Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are on the rise, with a new STI diagnosis in England every 70 seconds, and syphilis cases at their highest level since World War II.
An STI is a health condition and needs to be taken seriously. Leaving an STI untreated can cause serious health issues such as pelvic inflammatory disease swollen or painful testicles, arthritis, infertility and even meningitis.
Somerset is seeing an increase in the numbers of people diagnosed with chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis, as well as a rise of HIV including in older heterosexuals.
A recent investigation* showed that this is not just a problem for the young; STIs in over 65s have increased by more than 40% in the past four years, with a similar increase in over 45s.
Trudi Grant, Director of Public Health at Somerset County Council, said: “In general, sexually transmitted infections are preventable and you can help look after your sexual health by always using a condom when having sex with a male partner, limiting the number of people you have sex with, talking honestly with potential partners about each other’s sexual history and getting tested before having sex with a new partner.
“It doesn’t matter what your age, gender or sexuality, you could be at risk of exposing yourself to an STI. If you have multiple sexual partners or if you have previously had an STI your risk may be increased.
“If you think that you have got an STI, go for a check-up at a sexual health clinic as soon as you can. The earlier you’re tested, the sooner treatment can be given if it’s needed. You should get tested if you or your partner has symptoms, or if you’re worried after having sex without a condom. Many STIs have no symptoms at all, like HIV or chlamydia, so the only way to know for sure is to get tested.
“It’s really important to look after yourself and your sexual health. Many STIs can be cured with antibiotics. Some, such as HIV, have no cure, but can be treated to prevent them from getting worse.
“If you’re anxious about visiting a sexual health clinic, remember everyone there will be too. You can usually turn up without an appointment and you can get the test results quickly and, if you need treatment, you won’t have to pay a prescription fee.
“You don’t need to give your real name or the name of your GP and no information about your visit will be shared with your GP or anyone else outside the clinic unless you ask for it to be.”
For information on safer sex and STIs please visit the Somerset sexual health website at https://swishservices.co.uk/. Here you will also find out about clinic opening times and how to order an online DIY STI testing kit.
*BBC Inside Out West