What are STIs?
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are bacteria, viruses, or parasites that can be passed from one person to another during sex or intimate contact, and most STIs sexually transmitted between sex partners through oral, vaginal or anal sex – especially if you don’t use a condom.
If you are diagnosed with an STI, you should avoid sex with anyone until you have completed treatment. If you have sex, the infection can be passed on to your sexual partner.
If you have signs or symptoms of an STI, it’s best to visit a sexual health service for an in-person examination.
Often people with an STI will have no symptoms or the symptoms will take a long time to manifest, meaning you can pass the infection on to others without knowing it.
The only way to know you have an infection is to get an STI test.
STI symptoms range from a rash, to pain when urinating, discharge from the penis, vagina, or anus, and lumps or sores on the genitals and anus.
Some symptoms can also be internal – for example, pain inside the stomach, testicles, pelvis, or rectum.
You can read more about types of STIs and their symptoms and treatment on the Sewwise website here.
What is an STI Self Sampling Kit?
Many sexual health services in the UK now offer free STI self-sampling kits to people who do not have any symptoms or signs of a sexually transmitted infection (STI) and only want to visit periodically in the comfort and privacy of their Home.
This self-sampling kit can be used to test for the most common sexually transmitted diseases, including chlamydia and gonorrhea, as well as other sexually transmitted diseases such as syphilis and syphilis. HIV.
The self-sampling kit will be mailed in a plain unmarked envelope or mailbox-friendly box and will have everything you need to collect the sample and a free return label to return it.
You take the sample yourself and send it to a lab for testing and get the results back in a few days.
Find out where to order free STI test kits and find other free services online here.
When should I get tested?
You should get tested, especially if you’ve recently changed partners or think you’ve been exposed to an STI.
You don’t have to have multiple sex partners to get the infection, as many people with an STI have no symptoms and don’t know they’re passing the infection on to their sex partners.
Regular testing for HIV and STIs is essential for good sexual health, and everyone should get screened for STIs, including HIV testing, annually if having sex without a condom with a new partner or normal.
If you’re a student going to college for the first time or coming back for a new year, it’s a good idea to get tested before you start having sex.
Women and others with a uterus or ovaries under the age of 25 who are sexually active should be screened for chlamydia at changing sex partners or annually, and gay, bisexual, and other men with Men who have sex with men should get tested for HIV and STIs every year or every 3 months if having sex without a condom with a new or regular partner.
If you have had sex without using a condom in the last 3 days and think you have been exposed to HIV don’t wait for a post office test – Find post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) services here or for after-hours support, you can get PrEP from A&E.
What does the STI self-sampling kit include?
The contents of the self-sampling kit will depend on the answers you give about the type of sex you have.
Kits will include a combination of the following:
- Blood sample – this will be used to test for syphilis and HIV. A lance (a small needle) is used to prick your finger and you collect drops of blood into a tube.
- Anal, vaginal and throat swabs – these will be used to test for chlamydia and gonorrhea. It is a small cotton swab that you insert and rub inside the area for a few seconds.
- Urine sample – this will be used to test for chlamydia and gonorrhea.
Your kit will come with instructions explaining how to best sample and some also link to online video tutorials.
Get your test results
Self-sampling test kits must be returned to the laboratory for analysis. There is a individually labeled free lab return envelope or box included with your kit.
Your personal information will not appear on any freepost samples or labels, postal testing kits are completely confidential.
Your test results will be returned as soon as possible, usually by text message – usually within a few days. If you have an infection, you will be given advice on treatment and further support.
How do I get treatment?
If you have an infection, you will be advised on treatment and further support. Usually, you will be advised on what treatment is needed or, when necessary, make an appointment with your local sexual health service for treatment.
If you are diagnosed with an STI, you should get treatment as soon as possible to avoid passing the infection on to your sex partners or experiencing any long-term effects.
It’s also important to inform partners that you have recently been diagnosed with an STI and that they should get tested.
Typically, treatment will include a course of antibiotics and may require you to get a prescription at your local pharmacy or visit a sexual health service in person.