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Sexual Transmitted Infections (STIs)

Introduction

In life, sexual health is a very important thing. From the moment you entered the education system you would have had the:

Only practice safe sex

Though the choice is still yours to make, AberPride will give you information and leaflets on safe sex and health. Just email us at scty04@aber.ac.uk us for more information.

There are lots of STI's out there some can be treated where as others can not. We are not going to give you tons of information you have already heard. Our advice will always be: if you think you have an STI it is better knowing than not knowing, and that the sooner you know, the sooner treatment can start.

Some gay people prefer to have a regular check up, though, again, the decision is yours. Just remember that ...

... if you put yourself at risk you are more likely to get an STI than someone that does not.

If you want to get tested you can go to your GP or a GUM clinic - though remember that your GP is not bound by the same confidentiality as the GUM clinic. GUM clinics are not allowed to give your confidential information to anyone and if you feel scared you can always give them a false name.

The GUM Clinic in Aberystwyth is at:

CEREDIGION AND MID WALES NHS TRUST
Department of Genitourinary Medicine
North Road Clinic
Queens Avenue
Aberystwyth, SY23 2EG

Tel: 01970 636216 (direct line)

Opening Times: Wed, 1.30pm - 4.00pm

HIV and AIDS

What is HIV/AIDS?

HIV is short for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. HIV attacks the body's immune system, making it hard to fight off infections.

AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. When a person's immune system has been damaged, he or she is open to other illnesses, especially infections and cancers, many of which would not normally be a threat.

(The two above definitions where taken from the Terrence Higgins Trust Website for the link see the HIV/AIDS link section lower down on this page)

How do I know I have got it?

You can not tell if you have HIV or AIDS from symptoms and many of them do not show up for years after. The only way to know is to go and have an HIV/AIDS test.

Should I get tested?

That is your choice - if you think you could have been infected with the virus it is better to know than not to know. The sooner treatment is started the easier it is to control the disease. Remember that HIV/AIDS at the moment cannot be cured, it can only be controlled.

Where can I get tested?

See the information in the introduction. Remember that a GUM clinic is more confidential than your GP as your GP can be asked by people like life insurance companies to see your medical history. Most GUM clinics will give pre- and post-test counselling to you as well.

What does the test involve?

The test is a simple blood test which detects antibodies to the HIV virus in your blood. Antibodies are produced when your body detects an infection like a virus. The antibodies can take up to 3 months to be produced and so there is a window period - i.e. you could have the test but there was not enough antibodies to be picked up. This means that it is a good idea to have a test again 3 months later if you think you have been infected.

What does it mean if I'm HIV negative or positive?

If the test comes back negative than you have not produced the antibodies for HIV/AIDS and therefore you have not got the virus. Though remember you should have a further test 3 months later because the window period. This does not mean you are always going to be safe so you must keep up having safe sex!

If you test positive it means that you have the antibodies in your system and therefore you have been infected with the virus. You should seek advice and start treatment as soon as possible. There are disadvantages in having a positive result which include going to certain countries e.g. USA or getting life insurance or mortgages. However there are ways to get around these problems and HIV positive people can lead a normal life and have the same normal relationships. Safe sex in these cases is paramount as you do not want to give someone else the virus. If you have sex or a relationship you should tell the other person before any sexual acts.

Who is there to support me?

As a society we are always there for you, you can also seek advice from the university councillors, your GP, a friend etc. If you feel you need support in going for the test and you want to keep it confidential and therefore do not want a friend there you can e-mail a member of the committee and one of us will go with you for support. Anything you tell the society is kept in strict confidence.

Useful links for HIV/AIDS:

AVERT
AIDSMAP
THE BODY
Positive Nation Magazine
Terence Higgins Trust

Helplines:

National Aids Helpline
0800 567123
(24 hours a day)

Terrence Higgins Trust National Helpline
020 7242 1010
(12 noon-10pm, seven days a week)

Positiveline
0800 1696806
(Monday-Friday 11am-10pm,
Saturday and Sunday 4pm-10pm)

Living Well With HIV Phoneline
0845 947 0047
Monday to Thursday 6-9pm

THT Direct
0845 1221 200
Monday-Friday 11am-8pm Advice and information about HIV services everywhere

HIFY – UK (Health Initiatives for Youth)
07866 364672
Support group for young HIV-positive gay men

Hepatitis ABC

Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver. It can be caused by some alcohol and drug abuse but is usually transmitted as a virus.

There are three types A B and C!

Hepatitis B is much easier to get than HIV, and can cause permanent liver disease and cancer. Most people have no obvious symptoms, and there is no known cure. 

Hepatitis A

You can be infected by eating or drinking contaminated food or water. The virus is found in faeces and can be passed on if even a tiny amount of virus comes into contact with a person's mouth, therefore the virus can be passed on sexually. It is very important to wash your hands after going the toilet!

People may have no symptoms but can still be infectious. Symptoms may include: A short, flu-like illness, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, weight loss, jaundice, or itchy skin.

If you think you may have been at risk then you should go to your GP, local NHS sexual health (GUM) clinic or a hospital Accident and Emergency department.

Hepatitis A can be diagnosed by a simple blood test. You are most infectious before the symptoms show.

Your best bet is to get immunised!! This involves having a single injection of hepatitis A vaccine in the arm will give you protection for one year. Then a second booster injection at 6-12 months gives protection for up to 10 years.

Hepatitis B

The hepatitis B virus is very common world-wide. It is very infectious and can be passed on in a number of ways: By unprotected sex or sex which draws blood, oral sex, by sharing needles, by using equipment for tattooing, acupuncture or body-piercing contaminated with blood.

Some people will show no symptoms at all, however if they do it will be the same as hepatitis A.

Hepatitis B can be diagnosed by a simple blood test. If you do need treatment you may be offered interferon injections or antiviral tablets which can reduce hepatitis B damage. If you are infected with HBV you should limit the amount of alcohol you drink, use a condom for sex, your partner should be immunised and you should not share toothbrushes or shaving equipment.

Your best bet again is immunisation! This is available from our GUM clinic or GP. Three injections of hepatitis B vaccine are given over a period of 3-6 months. A blood test is then taken to check the immunisations have worked. You are then usually immune for 5 years.

Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is transmitted by sharing contaminated needles or other equipment for injecting drugs, by using unsterilised equipment for tattooing, acupuncture or body piercing, by unprotected penetrative sex or sex which draws blood (this is relatively rare but possible!), and by unprotected oral sex.

The symptoms are the same as hepatitis A.

Exposure to hepatitis C is diagnosed by a blood test. Blood samples can be taken to look at the strain of hepatitis C which someone has, because treatment is more effective for some strains than for others.

The first blood test will show whether an individual has ever been exposed to HCV and a further blood test is necessary to establish whether they remain infected with the virus. Current evidence suggests that only about 20% of those infected with HCV appear to clear the virus from the blood. The other 80% will remain infected and can pass it on to others.

Those who have a current infection should be referred on to a specialist for further assessment which will include liver function tests (LFTs) and may include a biopsy (taking a small sample of liver tissue for examination). The results of these investigations will help the specialist decide whether you would benefit from treatment.

The current medical treatment is a drug called alpha interferon. This treatment is not suitable for everybody but some patients can be successfully treated and will clear the virus. Some people find that some complementary therapies are helpful in controlling their symptoms, but there is currently no scientific evidence to support this.

Chlamydia

Chlamydia is a bacterial infection which is normally transmitted through unprotected anal sex. However it can be transmitted through oral sex and rimming.

Often you do not have any symptons, if you do they are usually a burning sensation when you pee, a sore throat, or pain in the lower abdomen or anus. The treatment is a simple course of antibiotics.

To prevent getting chlamydia use condoms and plenty of lube for anal sex, for oral use some sort of barrier.

Genital Warts

These are transmitted through skin contact and can be very easy to catch and pass on!

They grow singly or in clusters, they appear as smooth and flat small bumps or large pink cauliflower-like lumps.

The treatment will vary depending on where you go, some places burn off the warts with a chemical, creams can be used, or the warts frozen off. A person is only infectious when the warts are visiable.

Gonorrhoea

This is a baterial infection which effects the urethra, anus, mouth and throat. It can very often be undetected, though it can still be passed on! If gonorrhoea is left un treated it can cause serious problems!!

The symptons show themselves as a yellow white odourless discharge, pain when peeing, pain in the anus and a sore throat. Usually treated with a course of antibiotics, a check-up after the antibiotics is important!

You can get gonorrhoea from unprotected anal sex, oral sex, or rimming.

Herpes

This is a virus which when caught often can remain for life and flare up from time to time, especially when you are run down.

The symptoms are localised itching and soreness, this leads to small, painful coldsores around the mouth. Also sores and blisters around the genitals or anus. The blisters crust over in about 2 weeks. When the sores have healed the person is no longer infected. Many people with herpes will not show any symptoms.

There is no cure for herpes, however lotions and creams can be used to help with the attacks. Zovirax is useful for help with the coldsores, this can not be used on the gentials. You can use salt water or calamine lotion on the genitals.

To prevent giving someone herpes you should avoid sex which bring any sores or blisters in to contact with the other person. The virus can be spread from the genitals to the mouth and vice-versa. Do not share towels!

NSU

Non - specific urethritis - this is an infection of the urethra. There are lots of infections that can inflame the urethra and cause urethritis.

The symptoms are usually a burning sensation when peeing which is or can be painful. A white discharge from the urethra in the morning can be common as well. Some people can show no signs of having an infection.

The treatment is usually a course of antibiotics and a check over when the course is complete. To prevent catching an infection you should use a condom when and lots of waterbased lube when having sex. For oral sex try using a dry or flavoured condom.

Pubic Lice

Pubic lice are small 'nits' which look like crabs. They live in body hair - especially pubic hair. They are easy to catch through close bodily contact, sharing towels, clothing or bedding. If you have a partner who has crabs it does not mean they have slept around!

It is treated with creams or liquids such as lyclear, derbac, or peioderm which can be obtain without perscription. However they are free from the GUM clinic. Follow instructions on the bottle or tube, make sure you wash any clothes of bedding in hot water (60 degrees is recommended). If you can't wash something at that temperature you can seal them in a plastic bag for two weeks.

It is impossible to prevent/avoid pubic lice if you come into contact with someone who has them. However they are easily and quickly treated. Do not have sex with someone until you are clear from them.

Scabies

Scabies is caused by a mite which brrows under the skin, it causes itching and leaves behind red marks or lines. They can be caught very easily through bodily contact.

The treatment is covering the body in a speical lotion (except the head) which you leave on for 24 hours. The lotion can be bought from a pharmacy or through your GUM clinic. You need to wash all bedding and clothing in a hot wash cycle.

Avoid any physical contact until the infection has cleared up and make sure anyone who has/had physical contact with you in that time period is treated.

Syphilis

There are 3 stages of syphilis, it is important to get treatment in the early two stages. The symptoms in the first stage is usaully sores appearing in the genital areas, in the throat and in and around the anus. The sores are often painless and do not bleed easily. If left untreated the sores will heal, but the infection will develop into the second stage.

Secondary syphilis results in a skin rash, headahces, nausea and a fever. Tertiary syphilis can be extremely serious but these days it is very rare to get to this stage.

Treatment is usually through a course of antibiotics with follow-up check up to a GUM clinic. Syphilis is caught from being in sexual contact with the sores or skin rash. If you have syphilis you should not have sex until the infection clears up.

Thrush

Thrush is a common fungal infection which effects people with a compromised immune system. Other causes of thrush include stress, certain viral infections or use of antibiotics.

The symtops include inflamation around the genitals, and soreness around or in the anus.

The treatment is antifungal drugs such as Canesten. If you are sexually active you should visit the GUM clinic to make sure it is not another infection causing the problem.

Practising safer sex will usually prevent sexual transmission. It is unlikely that oral thrush can be transmitted to the genitals.

General Health Links

Sexuality

Sexuality and Sexual Health Advice from the West Midlands L & G Switchboard

Checked Out

Gay mans guide to sex

Lesbian Health UK

Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Alcohol Project

Project offering free help or advice about drinking or drugs and sexual health.

MetroMate

MetroMate - Sexual health directory

Society of Health Advisers in Sexually Transmitted Diseases

This site has loads of useful advice, information and listings.

Syphilis

Advice and information about syphilis and where to get tested

THT

A very good site on sexual health and some really good guides for gay men which the society recommends:

Below the Belt, The Bottom Line, and The Manual

Coming Out
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