“Being sexually healthy isn’t hard, it just means that you are looking after yourself, protecting yourself and respecting your sexual partners, and are aware of all the pitfalls. Poor sexual health can cause harm to you and the people you have sex with, not just physically but sometimes mentally as well. For sexually healthy people sex is safe, enjoyable, and based on mutual respect and agreement.”
Being sexual healthy you will avoid infections and illnesses, you’ll be protecting yourself and others, both emotionally and physically. Sexual health is just as important as overall health, so by being sexually healthy you are making the best decisions for yourself with regard to you sexual partners and your sexual practice.
Having unprotected penetrative sex is the most likely way to pass on or contract a STI (Sexually transmitted Infection)
Using a condom helps protect against HIV and cuts the risk of getting many other STIs. Condoms are supplied FREE by many sexual health services across the UK but sometimes can be difficult to access or embarrassing. If you live in Blackpool or Lancashire you can get free condoms and lube through the post from Renaissance by visiting their site www.druglinelancs.co.uk/postalcondoms or you can visit our SHOP here.
A recent survey of gay and bisexual men by the organisation Stonewall revealed that one in three men had never had an HIV test, and one in four had never been tested for any STI.
Recent statistics from Public Health England (PHE) have revealed an increase in both syphilis and gonorrhoea. More than 70% of the 39,000 new cases of gonorrhoea in 2015 were in men who have sex with men (MSM).
We recommend that if you regularly engage in unprotected sex and/or change your partners regularly, that you have a regular check-up at a sexual health clinic every 3 to 6 months. It’s very important also to remember that all STI’s including HIV can be present without showing any symptoms.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus or HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system and weakens your ability to fight infections and disease. It is most commonly caught by having anal sex without using a condom. HIV can also be passed by sharing needles.
There is no cure for HIV but treatments are available to manage the condition and enable most people to live a long and happy life.
AIDS is the final stage of HIV infection, when your body can no longer fight life-threatening infections. With early diagnosis and effective treatment, most people with HIV will not go on to develop AIDS.
The best way to protect you from HIV is by using condoms for anal sex. It is possible to spread the virus through oral sex and sharing sex toys, although the chances of this happening are very low. It is estimated you have a 1 in 5,000 chance of contracting the virus if you give oral sex to someone that is already infected and not on medication.
HIV Is changing all the time, please read more info on Treatment as Prevention, PEP and PrEP
Hepatitis A is a liver infection that’s spread by a virus in faeces (poo).
It is spread mainly through contaminated food or poor hand-washing, but also passes on easily through sex, including oral-anal sex (“rimming”) and giving oral sex after anal sex. Gay and bisexual men with multiple partners are particularly at risk.
Symptoms of hepatitis A can appear up to eight weeks after sex, and include tiredness and nausea.
Hepatitis A is not usually life-threatening and most people make a full recovery within a couple of months.
Men can avoid getting hepatitis A by:
- washing hands after sex (ideally buttocks, groin and penis too)
- changing condoms between anal and oral sex
- using latex gloves for fisting
- not sharing sex toys
If you think you might have hepatitis A, or have any questions, visit a sexual health clinic or GP. The hepatitis A vaccine is available for people travelling to countries where the disease is common as well as for men that have sex with men.
Hepatitis B is a viral infection that causes inflammation of the liver. It often doesn’t cause any obvious symptoms but can lead to a persistent infection. This can eventually cause serious liver disease, including cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Hepatitis B is spread through contact with an infected person’s blood or body fluids. Men who have sex with men (MSM) are at risk of hepatitis B but they can be protected by the hepatitis B vaccination.
Vaccination for MSM is available from sexual health clinics, genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics or from GPs.
Hepatitis C is a viral infection that causes inflammation of the liver. It often doesn’t cause any obvious symptoms, but can lead to a persistent infection. This can eventually cause serious liver disease, including cirrhosis and liver cancer.
It is spread through contact with an infected person’s blood or body fluids. Men who are concerned they are at risk should consult their doctor or sexual health clinic.
Hepatitis C can be treated and is curable in many cases.
Gonorrhoea (‘the clap’)
This bacterial infection can cause stinging when urinating or the feeling that you want to urinate but can’t. It’s passed on through anal, oral or vaginal sex with an infected person.
It is important to remember that gonorrhoea can be present without any symptoms but however those that can show include a yellow/green discharge from the penis and pain or discomfort when going to the toilet to pee.
Gonorrhoea is treated with antibiotics.
This is a bacterial infection of the urethra, rectum or throat. There may be a discharge and pain when passing urine, or pain in the testicles (although chlamydia can be symptom-free).
It can be passed on during sex with an infected person in the same way as gonorrhoea and NSU. It’s treated with antibiotics.
It is very important when speaking to a clinician that you are clear about the type of sex that you have been having because Oral, Anal and Penile Chlamydia all need treating in different ways. If you do not get the correct medication the STI will return again and again
This is a bacterial infection of the intestine that causes severe diarrhoea and stomach cramps. It is often mistaken for food poisoning.
It can be caught during sexual activity, including anal-oral sex (“rimming”) and giving oral sex after anal sex. It is spread very easily – all it takes is a tiny amount of infected poo (faeces) getting into your mouth.
A person with shigella can be infectious for up to a month. It can be treated with antibiotics. Men who suspect they have shigella should visit their GP or sexual health clinic to get tested.
Men can avoid getting shigella by washing hands after sex (buttocks, groin and penis too, if you can by taking a shower), and changing condoms between anal and oral sex.
Using latex gloves for fingering or fisting offers protection. And don’t share sex toys or douching equipment.
Genital herpes is a viral infection. Symptoms can include painful blisters and ulcers on or around the penis or anus, although some men have no symptoms.
The virus remains in the body and can cause recurrent episodes of blisters.
Genital herpes can be passed on through oral sex with someone with a cold sore around or in their mouth, or by close, skin-to-skin genital contact with someone who has genital herpes.
Antiviral tablets can help the healing process. A GP or sexual health clinic can prescribe treatment.
Syphilis is a bacterial infection that causes a painless ulcer, usually in the genital area but sometimes also found in the mouth.
The ulcer will disappear on its own but other symptoms may appear, such as a rash on the body and swollen glands.
In its early stages, syphilis is very infectious and can be passed on by close skin contact during sex. If it’s left untreated for years, it can spread to the brain, the heart, or other parts of the body and cause serious, long-term problems.
Treatment is with antibiotic injections or tablets.
This is a common viral infection that appears a few weeks or months after sex with an infected person. It can cause small fleshy growths, on or around the head of the penis, around the anus and also other genital areas.
The sooner warts are treated the easier they are to deal with. You can’t treat genital warts with the same cream you use for warts on the hands. A doctor or sexual health clinic can freeze them or prescribe a cream to help remove them.
There is now a vaccine available for Men that have sex with men. The HPV Vaccine has been in place for girls since 2008, but is now available for Men through all sexual health clinics throughout England.
Pubic lice (‘crabs’)
Public lice (also known as ‘crabs’) are small, parasitic insects that live in body hair. They are the most common STI .
They only grow to pinhead size so can be difficult to spot, although their tiny dark eggs can be seen stuck to hair.
Pubic lice prefer pubic hair (hair around your testicles and anus) but can also be found in body hair (but not head hair). The lice are transmitted by skin to skin contact but can also be picked up from clothes, towels and bedding. Symptoms include itching or a rash.
Treatment can be done at home with lotions or creams bought at a chemist (no prescription is needed). Some people choose to shave off their pubic hair to get rid of ‘crabs’. This dones not work and you will still need to treat the area with a cream or a lotion. If you are too embarrassed to buy something over the counter you can also get treatments online in the form of a lice-killing lotion containing 1% permethrin or a mousse containing pyrethrins and piperonyl butoxide
This is an infection caused by tiny mites that burrow under the skin. It causes intense itching for most people (though some hardly notice it).
Itching usually starts two or more weeks after sex with an infected person. You can get scabies from sharing beds and towels, but this is less common.
Treatment is similar to treating pubic lice (see above), although you may continue to itch for a few weeks after the mites have been eradicated.
If you have any of the symptoms above or are worried you may have an STI, speak to your GP or visit a Sexual Health Clinic. Find a sexual health clinic close to you HERE.