Today (10th October) marks the first day of Sexual Health Week, a national campaign designed to raise awareness around the importance of good sexual health, especially among young people.
Running from 10th-16th October, Sexual Health Week is organised by Brook; a registered charity dedicated to ensuring young people can enjoy healthy relationships, explore their identities, and lead happy, healthy lives.
The theme this year is ‘Breaking Barriers’; amplifying the voices of people who face barriers to sexual health and wellbeing services
As a leading laboratory offering a broad range of STI/STD tests, we stand by the ethos of Sexual Health Week, believing that everyone should have fair and equal access to sexual health services when they need them.
In this blog, we look at the benefits of regular STI/STD testing, why regular sexual health checks are important, and which infections you should get tested for depending on your circumstances.
What are sexually transmitted infections (STIs)?
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), sometimes referred to as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), are infections spread by bacteria, viruses, or parasites, usually through sexual contact.
They are commonly passed from person-to-person via semen or vaginal fluids during oral, vaginal, or anal sex.
However, certain infections can also be spread by skin-to-skin contact (e.g. herpes) or blood (e.g. HIV and Hepatitis B).
Although the only sure-fire way to prevent STIs is to abstain from sexual activity, there are many precautions you can take if you want to maintain an active sex life, while reducing your risk of contracting an infection.
- Having regular STI/STD tests to ensure you remain in good health
- Being open and honest with partners about your sexual history
- Using condoms: this creates a barrier between you and your partner, and can help prevent the spread of infections
- Limiting the number of people you have sex with
- Getting vaccinated against infections such as the human papillomavirus (HPV) and hepatitis B
- Avoiding having sex if you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Being intoxicated can significantly impact your ability to make decisions, and increase risk-taking behaviour
Why is regular STI/STD testing important?
Getting tested regularly for STIs is one of the most important steps you can take to ensure you and your partner(s) remain in good health.
The majority of STIs are symptomless, meaning that many people with an infection often do not know that they have one. This means these types of infections are often unwittingly spread to other people.
Worse still, if left untreated, many STIs/STDs can cause long-lasting or permanent damage to your health (e.g. infertility and chronic pain).
Even if you are not experiencing symptoms, you should consider getting an STI test if any of the following apply to you:
- You engage in unprotected sex (or have in the past)
- You and/or your partner(s) have multiple sexual partners
- You and/or your partner(s) engage in drug use before/during sex – this is because the use of drugs can impact your immune system, making you more vulnerable to infection
- You’ve met someone new and want to be sure you’re both healthy before beginning a physical relationship
Whatever your circumstances, regular sexual health checks can help put your mind at rest or enable you to seek the correct treatment before your symptoms get worse, or you are left with any long-lasting damage to your health.
How often should you get tested for STIs?
How often you get tested and which STIs you are tested for depends on your age, gender, risk factors, and how sexually active you are.
- If you’re a man who’s sexually active, you should be tested every 3-6 months for gonorrhoea, chlamydia, HIV, and syphilis
- Women having regular sex with multiple partners – especially if unprotected – should be tested once a year for gonorrhoea and chlamydia
- Pregnant women should be tested for HIV, hepatitis B and syphilis, as well as chlamydia and gonorrhoea
- If you are in a high-risk category and/or engage in frequent sexual activity with multiple partners, you should have a comprehensive sexual health check every 3-6 months
At the very least, anyone having regular sex (especially if unprotected) should have a comprehensive sexual health check at least once a year.
This should include a test such as our 7-panel STI test, which tests for some of the most common pathogens in the UK, and a blood test.
AlphaBiolabs offers four different blood testing packages to choose from, with each requiring a blood sample to be collected using a small, finger-prick lancet device:
For further guidance on sexual health testing, you can also visit https://www.sexwise.org.uk/.
Where can I order an STI test online?
Thanks to advances in medical science, and innovation from laboratories like AlphaBiolabs, it’s never been easier to order a discreet, reliable STI/STD test online.
Our range of at-home STI testing kits have been specifically designed with our customers in mind, so you can collect your samples quickly and easily at home, before returning them to our laboratory for testing.
Simply order the test you need from just £29, and we will ship your kit out to you immediately in discreet, plain packaging.
Your confidential test results will be emailed to you in 2-4 working days, depending on which test you have ordered.
Need advice on which test is best for you? Call our friendly, knowledgeable Customer Services team on 0333 600 1300 or email email@example.com.
You can also get involved in the conversation this Sexual Health Week using the hashtag #SHW22 and tagging Brook on Twitter (@BrookCharity), Facebook (@BrookCharityYP) and Instagram (@brook_sexpositive).
Order an STI test
At-home STI testing you can trust, from just £29