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What is a sexually transmitted infection?

A sexually transmitted infection (STI) is any infection that is passed on by sexual intercourse or sexual contact. STIs affect both men and women, young and old from all backgrounds.

STIs can be serious, but as people feel well they can lie undetected for a very long time, so they are easily spread from person to person. However once they are detected many of the STIs are easy to treat or manage.

If STIs are left untreated they can lead to serious health problems such as infertility (the inability to have children) and pelvic inflammatory disease (swelling, damage and inflammation of the female reproductive organs).

The 5 most commonly occurring STIs are chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis, genital herpes, and trichomoniasis. For more information about different STI’s click here.

What happens when I have an STI test?

This will depend upon whether you are a man or a woman, gay or bisexual.  Find out more about what to expect.

I had unprotected sex when I was in my teens, could I be carrying an infection and not know it?

It’s possible for infections such as HIV to take years before any symptoms show. Between a quarter and a third of people with HIV in the UK haven’t been diagnosed. Chlamydia often has no symptoms but it can affect your fertility if left untreated. If you’re in any doubt, arrange for a check-up at the Wolverton.

I had an infection when I was younger and had it treated. Now I’m thinking about starting a family. Which infections could stop me from having a baby?

Chlamydia and gonorrhoea can both lead to infertility if left untreated, although most people who’ve had these infections don’t have any permanent problems.

Chlamydia is easy to treat once it’s detected, but many people with chlamydia have no symptoms, and are unaware of their infection. If you think you might be at risk, go for a check-up and test.

I’ve got a watery discharge, which smells really unpleasant and fishy, I don’t want to go to my GP as I am too embarrassed, please help?

This is more than likely not serious, but it’s very important that you get this checked out. The most likely cause of this sort of problem is an extremely common infection called bacterial vaginosis (BV).

It isn’t sexually transmitted, and it’s easy to diagnose and cure.  At the Wolverton Centre we can quickly diagnose and treat this condition.  As we see this and many other conditions on a daily basis there is no reason for you to be embarrassed.

Can I get STIs from oral sex?


Many sexually transmitted infections are passed on through oral sex, including:

  • Chlamydia
  • Genital Herpes
  • Gonorrhoea
  • Genital Warts
  • Hepatitis B
  • Hepatitis C
  • HIV

Find out more about these infections

A condom may reduce the risk of infection. Dental dams (thin squares of latex) can also be used as a barrier during contact between the mouth and the vagina, or the mouth and the anus.

How often should I be tested for STIs?

This will depend upon the number of sexual partners you may have had in a particular year.  You may be advised to be tested every three to four months if you frequently have different sexual partners or if you know your partner has frequent different sexual partners.  It is a good idea for both you and your partner to have an STI check at the start of a new relationship.

The main thing to remember is, if you think you have been at risk of an STI; always have a check-up.

You may consider a test if:

  • You have, or think you may have, symptoms.
  • You have recently had unprotected sex (without a condom) with a new partner.
  • You or your partner have had unprotected sex with someone else.
  • You have had sex with someone who you know has chlamydia or another sexually transmitted infection (STI).
  • You yourself have another STI.
  • You are pregnant or planning a pregnancy.

A sexually transmitted infection (STI) is any disease that is passed on by sexual intercourse or sexual contact. STI affect both men and women from all backgrounds.

STIs can be serious, but as people feel well they can lie undetected for a very long time, so they are easily spread from person to person. However once they are detected many of the STIs are easy to treat or manage.

If STIs are left untreated they can lead to serious health problems such as infertility (the inability to have children) and pelvic inflammatory disease (swelling and damage inflammation of the female reproductive organs).

The 5 most commonly occurring STIs are chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis, genital herpes, and trichomoniasis.

I’ve noticed a vaginal discharge; does this mean I have an infection?

In women, vaginal discharge can be normal and the amount of discharge produced can vary from woman to woman.  It also varies in amount and consistency depending on the menstrual cycle.

What is important is what is normal for you.

If there is a change in your normal discharge this may be a sign that you may have an STI.  If you think you have been at risk of an STI, always have a check-up.

I have noticed a lump on my vagina, what should I do?

This symptom could indicate a number of different conditions some of which may be STIs.  In order to make a diagnosis you should come into the Wolverton Centre where you will be tested and treated or referred on to the relevant person if your condition is not STI related.

I’ve noticed a discharge coming from my penis, but I feel fine could this still mean I have an infection?

In general men do not have ‘normal discharge’ in the same way that women do. Any discharge whether it is bad smelling, thick or watery, green or grey, or just a small amount and clear is a sign that you may have an infection.

These infections are often passed on by sexual intercourse and sexual contact.

If you have noticed a discharge and are worried, you should always have a check-up. Although you may find it embarrassing you have nothing to worry out as doctors and nurses are trained to deal with this and will not judge you. Everything you tell them will be completely confidential and it is very likely that the discharge can be easily treated with tablets.

I have notice a lump on the end of my penis; does this mean I have an infection?

A lump or blister on your penis could mean one of many things, amongst which an STI could be a possibility, although not necessarily the case.  It is advisable that you come into the Wolverton Centre where you can either be treated there or referred on to someone who will be able to treat you.

I have no symptoms but have had quite a few sexual partners in the past, should I come in for a STI test?

Yes. As many STIs can be silent infections, the fact that you have no symptoms does not mean that you do not have an STI.  Chlamydia, gonorrhoea and many other serious STIs can be present without any apparent symptoms.  Diagnosis and treatment can prevent long-term damage which may arise as a result of an untreated STI, not to mention passing it on to other people. It only takes one sexual encounter to contract an STI therefore the best practice for any sexually active person who has more than one partner is to have regular STI tests while at the same time engaging in safer sex.

What is human papilloma virus (genital warts) and how is it spread?

Find out about gential warts

I’ve just started a gay relationship and had anal sex with my boyfriend for the first time and we didn’t use a condom. Since then I have terrible pain in the end of my penis when urinating. Do you know what this could be?

It’s likely that you’ve caught an infection. You can be diagnosed and treated at the Woverton Centre. If you have an infection, it’s almost certainly easy to cure.

Having unprotected sex with your boyfriend definitely puts you at risk of infections that are hard to treat, such as HIV and hepatitis B. When you go to the clinic, make sure that you get a hepatitis A and B vaccine. Take your boyfriend with you.

It’s not uncommon to have unprotected anal sex at the beginning of a relationship, but be aware of the risk of HIV/AIDS. The nurse at the clinic can talk to both of you about safer sex, and how to protect yourself and avoid HIV and other infections in the future.


Will my visit to the Wolverton be confidential?

You can rest assured that all information relating to your visit to the Wolverton Centre remains within the Wolverton Centre and is not shared with any other person without your consent. In addition patient notes taken at the Wolverton do not appear on any other NHS database.

There are a few exceptional circumstances. Find out more

I don’t want to discuss my business with a man because it’s embarrassing. Can I ask to see a woman doctor?

Yes.  We always offer a choice of male or female staff. Occasionally, you may have to wait a little longer until a female doctor or nurse becomes available.

Do I have to tell my partner?

If you test positive for any STI you should tell your partner(s).  It is very important that your current sexual partner(s) are also tested and treated. If they are not, they may develop serious health problems in the future. The staff at the sexual health service will discuss with you which of your partners may need to be tested.

If you don’t want to tell your partner(s), the clinic can give you a ‘contact slip’ to send or give to your partner(s) or, with your permission, they can do this for you. This slip explains that they may have been exposed to an STI and suggest that they go for a check-up. It usually gives details of the infection in a coded form understandable to sexual health /GUM clinic. It will not have your name on it. This is called partner notification


Are there any contraceptive services available at the Wolverton?

The young person’s clinic, The Point, Tuesdays 4pm- 6pm specifically deals with contraception issues for young women 18 years and under.  Apart from this specialist clinics are run for fitting long acting reversible contraception (LARC methods including coils and implanon).

Can I be tested to see if I am pregnant?

Yes.  You may also want to consider STI screening at the same time.  Should you so wish this can be arranged on the day of your visit.

I had sex with my boyfriend last night, and we didn’t use a condom, where can I get the “morning after pill” today?

You can get the emergency hormonal pill (Levonelle) free from the Wolverton, GP surgeries, community contraceptive clinics, all sexual health (GUM) clinics, NHS walk-in centres, some accident and emergency (A&E) departments – including Kingston A&E, and some pharmacies. You can buy the emergency pill from pharmacies if you’re over 16.

Emergency contraception (the ‘morning-after’ pill) works for up to 72 hours after you’ve had unprotected sex, but the sooner you use it the more effective it will be. If it’s longer than 72 hours after you’ve had sex, you can also visit the Wolverton Centre and have an emergency coil fitted to protect you against pregnancy. This can be done up to five days after unprotected sex.

Sexual assault

I have been sexually assaulted/sexually abused, who can I speak to?

If you are worried about sexual abuse or assault, then there are lots of places you can turn to for help and support.  Find out more.  If the assault did not occur in the recent past but you need to discuss matters of concern such as possible STI infection, the Wolverton Centre is a good place to start. We can arrange for you to see our specialist psychologist if appropriate.


How long will a HIV test take at the Wolverton and when will I know the results?

A HIV test is a blood test and usually taken as part of a general STI screening.  HIV test results are available in 2 working days, but are usually sent to you within 4 working days of your visit. They can be received by text with the results of the rest of the STI screen, if negative. If you are just having an HIV test the result can be made available to you within 2 days. Occasionally we prefer to give results at a booked appointment. If you receive a positive result, you will be contacted in person on the mobile phone number you have provided.

Rapid HIV tests are also available at the Wolverton with results available in 10 minutes. These are offered to people at high risk of HIV, prior to PEPSE, or if considered appropriate after a discussion with your clinician. These tests are not as sensitive as the routine blood test at detecting early infection i.e. within the first 3 months.

Will a HIV positive diagnosis affect my ability to get a mortgage?

Most mortgages these days are based on a repayment system which do not require life insurance or any other form of insurance policy. Your mortgage provider may try to sell you life insurance but this is not mandatory.

Will a HIV positive diagnosis affect my ability to get life insurance?

All companies providing life insurance routinely ask if you are HIV positive or waiting for the result of a HIV test. If you are HIV positive you will normally be declined cover. However if you had a policy prior to your diagnosis and all the information you provided at the time was accurate then your policy may be continued. You will need to discuss this with your insurer.

However specialist travel insurance policies for HIV positive people are available from Freedom Travel

Will a HIV positive diagnosis affect my ability to get a job?

A HIV positive diagnosis will only prevent someone working as a surgeon or obstetrician/ gynaecologist doing certain types of invasive procedures as set out by the GMC.

Assuming you are otherwise fit and well, a HIV diagnosis will not prevent you from undertaking any other type of employment. It may be better for you if your occupational health service or employer is aware of your diagnosis so you can attend clinic appointments etc., but it is not mandatory to inform them.

Is there any risk of getting HIV if you don’t sleep with someone on holiday, but do other sexual things instead?

Providing that you don’t have unprotected (without a condom) vaginal or anal sex, it’s very unlikely that you’ll be at risk of HIV. There’s no risk of getting HIV from kissing and touching. Sometimes other infections such as herpes, warts or molluscum may be spread by close intimate contact without penetrative sex.

If you give a man oral sex, there’s a small risk of getting HIV, particularly if he comes in your mouth. Some people use condoms (you can get flavoured condoms) for oral sex.

There’s no risk of HIV if a man gives you oral sex although you may be at risk of other infections such as herpes.