No seriously - let’s talk about sex. Sex is an important part of life but despite that, it can often be seen as taboo and simply not talked about. This can make it seem like a bad or scary thing to explore rather than the positive experience it can be.
By putting a spotlight on sex and busting some common myths which float around about safe sex and in particular, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), we hope that we can give you the advice you need to have the sex life you want.
Common myths include:
1. I’ve been tested before, I don’t need to be tested again:
Sexual health screens, like many other health checkups, are best when done as part of your routine health reviews. Just as you’d go to an optician to get a prescription check or the dentist to review your teeth, an STI screen is a good opportunity to check you are keeping well.
Everyone should get tested for STIs, with or without symptoms and regardless of age, gender, or relationship status.
Some specific times to think about testing include:
- If you are having any symptoms you are concerned about or a partner has found out they have an STI.
- If you don’t have symptoms but have changed partners, are going to have unprotected sex or the condom broke during sex.
- If you have sex with multiple partners, getting tested more regularly is also recommended even if you don’t have any symptoms.1
2. Talking about sex is embarrassing:
It’s not unusual to find talking about sex a bit out of your comfort zone so the idea of going to a sexual health clinic or speaking to your Babylon clinician about it may make you feel a bit nervous. However, rest assured, we talk to our patients about this all the time. It will be a judgement-free, safe space for you to talk about any symptoms or concerns you may have.
Furthermore, as the old saying goes, ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ so the sooner you speak to a clinician, the closer you are to getting some answers to your questions and any treatment you may need.
3. Getting tested will hurt:
If this is your first time asking for a STI test, you may be concerned about the actual process and if it will be painful.
Many STI tests can be done by simple urine or blood tests now. They may also need to take some swabs from the vagina or urethra for the men (where the urine comes out).
A swab is similar to a long cotton wool bud and although it may be a little uncomfortable, it shouldn’t be painful. You can even ask to do the swabs yourself if you would feel more comfortable doing so.
Did you know you can even order test kits to do at home in the UK? This is offered in many counties and can be a great way to get tested from the comfort of your own home. Don’t worry, it comes in discreet packaging so your privacy is maintained at all times.2
4. I don’t need to get tested, I don’t have any symptoms:
Many people who have STIs, don’t, in fact, have symptoms. This means that getting tested is even more important. Many STIs can be cured with treatment so picking them up sooner, can help prevent any complications.
Some STIs like HIV or Herpes (where symptoms can come and go) need longer term management. However, there are effective and safe treatments for these conditions meaning you can stay well and have the sex life you want once your treatment has been established.
5. I can get a full STI screen from my GP:
In the UK, it can be a little confusing to go to a GP clinic asking for an STI screen to be told that the best place to do this is at a GUM clinic.
This is because although we are always open to talk about any concerns you have and can do some tests for STIs, such as Chlamydia, we do not necessarily have access to the full resources and tests available in an STI clinic.
Did you know that these clinics can also help you with partner notification which is a key part of good sexual health care. If you find out you have an STI, it is important to let partners and ex-partners know about this so they can be tested and treated as well.
If you are unable to do this yourself, you can also ask your local service to help you with this., The clinic can let your previous sexual contacts know that they may have been exposed to an STI if you ask them to. Importantly, they will never mention your name or when and where the sex took place.3
6. I am on the pill so I’m protected from STIs:
Having good contraception is really important if you are having sex and do not want yourself or your partner to become pregnant. However, being on contraception alone does not protect you from STIs so remember to think about condoms. These are the best way of preventing catching or passing on STIs and are widely available. Some clinics even give them to you for free.
At the end of the day, having safe, consensual sex is sexy. Talking about sex and STIs may feel awkward the first time you do it but it's a vital part of keeping you healthy. By seeing it as a routine part of keeping yourself well, you’ll protect yourself and your partners going forward, leaving you free to enjoy the sex you want, when you want it.
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1.A healthy sex life, Terrence Higgins Trust,
2.Visiting an STI clinic - NHS- https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sexual-health/visiting-an-sti-clinic/, Reviewed November 2018
3.A guide to – Partner Notfication, BASHH (British Association for Sexual Health and HIV)