How to stay safe at university: the sexual health edition

Molly Judgeon 15 September 2021

It’s time for you to get clued up on your sexual health with these FAQs.

We all know that our sexual health is important, right? Wrong. Did you know that 56% of students have never had an STI test? Less than a third of university students get tested. So it’s time for you to get clued up on your sexual health. 

Let’s delve into the FAQs.

Why, and when, should you get tested for sexually transmitted infections? 

The NHS recommends that people under the age of 25 get tested for STIs every six months or every time they have a new sexual partner.

Where can you get tested? Is it discreet?

You can get tested at your doctor’s or order a test online. These are free, easy to do and arrive in discreet packaging. Once you complete the tests, simply post them off, and you’ll get a text or email with your results. 

What STIs should I look out for?

The most common STIs are chlamydia, gonorrhoea, trichomoniasis, genital warts, genital herpes, public lice, scabies, syphilis and HPV. Here’s a little info about them.

What is chlamydia?

Chlamydia is the most common and, while most people don’t have symptoms, it can cause pain when urinating, unusual discharge, pain and bleeding for women and swelling for men. If left untreated, it can lead to other health conditions. However, the good news is that treatment is very straightforward: you just need to take a course of antibiotics which may last a day to a week. The best way to prevent the transmission of chlamydia is by using a condom. 

What about gonorrhoea?

Gonorrhoea is the second most common bacterial STI. While it can also be asymptomatic, it can cause discharge and bleeding, especially for women. Again, treatment is straightforward - a course of antibiotics. It can also be prevented by wearing a condom. 

What the heck is trichomoniasis, and how do I know if I have it?

About half of people with trichomoniasis don’t get symptoms, but they can include abnormal discharge, pain or swelling for both men and women. To treat it, you must take antibiotics twice a day for up to a week butprevent it by using a condom.

Do we need to talk about genital herpes?

Yes. Herpes can cause burning, pain, discharge and blisters. It is spread through physical contact, so condoms can help but may not be completely effective if they do not cover the infected areas. Unfortunately, there is no cure for herpes; however, the symptoms do clear up between outbreaks, and you can get medicine or cream for pain relief.

How can I prevent STIs? 

1. Use a condom 

If this article hasn’t made it clear already - prevention is better than cure. Especially when it’s in the form of a condom. If you’re unsure where you can get free contraception, click here

2. Talk to your partner/s

Start an open and honest conversation with your sexual partner/s about their sexual health. Break down the taboo!

3. Don’t just rely on contraception 

Contraception doesn’t protect you from STIs, as your skin will still touch that of your partner’s. If you’re using contraception, such as the pill, the coil or the implant, you’ll be protected against pregnancy, but you could still catch an STI. So double up and use a condom. 

4. Get checked

Like we said, getting an STI check for the most common infections is simple and free, so there’s no excuse. 

5. Be strong 

Be adamant in your decision to use protection with your partner/s. If they don’t respect your decision, then find someone who does. Your sexual health is important, and it’s up to you to take care of it. 

For further information or if you have any concerns, check out the NHS website or speak to your GP. But first, we might be able to clear some things up in our article ‘Everything you need to know about sexual health’, so give it a read

Remember, there is no shame in having STIs – your sexual health is important. 

Molly Judgeon 15 September 2021