STI’s are transmitted when there’s sexual contact or skin to skin contact with a person already infected. Most STI’s can be treated with medication but first you need to get tested.
There’s a stigma around STI’s, think about it, have you ever sat with friends and discussed whether you had a STI? It tends to be a subject we keep hidden, private, afraid of the shame associated with it. But why? The lack of conversation around this topic is SUPER damaging to people, especially to young people. There’s a misconception that if you don’t have multiple sexual partners, you don’t need to get regular STI checks. Oh how wrong we are!
All it takes is one unprotected sexual encounter to get an STI. But hang on, we’re not here to give you another “talk” about having safe, protected sex, because we know that things happen; a few too many drinks, the condom broke, being caught up in the moment, or not having the confidence to tell your partner to wrap it up, BUT we are here to tell you that, whatever the reason for having unprotected sex all we ask it that you make sure you get tested afterwards, there’s never any shame! So let’s get down and dirty with the details…
STI & STD: what’s the difference?
An STI is a sexually transmitted infection whereas a STD is a sexually transmitted disease. Yes, they both sound similar and usually we use the phrases interchangeably without much thought to the difference. As healthcare professionals try to remove the stigma around sexual health, they’ve begun to use STI over STD as it’s a broader, more acceptable term.
Think of what an infection means, an attack on your body by bacteria or a virus that’s temporary and treatable, and when the infection is cleared our body returns to normal. A disease suggests a long-term health implication that may or may not be treatable. I mean the word disease in itself sounds scary... doesn’t it?!
STI clinics in Ireland
Almost all hospitals in Ireland have an STI clinic where you can book an appointment or walk-in (hospital policy depending) and get checked FOR FREE! Uh huh, STI testing is free in Ireland at public STI clinics and at some community-based testing venues (such as HIV Ireland). So, there’s really no reason not to get checked! All you need to do is look up the hospital closest to you, check their opening hours and either book an appointment or walk-in at a time that suits you. B4UDecide has a very comprehensive list of public hospitals with an STI Clinic and whether they operate by appointment or walk-in.
6 Common STI’s Explained
As mentioned above, this is one of the most common STI’s in Europe but thankfully it’s also one of the most treatable. It’s caused by a bacterial infection. However, most women and approx. half of men won’t experience any symptoms so the only way to know if you have it is to get tested.
Similar to chlamydia, gonorrhoea is a bacterial infection that can be treated with medication. You can contract gonorrhoea and show no signs or symptoms. But if untreated gonorrhoea can cause some serious and permanent health issues for both people with periods & people without.
Syphilis is a bacterial infection and is both common and treatable. The exchange of body fluid doesn’t actually need to occur to contract syphilis as it can be transmitted through vaginal, anal or oral sex. Similar to chlamydia, you can contract syphilis and not have any symptoms (are we starting to see a pattern here?).
Human Papilloma Virus is a group of viruses that infect the skin on the body. HPV is a very common STI and usually the body is able to clear the infection on its own. Most people won’t realise they have HPV as again, there are no symptoms. There’s no treatment for HPV however there are treatments for the infection or the illnesses caused by the HPV virus. Read more about this on our blog.
- Genital Warts
This is a common STI and is a virus caused by strains of HPV. It’s transmitted through anal and vaginal sex (rarely through oral sex). It can take up to one year for warts to appear and may lead an individual to unknowingly pass on the virus. As this is caused by the HPV virus there’s no treatment however, most people with a strong immune system will clear or suppress the virus over time. If the warts are visible then there are many ways to treat/remove them, so don’t panic!
- Genital Herpes
This virus is caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus and there are 2 strains. One of which usually causes ‘cold sores’ on the lips/mouth and the other causes blisters or ulcers on the genital area. The symptoms can also be reversed such as ‘cold sores’ on the genital area. This virus can be passed through unprotected anal, oral and vaginal sex. Currently there’s no cure for herpes but medications can be given to treat the symptoms and reduce discomfort during an outbreak.
Okay so to wrap things up (see what we did there), if you have unprotected sex, you should always get checked afterwards with an STI Clinic. A lot of STI’s don’t display symptoms so the only way to know for sure, is to get checked. And hey, did we mention it’s free in Ireland! Well, it just couldn’t be easier.