly common among men who have sex with men. It is also common in parts of Africa, South Asian countries, and South America.

How could I get LGV?

LGV can be passed from one person to another during oral, anal or vaginal sex. It can also be spread by sex toys if they are not washed or covered by a new condom each time they are used.

How can I avoid getting LGV?

The risk of LGV infection can be reduced by using condoms consistently and correctly during sex and using latex gloves for fisting. Using condoms with shared sex toys or cleaning them thoroughly with hot soapy water between uses also reduces the risk.

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What are the symptoms?

Symptoms can be complicated and severe causing inflammation, lymph node infection, fever, muscular pain and general ill-health. Symptoms can develop on different parts of the body, such as the genitals, the anus, rectum, mouth and throat and lymph nodes.

The symptoms of LGV can start a few days to a month after coming into contact with the infection. You may notice:

  • small painless ulcers on the genitals or around the anus
  • swelling and redness of the skin in the groin area
  • swollen groin lymph nodes (glands) on one or both sides. It may also affect lymph nodes around the rectum in those who have anal sex.
  • drainage through the skin from lymph nodes in groin
  • blood or pus from the rectum, or blood in your shit
  • painful bowel movements
  • diarrhea and lower abdominal pain

Women may develop swelling of the labia (lips of the vulva) or abnormal connections, called fistulas, between the vagina and rectum. There are three stages of infection and symptoms vary depending on which part of the body is infected

Stage one: A small painless blister or sore appears where the infection first entered the body. This may go unnoticed.

Stage two: Inflamed and swollen lymph glands may then appear in the groin, armpit or neck. Anal infection can cause painful ulcerations, discharge and bleeding. Fever may develop.

Stage three: If left untreated the symptoms can become more severe causing lasting damage to infected tissue and general health. Scarring, swelling and deformity in infected areas has also been reported. Complications of the untreated infection may require surgery. Some people with LGV may not experience any symptoms but they can still pass the infection on to their sexual partners.

LGV can be passed on through anal or vaginal sex, or through the use of sex toys if they are not washed thoroughly or if a new condom is not used on the toy for each sexual partner.

How do I test for LGV?

Tests for LGV can include blood tests, urine samples or swabs from infected areas, urethra, rectum, or other parts of the body, depending on symptoms and types of sex you have. If this sample is found to be positive for chlamydia, the bacteria will have to be checked at a special lab to confirm the strain is LGV.

How is LGV treated?

LGV is treated with a course of antibiotics, usually for three weeks. If you are treated for LGV, we strongly recommend that your sexual partner(s) also get tested and treated before you have sex again.

The late complications of LGV infection may need surgical repair.

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Non-Specific Urethritis (NSU)

What is Non-Specific Urethritis (NSU)?

Urethritis is an inflammation of the urethra which can occur due to various causes hence the condition sometimes being called Non-Specific Urethritis (NSU) or Non-Gonococcal Urethritis (NGU). NSU can be passed on by having sex with someone who has an infection, but it CAN also occur spontaneously without any sexual contact, (such as after a heavy masturbation session when your urethra can become irritated).

How could I get Non-Specific Urethritis (NSU)?

It is possible to get non-specific urethritis and other sexually transmitted infections by having sex with someone who has an infection but has no symptoms.

During unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex, organisms which can cause inflammation can pass into the urethra. Not all cases of non-specific urethritis are caused by having sex and you do not need to have lots of sexual partners.

You cannot get non-specific urethritis from kissing, hugging, sharing baths or towels etc.

How can I avoid getting NSU?

The following measures will help protect you from non-specific urethritis and most other sexually transmitted infections including HIV, gonorrhea and chlamydia. If you have a sexually transmitted infection they will also help prevent you from passing it on to your partner.

  • Use condoms or femidoms for vaginal or anal sex.
  • Avoid sharing sex toys. If you do share them, wash them or cover them with a new condom before anyone else uses them.
  • Another way to help protect yourself against non-specific urethritis is to avoid putting objects, lotions or creams into your urethra.

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What are the symptoms? 

Many people with NSU will not show any signs or symptoms, or they may be so mild they are not noticed. If signs and symptoms do occur they usually show up within 2–4 weeks of contact with an infection, but they can sometimes appear within a day or two (depending on the cause of the inflammation). In mild cases, symptoms may not show up for several months. If you do get signs and symptoms you might notice:

Symptoms in men

  • A white or cloudy discharge from the tip of the penis, usually more noticeable first thing in the morning. Sometimes this discharge is seen only when massaged out of the cock.
  • A burning sensation or pain when you wee.
  • The tip of your cock may appear red, raw and sore.
  • Needing to wee more often

Symptoms in women

In women the symptoms of NSU are less noticeable until the infection spreads from the urethra to the womb and fallopian tubes where they may experience.

  • Pain around the pelvis or lower part of your stomach
  • Unusual vaginal discharge
  • A burning sensation or pain when you wee.
  • Pain during sex

However, since symptoms are not always visible and can be milder than in other infections, it is important that you have a regular sexual health check-up, particularly if you’ve had a number of sexual partners.

How do I get tested for NSU?

It is advisable to get tested at a sexual health clinic if you have or think you might have symptoms

It is important that you don’t delay getting tested if you think you may have an infection but it may be necessary to wait up to two weeks before you can do a test to check for infections such as chlamydia.

How is NSU treated?

Currently, the only effective and clinically approved way to successfully treat non-specific urethritis is through the use of antibiotic medications.

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Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

What is Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)?

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of the female upper genital tract, including the womb, fallopian tubes and ovaries.

PID is a common condition, the disease mainly affects sexually active women between the ages of 15 – 24.

How could I get PID?

Several different types of bacteria can cause PID, including the same bacteria that cause the sexually transmitted infections (STIs) gonorrhea and chlamydia. What commonly occurs is that bacteria first enter the vagina and cause an infection. As time passes, this infection can move into the pelvic organs.

How can I avoid getting PID?

You can reduce your risk of PID by using condoms with new sexual partners until they’ve had a sexual health check. (Chlamydia is very common in young men, and most don’t have any symptoms).

What are the symptoms? 

PID often doesn’t cause any obvious symptoms.

Most women have mild symptoms that may include one or more of the following:

  • Pain around the pelvis or lower abdomen (tummy)
  • Discomfort or pain during sex that’s felt deep inside the pelvis
  • Pain during urination
  • Bleeding between periods and after sex
  • Heavy periods
  • Painful periods
  • Unusual vaginal discharge, especially if it’s yellow or green

Some women can become very ill with severe lower abdominal pain, a high temperature (fever) and nausea and vomiting.

It’s important to visit your GP or a sexual health clinic if you experience any of the above symptoms.

If you have severe pain, you should seek urgent medical attention from your GP or local A&E department

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How do I get tested for PID?

Unfortunately, there is no simple test to diagnose PID. It is diagnosed based on your symptoms and a gynaecological examination, your symptoms and the finding of tenderness on a vaginal (internal) examination along with the results of a swab test taken from your vagina and cervix (neck of the womb) can support a diagnosis.

How is it treated?

If diagnosed at an early stage, PID can be treated with a course of antibiotics, which usually lasts for 14 days. You’ll be given a mixture of antibiotics to cover the most likely infections, and often an injection as well as tablets.

It’s important to complete the whole course and avoid having sex during this time to help ensure the infection clears.

Your recent sexual partners also need to be tested and treated to stop the infection recurring or being spread to others.

If the condition is left untreated it can lead to more serious, long-term complications such as

  • PID can sometimes cause collections of infected fluid calledabscesses to develop, most commonly in the fallopian tubes and ovaries.
  • Long-term pelvic pain some women with PID develop long-term (chronic) pain around their pelvis and lower abdomen
  • Ectopic pregnancy an ectopic pregnancy is when a fertilised egg implants itself outside of the womb, usually in one of the fallopian tubes.
  • Infertility as well as increasing your risk of having an ectopic pregnancy, scarring or abscesses in the fallopian tubes can make it difficult for you to get pregnant if eggs can’t pass easily into the womb.

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Pubic Lice (Crabs)

What are Pubic Lice (Crabs)? 

Pubic lice are tiny parasitic insects that live on coarse human body hair, such as pubic hair.

As well as being found in pubic hair, the lice are also sometimes found in:

  • underarm and leg hair
  • hair on the chest, abdomen and back
  • facial hair, such as beards and moustaches
  • eyelashes and eyebrows (very occasionally)

Unlike head lice, pubic lice don’t live in scalp hair.

How could I get Pubic Lice?

Pubic lice are spread through close bodily contact, most commonly sexual contact.  Pubic lice aren’t related to poor personal hygiene. They’re usually spread through close bodily contact with an infected person.  The lice crawl from hair to hair, but can’t fly or jump. They need human blood to survive, so will only leave the body to move from one person to another.  The most common way pubic lice are spread is through sexual contact, including vaginal, anal and oral sex. Using condoms and other methods of barrier contraception doesn’t protect you against pubic lice.  Other types of close bodily contact, such as hugging and kissing, can also spread the lice.  It’s also possible – though less common – for pubic lice to be spread through sharing clothes, towels and bedding.

How can I avoid getting Pubic lice?

Because Pubic Lice are usually spread by direct skin-to-skin intimate contact. Avoid contact with known infected people and textiles or clothing that may have been infested by someone who is infected with pubic lice. To avoid spreading the lice, a person with crabs should not have close or intimate contact with anyone else until the infestation has been fully treated.

What are the symptoms of pubic lice?

After getting pubic lice, it can take several weeks before any symptoms appear. Symptoms are the same for men and women and include:

  • itching in the affected areas
  • inflammation and irritation caused by scratching
  • black powder in your underwear
  • blue spots or small spots of blood on your skin, such as on your thighs or lower abdomen (caused by lice bites)

Itching is the most common symptom of pubic lice and is an allergic reaction to their saliva. The itching is usually worse at night, when the lice are most active.  Adult pubic lice are very small (2mm long) and aren’t easy to see. They’re a yellow-grey or dusky red colour and have six legs.  Pubic lice are sometimes known as crabs because they have two large front legs that look like the claws of a crab. These are used to hold onto the base of hairs.  The lice lay their eggs (nits) in sacs that are stuck firmly to hairs and are a pale brownish colour. When the eggs hatch, the empty egg sacs are white.  Although pubic lice and lice eggs are small and difficult to see, they may be visible in coarse hair anywhere on your body (apart from hair on your head).

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How do I get tested for Pubic Lice?

Pubic lice are usually easy to diagnose by examining the affected area. The doctor or nurse may use a magnifying glass to look for signs of the lice, such as pale-coloured eggs or the lice themselves.

How is it treated?

Pubic lice can be treated at home with insecticide cream, lotion or shampoo. Your GP, pharmacist or sexual health clinic can advise you about which treatment to use and how to use it. It’s important to follow their advice.

Some treatments only need to be applied to the affected area, but sometimes the whole body must be treated, taking care to avoid the eyes. The treatment usually needs to be repeated after three to seven days.

If the treatment doesn’t work, you may need to use another type. This is because pubic lice can develop resistance to some treatments. Your GP, pharmacist or sexual health clinic will be able to advise you about suitable alternatives.

To prevent re-infestation, anyone you’ve had close bodily contact with, including any sexual partners you’ve had in the past three months, should also be treated, even if they don’t have symptoms.

Certain groups, such as young people under 18 years of age and pregnant or breastfeeding women, may require a specific type of treatment. Ask your GP or pharmacist for further advice about this.

  • Sexual partners should be treated at the same time as the case.
  • wash bedding, all clothing including night clothes and bath towels used while infestation was present on a hot wash above temperature of 50C.
  • testing to exclude other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is advisable as people infested with pubic lice will have another sexually transmitted infection.
  • After treatment has been completed, ensure that all clothing and linens have been thoroughly cleaned to avoid re-infection or spread of the infection to someone else in the home.

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Scabies

What is Scabies?

Scabies is an itchy skin condition caused by a parasitic mite – the scabies mite – which lives on the skin and burrows into it.

How could I get Scabies?

Scabies can be passed from one person to another through close skin-to-skin contact. The skin-to-skin contact however needs to be for a reasonable time to catch the mite (usually at least 15-20 minutes) and most cases of scabies are thought to be caught from prolonged skin to skin contact with an infected person (the hands are the most common site to be first affected).

Close skin-to-skin contact when having sex with someone is a common way of catching scabies. The mites live in skin and can survive away from the host human for about 24-36 hours

It can take up to eight weeks for the symptoms of scabies to appear after the initial infection. This is known as the incubation period.

How can I avoid getting Scabies?

You are unlikely to catch scabies from an infected person by casual short contact such as a handshake or a hug. You are also unlikely to catch scabies from bedding and towels unless you share them or use them immediately after being used by someone with scabies. However, just in case, it is best to treat bedding and towels by hot washing.

What are the signs/symptoms of Scabies? 

  • Itching. This is the main symptom of scabies. This is often severe and tends to be in one place at first (often the hands), and then spreads to other areas. The itch is generally worse at night and after a hot bath. You can itch all over, even with only a few mites, and even in the areas where the mites are not present.
  • Mite tunnels (burrows). These may be seen on the skin as fine, dark, or silvery lines about 2-10 mm long. They most commonly occur in the loose skin between the fingers (the web spaces), the inner surface of the wrists, and the hands. However, they can occur on any part of the skin. You may not notice the burrows until a rash or itch develops.
  • Rash.  The rash usually appears soon after the itch starts. It is typically a blotchy, lumpy red rash that can appear anywhere on the body. The rash is often most obvious on the inside of the thighs, parts of the tummy (abdomen) and buttocks, armpits, and around the nipples in women. The appearance of the rash is often typical. However, some people develop unusual rashes which may be confused with other skin conditions.
  • Scratching. Scratching due to intense itching can cause minor skin damage. In some cases, the damaged skin becomes infected by other germs (bacteria). This is a secondary skin infection. If skin becomes infected with bacteria it becomes red, inflamed, hot, and tender.
  • Aggravation of pre-existing skin conditions. Scabies can worsen the symptoms of other skin conditions, particularly itchy skin problems such as eczema, or problems such as psoriasis. Scabies can be more difficult to diagnose in these situations too.

Note: the itch and rash of scabies are due to a reaction (allergy) to the mites (or their saliva, feaces or eggs). Scabies symptoms usually take 2-6 weeks to occur after you are first infected. The itch and rash can develop on any part of the skin, away from where the mites are actually burrowing. This means that you are infectious and can spread scabies before you even know you have scabies.

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How do I get tested for Scabies?

Your GP can diagnose you if you think you have scabies. If you think you have genital scabies or your partner has been diagnosed with it, visit a sexual health clinic, where you’ll be examined and, if necessary, treated. Scabies will usually be diagnosed just by looking at the rash which a doctor will often be able to recognise via typical appearance.

The burrows of scabies mites can be identified by using an ink test. Ink is rubbed around an area of itchy skin before being wiped off with an alcohol pad. If scabies burrows are present, some of the ink will remain and will have tracked into the burrows, showing up as a dark line.

To confirm the diagnosis, a skin sample may be gently scraped from the affected area so it can be examined under a microscope for evidence of scabies mites, their eggs and feaces.

How is Scabies treated?

Scabies is curable.

Various treatments are available but none will completely get rid of the itching immediately. The most common treatment is the application of an insecticide cream. Treatment decisions must be made in consultation with your medical provider as these medications are only available by prescription. If more than one person is infected, the clinician may be able to prescribe for those close contacts as well.

The cream should usually be left on for eight hours and re-applied to hands and under fingernails if they have been washed during that eight hours. The cream is then showered off after eight to fourteen hours and only clean towels, linens and clothes should be used. Itching may persist for several weeks after treatment due to a hypersensitivity reaction and does not mean the scabies are still alive and require more insecticidal cream.

Cleaning of clothing and bedding which might have been infested should be done on a hot wash to eliminate all the mites. Daily hot baths, and scrubbing with soap and water will NOT cure a scabies infestation. Insecticide cream must be used.

Note: you will still be itchy for a while after successful treatment. It is normal to take up to 2-3 weeks (and sometimes up to six weeks) for the itch to go completely after the mites have been killed by treatment

See a doctor if the itch persists longer than 2-3 weeks after treatment. Sometimes the first treatment does not work, and a different one is then needed. The most common reasons why treatment fails, and scabies returns (recurs), are:

  • The cream or lotion is not applied correctly for the recommended time.
  • A close contact is not treated at the same time, and the infection is passed back.

Even after successful treatment, in a small number of cases, there may remain some itchy brownish-red lumps (nodules) up to 2 cm in diameter. If these remain, they most commonly occur on the genitals and armpits. These lumps are neither infectious, nor mean that the mite is still present. They occur in some cases as a prolonged skin reaction to the scabies mite. If they occur, they usually go within three months, but occasionally last up to one year.

As Itching can be a distressing symptom you could speak to your GP or pharmacist who can usually give advice regarding suitable products such as creams or lotions) that can help. Avoid applying strong steroid creams, especially if the diagnosis of scabies is uncertain.

How to prevent re-infection and spread of Scabies

Scabies keeps recurring in patients who do not take all the precautions as instructed.

To avoid re-infection, anybody who has scabies along with all household members, close contacts, and sleeping/sexual partners of the affected person (even those with no symptoms) should be treated at the same time. This is because it can take up to six weeks to develop symptoms after you become infected. Close contacts may be infected, but have no symptoms, and may pass on the mite thereby keeping its lifecycle alive.

The treatment for all the family members should be started at one time in order to control the spread of the infection. Only when the life cycle of the mite is broken, can it be eradicated.

Noteeveryone who is treated should be treated at the same time – that is, on the same day.

 

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Shigella

What is Shigella?

Shigella is an infectious bacterial infection. It is often a cause of food poisoning but can easily be passed on during sex.

How could I get shigella?

From coming into contact with feaces (shit). You can get it from having sex with someone who has it, especially from rimming, but also from fisting, fingering or sharing of sex toys and douches, and even by handling used condoms as it’s easy to get tiny bits of shit on your hands and then to get that in your mouth.

You can also get it from drinking contaminated water or by eating unwashed contaminated food. Recently, shigella has become more common in men who have sex with men. Transmission of shigella seems to be more common amongst men with men. You only need to get a tiny amount of the bacteria in your mouth to start feeling sick.

How can I avoid getting shigella?

It’s important to wash your hands regularly, especially after going to the toilet and during or after sex. To reduce the likelihood of infection use gloves for fisting and condoms for fucking or sharing toys and wash your hands or shower after having sex. Don’t share sex toys or douching equipment. If you are having bareback sex, avoid sucking cock after it’s been up yours or someone else’s arse in order to avoid the bacteria getting into your mouth. If you have been diagnosed with shigella, avoid having sex until you have fully recovered so that you can reduce the risk of passing it on to your partners.

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What are the symptoms? 
Symptoms of shigella typically start one to four days after exposure and include:

  • Diarrhoea (sometimes bloody)
  • Fever
  • Abdominal pain
  • Tenesmus (a painful sensation of needing to shit even when bowels are empty)

How do I test for Shigella?

Best to go to your GP or sexual health clinic for a stool (shit) sample test. Explain that you might have picked up a gut infection from sex, possibly shigella. The doctor needs to know this so you get the right tests and treatment. A full sexual health check-up is also a good idea.

How is it treated?

Some people will recover with no complications within a week or 10 days but in some cases, especially if you have severe and/or bloody diarrhoea, you may need to take antibiotics.

If you have HIV it is especially important to get tested and treated as soon as possible.

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Syphilis

What is syphilis?

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a bacterial infection.

How could I get syphilis?

Syphilis can be passed from one person to another during sex and by direct skin contact with someone who has syphilis sores or rash. It is transmitted by having unprotected sex and oral sex but can also be passed on through rimming, fisting and even through skin to skin contact* (*this is rare).

How can I avoid getting syphilis?

Oral syphilis is on the increase through unprotected oral sex. You can reduce risks by using condoms or dams for oral sex and rimming. Sucking cock carries a risk even if he doesn’t cum in your mouth.

 

What are the symptoms?

Syphilis can develop in three stages:

  • primary syphilis
  • secondary syphilis
  • tertiary syphilis

Many people do not have any symptoms in the early stages. If you do get symptoms, you might notice the following:

Primary syphilis

  • One or more sores on the genital area, or in the mouth if you had oral sex. Often the sores are painless.
  • The sores of primary stage syphilis are very infectious and may take two to six weeks to heal.

Secondary syphilis

If untreated, the secondary stage usually occurs some weeks later. The symptoms include:

  • A painless rash that is not normally itchy. It can spread all over the body and is often seen on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet
  • Flat, warty-looking growths on the vulva in women and around the anus in both men and women (often mistaken for genital warts)
  • A flu-like illness, tiredness and loss of appetite, with swollen glands (this can last for weeks or months)
  • White patches on the tongue or roof of the mouth
  • Patchy hair loss

Tertiary syphilis

When syphilis remains untreated it sometimes goes into another phase known as tertiary syphilis after many years. This is when the syphilis starts to cause very serious damage to the heart, brain, eyes and nervous system. At this stage syphilis can be life-threatening.

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How do I get tested for Syphilis?

Testing for syphilis can be done by blood test.

If you have sores or an ulcer a swab can also be tested.

Your sexual partner(s) should also be tested.

How is it treated?

Treated early enough syphilis is curable causing no permanent damage. Even at tertiary stage syphilis is still curable, but any damage caused by the syphilis bacteria may be unrepairable. Symptoms are easy to miss, so it’s worth having regular sexual health check-ups, including blood tests for syphilis, if you are sexually active and especially if you have unprotected (bareback, raw) sex with new partners.

Syphilis can be cured by a course of penicillin injections, or by taking a course of antibiotics.

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Trichomonas Vaginalis (TV)

What is Trichomonas Vaginalis (TV)?

Trichomonas vaginalis is a common sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a tiny parasite called Trichomonas Vaginalis (TV) that infects the vagina and urethra in women and the urethra in men

How could I get TV?

This parasite can be spread by having unprotected sex – vulva to vulva or penis to vagina with a person who is infected. It can also be spread by sharing sex toys if you don’t wash them adequately or if you haven’t covered them with a new condom before each use or if sharing. Anyone who is sexually active can catch the infection and pass it on.

How can I avoid getting TV?

Using a condom and covering any sex toys you use with a condom, and washing sex toys after use is the best way to stop the infection from spreading from one person to another.

What are the symptoms? 

Symptoms can take up a month to show and in some show no symptoms. If symptoms do develop they will usually present as:

For Women:

  • Abnormal vaginal discharge that may be thick, thin or frothy and yellow-green in colour
  • Noticing more discharge than normal, which may also have an unpleasant “fishy” smell
  • Uncomfortable symptoms around the vagina such as soreness, persistent itching and swelling, you might also notice some itching on the inner thighs.
  • Difficulties when weeing or having sex such as pain or discomfort.

For Men

  • Pain when weeing or when you cum.
  • Needing to wee more frequently than usual
  • Discharge from the cock that is usually thin and white
  • Redness, swelling and soreness around the head of the cock or foreskin

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How do I get tested for T V?

You will require a physical examination at a sexual health clinic. The doctor or nurse may need to take a swab from either the vagina or cock. The swab will then be analysed in a laboratory to check for signs of the TV infection. It may take several days for the results to come back. A urine sample can also be tested for TV.

How is it treated?

Trichomonas can be easily treated with antibiotics. If you are diagnosed with TV, it’s important that a partner is also treated before you have sex again.

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Related Reading

HIV Awareness for World AIDS Day 2016
Sexual Health Week 2016 – Trans Sexual Health
Sexual Health Week 2016 – Lesbian and Bisexual Women’s Sexual Health