Even though the summer is nearly over, it’s important that people keep themselves safe and don’t have unprotected sex on holiday or at home to avoid getting an unwanted sexually transmitted infection (STI) or pregnant unintentionally.
The latest figures from 2013 in England show just over 446,000 new cases of STIs were diagnosed. The two most commonly diagnosed infections were chlamydia (208,000) and genital warts (73,000).
In 2013 across North Lincolnshire, over 1,100 new cases of STIs were diagnosed. Of those, the most common were chlamydia (707) and genital warts (207).
Unprotected sex can lead to an STI or an unintended pregnancy. It is important that you protect yourself and find out where to go for help if you need it.
If you had unprotected sex, remember that not everybody who gets an STI has symptoms. Research suggests that around 50 per cent of men and 75 per cent of women don’t get any symptoms at all with a chlamydia infection.
Most people who are infected with HIV experience a short flu-like illness that occurs two to six weeks after infection. After this, HIV often causes no symptoms for several years.
Therefore, it is important to get yourself checked out after you’ve had unprotected sex and don’t delay. If you have come back from holiday and are worried that you may be pregnant or have an STI, you can get checked at:
A genitourinary medicine (GUM) or sexual health clinic
A community contraception clinic
Dr Margaret Sanderson, local GP and chair of North Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said it’s important to face up to it and get checked out if you have slipped up and had unprotected sex with someone who is not your regular partner, either at home or away.
“People are still very embarrassed talking about STIs but if you’ve had unprotected sex and picked up an infection then you’re at risk of health problems and likely to pass this infection to someone else,” said Dr Sanderson. “This is one souvenir of your holiday you really don’t want so please, get yourself checked out as soon as possible.”
If you’re abroad, check your travel insurance as it may cover you for tests and treatment for STIs or HIV. Some countries have a good sexual health service but others may not. Depending on where you are, the doctor, hospital or clinic may not do all the appropriate tests.
Try to avoid having injections in developing countries if you can; most antibiotics for STIs can be taken orally. Ask for a copy of your drug leaflet and for details of tests and results, and bring them back with you when you have your check up at home.
Also bear in mind that if you catch a stomach bug, vomiting and diarrhoea can make the contraceptive pill less effective and can therefore put you at risk of pregnancy. By using a condom, you can greatly reduce the risk of pregnancy and STIs, and it’s always better to be prepared than risking unprotected sex.
Councillor Rob Waltham (pictured), cabinet member for health and strategic projects, said: “We always talk about people looking after their health and keeping active, but when it comes to sexual health it is often pushed to the back of people’s minds. When in actual fact, this is something that should be considered the most. It doesn’t matter if you’re at home or on holiday, you should always be prepared and make sure you put your health first to prevent getting any unwanted STIs or having an unintended pregnancy. If you are worried about having an STI or being pregnant there are plenty of places you can go to for advice, visit www.sexualhealthnorthlincs.co.uk.”
For further information about local sexual health services, visit: Sexual health or to phone for advice, call 0300 330 1122.