What is a Sexually Transmitted Infection and how do you get treatment?
Not all STIs show symptoms, so getting tested is the only way to know for sure if you have an STI
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are infections that are passed from one person to another through unprotected genital-to-genital contact, exchange of bodily fluids or through skin-to-skin contact.
There are at least 25 different types of STIs. All of them are serious, but most are completely treatable. They can, however, cause long-term problems if they aren't diagnosed and treated properly.
What is an STI?
Most STIs are infections that pass from person to person through sexual activity without protection.
An STI can be:
- A bacterial infection (such as Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea, Syphilis, Shigella, or Pelvic Inflammatory Disease)
- A viral infection (such as Genital Herpes, Genital Warts, Hepititis B, HIV, or Molluscum Contagiosum (MC))
- Parasites (such as Pubic Lice, Scabies, or Trichomonasis)
How do you get an STI?
Having unprotected sex even once can put you at risk of getting an STI. You can get an STI through:
- Unprotected vaginal sex
- Unprotected oral sex
- Unprotected anal sex
- Close genital to genital contact
- Sharing sex toys
- Mutual masturbation
- Close or intimate contact
What are the symptoms of STIs?
Many people will experience no symptoms at all, so it's important to get checked if you have had unprotected sex.
Some symptoms that you could experience include:
- An unusual discharge/ liquid or smell from your vagina, penis or bum
- Blisters, boils, lumps, swelling or itching in or around your vagina, penis or bum
- Burning or painful feeling when you pee
- Pain during sex
- Bleeding in between periods or bleeding following sex
If you experience any of these symptoms, visit an STI clinic to get tested.
How to prevent getting an STI
The most effective way to prevent getting an STI if you are sexually active is to use protection.
Some things to keep in mind if you want to protect yourself:
- Talk to all of your sexual partners and ask if they have been tested. If they haven't, ask them if they will take a test.
- Always use protection when engaging in a sexual activity, using either condoms or dental dams.
- Get regular check ups at an STI clinic.
Having unprotected sex
If you've had unprotected sex (vaginal, anal or oral) go for a check-up immediately. Getting tested is quick, easy and painless. Check out our list of all the free clinics in Ireland here.
Getting tested for an STI
Getting tested is the only way to know for sure if you have an STI.
- There are clinics all over Ireland where you can get tested for free
- Your GP may offer a testing service for a fee
- There are also private sexual health services where you can get tested for a fee
- Home testing kits are also available
How to know when you should get an STI test
Consider getting tested if:
- You have any symptoms of an STI
- Your partner has an STI
- You have had unprotected sex
- You have a new partner
- You have more than one sexual partner
Getting tested when you're in a relationship
Even if you are in a committed relationship, one of you could have caught an STI in the past and passed in on without realising. This is because STIs can be dormant (non-active) in your body for a long time before the symptoms appear.
If you have an STI, it's important that you tell your partner and previous partners so that they can also get a check-up.
It may feel difficult to bring up the idea of getting an STI test with your partner, but it's the best way to make sure neither of you get an infection. Explain why you want to get tested, and you can go together for your tests.
What happens if you don't get treated?
It's important to get treated if you have an STI. If you don't get treated, it could lead to further health complications, and some conditions, such as HIV or syphilis, can lead to serious complications.
Remember: The age of sexual consent in Ireland is 17. If you're over 16, you can consent to medical treatment including any treatment or tests needed.