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The Ask Brook 24/7 tool has the answers about your sexual health & relationships

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

An STI, or sexually transmitted infection, is basically any kind of bacterial or viral infection that can be passed on through sexual contact.

STIs are spread through unprotected vaginal, anal and oral sex, as well as skin-to-skin genital contact. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve had sex, how many partners you’ve had or who you have sex with; anyone can get an STI.

To protect yourself from STIs you need to use a condom or female condom every time you have sex. Condoms are the only method of contraception that protect against both pregnancy and STIs. Even if you're using another method of contraception, like the pill, to protect against pregnancy, you should still use a condom as well. 

To get tested for STIs, you can get free advice and testing at your nearest  Brook service, other young people’s services or  GUM or sexual health services

Nervous or embarrassed? It's really common to feel nervous at the thought of getting tested but don’t worry, most infections are easily treated. Read our page on  visiting Brook services to understand more about what might happen when you go for a test. You will probably find that most sexual health clinics work in a similar way.

Signs and symptoms: STIs don’t always have noticeable symptoms so it can be easy to be in denial and just hope you’ll be ok. But you should always get yourself checked out as soon as possible so that you don’t pass anything on or cause yourself long-term harm. You may also need to consider emergency contraception to protect yourself from pregnancy.

Symptoms of STIs can include:

  • Unusual green, yellow or smelly discharge from the vagina or penis
  • Heavier periods or bleeding in-between periods
  • Pain or a burning feeling when urinating
  • Rashes, itching, burning, tingling around the genitals or anus
  • Blisters or lumps around the genitals or anus
  • Black powder or tiny white dots in your underwear
  • Pain during sex in women
  • Lower abdominal pain in women

There are other types of infection you can develop without having sex, such as  thrush and what are called non-specific genital infections.

If you have any questions or worries about STIs, you can always contact  Ask Brook via text or webchat. Contacting Ask Brook is  confidential. That means we won’t tell anyone you’ve contacted us unless we think you are in really serious danger.