What is a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STD)?

Some infections can pass to another person through unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex, by genital contact and through sharing sex toys. Infections spread in this way are known as sexually transmitted infections.

Safer sex involves using condoms correctly every time you have sex. If you don’t use a condom you are more at risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection.

You don’t need to have lots of sexual partners to get an infection.

How Do STDs Increase HIV Risk?

STDs increase a person’s risk of acquiring HIV in one of two ways.

  • They can cause lesions on the skin, making it easier for HIV to enter the body. STDs that increase HIV risk in this way include:
    • Syphilis
    • Chancroid
    • Herpes
  • They can cause inflammation, which is triggered by the immune system. Since HIV prefers to infect immune cells, any disease that causes an increase in these cells also will make it easier for a person to become infected with HIV. STDs that increase HIV risk in this way include:
    • Gonorrhea
    • Chlamydia
    • Trichomoniasis

Of course, many STDs increase a person’s susceptibility to HIV in both ways. It is therefore extremely important for anyone who has an STD to be treated. It can help to protect their long-term health. As can, unsurprisingly, practicing safer sex. Reliably, and properly, using condoms for all sexual activity will greatly reduce an individual’s risk of acquiring HIV.

How will I know if I have an infection?

Not everyone who has a sexually transmitted infection has signs and/or symptoms. Sometimes these don’t appear for weeks or months and sometimes they go away, but you can still have the infection and pass it on to someone else.

If you experience any of the following you should seek advice:

  • Unusual discharge from the vagina
  • Discharge from the penis
  • Pain or burning when you pass urine
  • Itches, rashes, lumps or blisters around the genitals or anus
  • Pain and/or bleeding during sex
  • Bleeding between periods (including women who are using hormonal contraception)
  • Bleeding after sex
  • Pain in the testicles
  • Pain in the lower abdomen

Even if you don’t have any signs and/or symptoms you may wish to seek advice if:

  • You have had unprotected sex with a new partner recently
  • You or a sexual partner have sex with other people without using a condom
  • A sexual partner has any symptoms
  • You are planning a pregnancy and may have been at risk of infection

Can they be treated?

Most sexually transmitted infections can be treated and it is usually best if treatment is started as soon as possible.

Some infections, such as HIV, genital warts and genital herpes, never leave the body but there are drugs available that can reduce the symptoms. Drugs can also help prevent or delay the development of complications in HIV.

If left untreated, many sexually transmitted infections can be painful or uncomfortable, and can permanently damage your health and fertility, and can be passed on to someone else.

Where can I go if I am worried I might have an infection?

You can get all tests and treatments at a GUM or sexual health clinic. General practices, contraception clinics, young people’s services and some pharmacies may also provide testing for some infections. If they can’t provide what you need, they will be able to give you details of the nearest service that can.

All advice, information and tests are free, but if you go to a general practice you may have to pay a prescription charge for any treatment.

Our Comprehensive Range of STD Screens & Tests As well as offering individual HIV and STD tests, We also offers a comprehensive set of health screens, which let you test for a selected range of infections from a single blood or urine sample. A selection of our most popular STD screens are shown below:

Hepatitis Screen

Hepatitis A
Hepatitis B
Hepatitis C
Our Hepatitis screen is for people who have a particular concern about Hepatitis.
Click below For Full Specifications

Blemish Screen

Herpes 1 and 2
This screen will take a swab of your blemish to see if it caused by one of the STIs we test for
Click below For Full Specifications

Cervical Screen

PAP Smear
Our Cervical Screen is available for women of any age, including under the age of 25, who are worried about cervical cancer.
Click below For Full Specifications

Platinum Screen

Click below For Full Specifications

Comfort Screen

Herpes 1 and 2
Click below For Full Specifications

Peace of Mind

Our Peace of Mind Screen is for people who want to know about common infections from 14 days after any incident they are concerned about.
Click below For Full Specifications

Early Detection

Hepatitis B
Hepatitis C
Our Early Detection Screen is the earliest accredited test for HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C available in the UK.
Click below For Full Specifications



How will I be tested for sexually transmitted infections?

Tests for both men and women may include:

  • An examination of your genitals, mouth, anus and skin to look for obvious signs of infection
  • Testing a sample of your urine
  • Having blood taken
  • Taking swabs from the urethra (tube where you urinate) and any sores or blisters
  • Taking swabs from the throat and the rectum. This is less common.

In women the tests might also include:

  • Taking swabs from the vagina and cervix (entrance to the uterus)
  • Having an internal examination.

What will I be tested for?

You will not automatically be tested for all infections. All tests are optional and should only be done with your permission. Sometimes you will get the results straightaway, and sometimes you will have to wait. The service will explain how you will get the results.

You can also contact our office for information about sexually transmitted infections.

How can I protect myself against sexually transmitted infections?

  • Use male or female condoms every time you have vaginal or anal sex.
  • If you have oral sex, cover the penis with a condom or the female genitals and male or female anus with a latex or polyurethane square.
  • Avoid sharing sex toys. If you do share them, wash them or cover them with a new condom before anyone else uses them.


This website can only give you basic information about sexually transmitted infections. Remember – contact us if you are worried or unsure about anything.