STIs (sexually transmitted infections) are an easy mood killer to avoid but whether you’re with a long term partner or casually dating you must confront your sexual health.
For men and women alike the risk of sexually transmitted diseases must always be seriously considered and understood when having intercourse.
So what are the most common types of STIs?
Chlamydia (genital chlamydia trachomatis) is a bacterial infection spread through sex or contact with infected genital fluids (semen or vaginal fluid).
Chlamydia is the most common bacterial STI diagnosed in England, accounting for 46.1% of all STIs diagnosed in 2015. Around 70% of infected females and 50% of males will not have any obvious signs or symptoms or they may be so mild they go unnoticed.
HPV (Human Papillomavirus)
HPV, commonly understood as genital warts, is the name for over 100 types of viruses that affect your skin and the moist membranes lining your body. Around 30 types of HPV infection can affect the genital area.
HPV is highly contagious and will most likely spread to every sexually active person at some point.
Herpes is caused by two different but similar viruses: herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). Both can lead to blistering sores around your vulva, vagina, cervix, anus, penis, scrotum, inner thighs, lips, mouth, throat, and in rare cases your eyes.
Herpes is an incredibly common infection that can spread from mere skin-to-skin contact, including areas that a condom doesn’t cover. Currently it’s being claimed that about 70% of the population have been infected by herpes virus or one of its close relatives.
Gonorrhoea is caused by the bacteria Neisseris gonorrhoeae and can cause serious health issues if left untreated, including infertility for both males and females.
While the rates of gonorrhoea diagnosis seemed to decrease between 2005 and 2008, there has been a substantial increase each year since.
There were 3,800 diagnoses among people aged 45 and over in 2015, which is an 18.2% increase on 3,214 diagnoses in 2014.
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)
HIV attacks the body’s immune system, specifically the CD4 cells, often called T cells. Over time, HIV can destroy so many of these cells that the body can’t fight off infections and disease.
The UK has a relatively small HIV epidemic with an estimated 89,400 people living with HIV. The UK has made significant progress in antiretroviral treatment coverage in recent decades. 96% of those diagnosed are now accessing treatment and 94% are virally suppressed.
However, late diagnosis remains a key challenge. In 2016, 42% of diagnoses happened at a late stage of infection.
Syphilis is a chronic bacterial infection that can cause long term organ damage if left untreated. While Syphilis is still not a hugely common STI, diagnoses have dramatically risen in the UK over the past few years.
In 2016, there were 5,920 syphilis diagnoses - an increase of 12 per cent from the previous year (from 5,281 to 5,920) and a 97 per cent rise from 2012 (from 3,001 to 5,920)
Trichomoniasis is the lesser known STI caused by a miniscule parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis.
Trichomoniasis is more common in women than men but is overall quite rare in the UK.