Welcome to the OutUK series looking at gay men and their health brought to you in association with the NHS website.
Each week we'll tackle a different topic in our A to Z of Gay Health. We'll have features and advice on everything from relationships, sexual health, mental and physical conditions and how to stay fit. You can follow any of links provided below for more information direct from the NHS website, or view any of our Previous A to Z Features.
You should also know that OutUK has produced a special report about: Coronavirus Covid-19.

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This Week - X : Xtra Nasty STIs

Check if it's a sexually transmitted infection (STI)

Symptoms of a sexually transmitted infection (STI) can include:

  • an unusual discharge from your vagina, penis or anus
  • pain when peeing
  • lumps or skin growths around your genitals or bottom (anus)
  • a rash
  • itchy genitals or anus
  • blisters, sores or warts around your genitals or anus
  • warts in your mouth or throat, but this is very rare

How soon symptoms appear depends on the type of STI you have.

Many STIs have no symptoms. This means you can have an STI without knowing it and infect your partner during sex.

The only way to know for sure is to get tested.

STIs can take up to 7 weeks after you have unprotected sex to show up on a test. If you do not have symptoms, it's best to wait 7 weeks before getting tested.

Find out more about STI testing from Brook, including how long to wait before doing an STI test.

Go to a sexual health clinic if:

  • you think you may have an STI
  • a sexual partner has symptoms of an STI
  • you're worried after having sex without a condom
  • you're pregnant with symptoms of an STI
  • you're having casual sex without a condom with new partners - you may be at risk of HIV and other STIs

Do not have sex, including oral sex, without using a condom until you've had a check-up or been tested.

Why you should go to a sexual health clinic

You can see a GP, but they'll probably refer you to a sexual health clinic if they think you have an STI.

You do not usually need a GP referral or an appointment for a sexual health clinic, but contact the clinic first to check.

Doctors and healthcare professionals are there to help you, so try not to feel uncomfortable about sharing information about your sexual activities or sexuality.

You do not need to give your real name or tell staff the name of your GP surgery if you do not want to. No information about your visit to the clinic will be shared with the GP or anyone else outside the clinic unless you ask for it to be.

You can ask to see a female or male doctor or nurse if you wish.

What happens at a sexual health clinic

If you think you have a sexually transmitted infection (STI), the doctor or nurse at the sexual health clinic:

  • will ask you about your sex life
  • may ask to look at your genitals or anus
  • will tell you what tests they think you need

These tests can include:

  • testing a sample of your pee
  • blood tests
  • testing a sample of cells taken from the urethra (the tube that pee comes out of), using a small cotton bud (swab)
  • testing a sample of cells from inside your vagina or anus using a small cotton bud (swab)

Some clinics offer home testing kits for some STIs.

If tests show you have an STI, you should tell your current sexual partner, or partners, and any ex-partners so they can get tested and treated as well.

If you do not want to do this, the clinic can usually do it for you without naming you.

Treatment for sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

Most sexually transmitted infections (STIs) need treatment. The treatment you have will depend on which STI you have.

Many STIs are treated with antibiotics.

Always finish the course of treatment prescribed for you or it may not work properly.

Do not have sex (including oral sex) until you and your partner or partners have finished treatment.


If you need treatment, it's important to tell your current and previous sexual partner (or partners). Sexual health clinics may be able to help you contact them anonymously.

Common types of sexually transmitted infection (STI)

There are different types of sexually transmitted infection (STI), including:

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We'll have more information and advice next week on another topic in our A to Z of Gay Health. We have covered many subjects in this series and you can catch up with all of our Previous A to Z Features.

If you want to find out more about this week's subject you can visit the Original article on the NHS website. If you are worried by any aspect of your health make sure you go and see your doctor or book an appointment at your local clinic.

Photos: LightFieldStudios and one of VladOrlov, Stockcube, darak77, ajr_images or rawpixel.com.


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