5 surprising facts you didn't know about STIs
Think you know your STIs? Think again!
A recent Medichecks study of 4,000 sexually active Brits has uncovered several interesting truths about the nation and their STI test-buying behaviours.
The data show that thirtysomethings are the biggest purchasers of STI tests, buying twice as many as those aged over 40 and 25% more than 18 to 30-year-olds.
Taking a deeper look at the past three years of data also revealed that people ordering tests from Northern Ireland were most likely to be clear of infection, with just a 1.1% positive rate. Those in the North East were most likely to have picked up a sexual infection, with a 6.6% positive rate.
It was also found that Monday is the most popular day to buy at-home testing kits, with Saturday being the least popular. Perhaps the worry of a boozy weekend catches up with us on Monday?
These findings got us thinking about the surprising facts we may not know about sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, there is no better time to get the lowdown on the most unwanted Valentine's gift.
Let’s look at 5 of the most surprising facts!
1. STIs may not show any symptoms
Scary? We know! It is possible to have HPV, chlamydia, gonorrhoea or trichomoniasis and not even know it since they do not always cause symptoms. For example, women can have an infection yet not have the common symptoms of burning, pain or discharge. In men, chlamydia (the most common STI in the UK) usually does not cause any symptoms, so they may be transmitting it without knowing. Take this as your gentle reminder to practice safe sex and have regular STI tests.
2. You can contract an STI without having sex
This may come as a shock, but you can get an STI by sharing several everyday products with an individual who already has an STI. It may be tempting to borrow your friend's lip balm, however, if they have a cold sore and you use the lip balm, you are putting yourself at risk of contracting the same virus.
The same applies to sharing your razor. Shaving often results in little cuts and scratches in the skin which slightly increases your risk of catching blood-borne viral infections such as hepatitis B or C. HIV, in contrast, is not stable outside the body, and there has never been a case of it being transmitted through sharing a razor.
3. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are on the rise among older adults
A recent study conducted by Age UK shows that you’re never too old to catch an STI. Data identified that the rate of STI diagnoses rose by 23 per cent between 2014 and 2018 for those aged 65 and over (1). Once childbearing years have passed, many do not realise that they should always use condoms – to avoid STIs rather than unplanned pregnancies.
The increase of STIs within this age group can also be a result of the stigma around sex and the older generation. Sex does not become irrelevant once you hit a certain birthday so don’t be embarrassed to visit your local sexual health clinic to have yourself checked or you can take advantage of our wide range of at-home STI tests.
4. Condoms don’t protect from all STIs
Although condoms are the current way to protect yourself from common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as HPV, chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis and HIV, they are not completely foolproof. Some STIs can be passed on through skin-to-skin contact. For instance, genital herpes can be transmitted via the thighs and buttocks.
The same goes for oral sex - receiving oral sex from someone who has a cold sore can cause a genital herpes infection. It is also thought to be responsible for an increase in rates of throat cancer in younger adults, caused by HPV infection.
5. Syphilis rates are at their highest since World War II
A report by the Terrence Higgins Trust and British Association for Sexual Health & HIV (BASHH) recently revealed that syphilis cases have reached their highest level since the Second World War. Over the last decade, syphilis cases in Europe have risen by 165% to an all-time high with 7,798 cases identified in the UK in 2017 (2).
Syphilis is a bacterial infection and can be easily treated with a single shot of penicillin. However, if left untreated over many years it can spread to the brain and other organs and can be fatal.
The disease was almost eradicated in the UK in the 1980s but re-emerged at around the turn of the millennium and has been on the rise ever since.
Medicheck your sexual health
If reading these surprising facts has got you thinking about your own sexual health and you would like reassurance, we offer a wide range of discreet yet comprehensive STI tests which can be completed with a simple finger prick or urine sample in the comfort of your own home. Our best-seller, 6-in-1 STI Blood and Urine Test tests for the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in men and women including chlamydia, HIV, gonorrhoea, syphilis, hepatitis B and trichomoniasis.