STI Guide: Everything You Need to Know

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STI’s – no one wants to talk about them. The stigma surrounding STI’s is still very prevalent in today’s society as it’s often the punchline to a cheap joke or used as to insult someone who has multiple partners – but the truth of the matter is – ANYONE who is sexually active can get an STI. Even if you wear condoms. Even if everyone you’ve slept with is ‘clean’. The association with being ‘dirty’ and having an STI needs to prevail if we want people to talk about it more and prevent the spread of STI’s as a whole. Being open about these things is a method of prevention also. Talking about your sexual health status, when you last got checked, and if you have got an STI – telling your partners to go and get tested and sort themselves out too. Not talking about STI’s just makes the matter worse. Plus, some STI’s can have major side effects such as infertility (chlamydia) if not treated. The STI Guide: Everything You Need to Know.

What are STI’s?

STI stands for Sexually Transmitted Infection. When speaking of sexual health, Healthline state, “Infections occur when pathogens like viruses, bacteria, or parasites enter your body and start to multiply. How they get into your body depends on the type of pathogen. Some get in through skin-to-skin contact with a person who has an infection; others are transmitted through an exchange of bodily fluids, like semen, vaginal secretions, or blood. Infection progresses to disease when these pathogens cause damage to your cells, and signs and symptoms appear.”

STIs are contracted in more ways than you probably realise. Penis-in-vagina and penis-in-anus aren’t the only way – oral, hands, and even dry humping and clothes can transmit STIs. Some are spread through contact with bodily fluids and some through skin-to-skin contact, whether there are visible signs of an infection or not. Anyone who’s sexually active should know what symptoms to watch out for. If you’re worried you have got an STI, go for a check-up at a sexual health clinic as soon as you can.

The Difference Between STI and STD

You may have heard of STD as well as STI which means Sexually Transmitted Disease – the two are often used interchangeably – however, there’s a difference between an infection and a disease. A sexually transmitted disease can come from an infection; when the infection has festered and obvious symptoms have appeared it then becomes a disease.

Therefore, STI is often the correct term to use when referring to most of the medical conditions as oppose to STD. For example: chlamydia and syphilis – the two most common – are asymptomatic. Some STIs never develop into STDs. Take HPV, for example. HPV usually clears up on its own without causing any health problems. In these cases, HPV is an STI. If the infection doesn’t clear on its own, it can cause genital warts or certain cancers. This then makes it a disease.

What to Look Out For

Usually anything different from the norm that involves your bits downstairs can cause a fair reason for concern, but sometimes it’s absolutely nothing to worry about. The only way to find out is to go to a clinic and let them have a look. Signs/symptoms you may have an STI can include the following:

  • Bumps, sores, or rashes in or around the genitals, anus, buttocks, or thighs
  • Changes in the colour, amount, or smell of vaginal discharge
  • Penile discharge
  • Unusual vaginal bleeding or spotting between periods or after sex
  • Painful or burning urination
  • Pain during vaginal or anal penetration
  • Pelvic pain
  • Painful or swollen testicles
  • Tingling or itching around the genitals
  • Swollen and painful lymph nodes, especially in the groin and neck
  • Rectal bleeding

When to Get Tested

Get tested before and after you have unprotected sex. That way you can have peace of mind knowing your sexual health status at the time was all negative. If you’re having unprotected sex with multiple partners I’d advise getting tested every time you change partner. If you’re going to have unprotected sex with someone – try to keep it monogmous. It just makes things less complicated. Other times when you should get tested include:

-Have had sex without a barrier method, like a condom
-Have had or are planning to have sex with a new partner
-Have multiple sexual partners
-Are worried you may have been exposed to an STI
-Are pregnant
-Share injection drug equipment

But don’t jump straight from the bed to the screening clinic, because getting tested too soon won’t tell you whether you were exposed to an STI from your most recent sexual encounter.

How to Protect Yourself From STI’s

STIs ARE preventable. There are steps you can take to keep yourself and your partner(s) healthy. The main thing any of us know about protecting ourselves against STI’s is to WEAR A CONDOM. However, some STI’s like genital warts, genital herpes, syphilis, scabies and crabs – can still be passed on even if you’re having ‘protected’ sex. Practice abstinence. The surest way to avoid STDs is to not have sex. The best way to not get an STI is to be completely monogamous or to not have sex at all. Condoms reduce your overall risk of getting an STI so even though they aren’t 100% they’re better than nothing at all. USE CONDOMS!

How to Tell Your Partner/s You’ve Given Them an STI

Breathe and repeat after me: It doesn’t have to be a big deal. Whether it’s cleared by a run of antibiotics or hanging around for the long haul – it makes no difference. The clinics in the UK offer to text your partner notifying them to get tested if you would rather that – than to text them yourself – however it’s often better than not to just tell them yourself. These conversations aren’t fun, but they help break the chain of infection.

A talk about testing and status can help prevent the future spread of STIs and lead to earlier detection and treatment, which can help avoid complications. This is especially important with many STIs often being asymptomatic until complications occur, like infertility and certain cancers. Plus, it’s just the moral thing to do. If you’re having sex – protected or not – you’re putting yourself at risk of getting an STI. How to not get an STI? Don’t have sex. Just take preventative measures; look after yourself and your partner and decrease the rate of transmission. As the saying goes – it takes two to tango!

You could get an STI from the first person you have slept with and you could get one from your husband: STIs don’t mean a person’s dirty, and they don’t always mean that someone has cheated. You would be grateful if someone opened up

Common STI’s – Side Effects and Treatments

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All of the information below is from the NHS website. I’m going to link the NHS pages to each of the STI’s listed so you can click for further information. If you think you have an STI you should avoid any sort of sex with your partner until you have been tested and/or treated.

Chlamydia: One of the most common STI’s in the UK. Passed on through unprotected sex (without a condom). Most people with chlamydia do not notice any symptoms and do not know they have it. If you do develop symptoms, you may experience: pain when peeing, unusual discharge from the vagina, penis or bottom, in women, pain in the tummy, bleeding after sex and bleeding between periods in men, pain and swelling in the testicles. Chlamydia can usually be treated easily with antibiotics.You may be given some tablets to take all on 1 day, or a longer course of capsules to take for a week. Read more

Gonorrhoea: The bacteria that cause gonorrhoea are mainly found in discharge from the penis and in vaginal fluid. The bacteria can infect the entrance to the womb (cervix), the tube that passes urine out of the body (urethra), the rectum and, less commonly, the throat or eyes. Typical symptoms of gonorrhoea include a thick green or yellow discharge from the vagina or penis, pain when peeing and, in women, bleeding between periods. But around 1 in 10 infected men and almost half of infected women do not experience any symptoms.Gonorrhoea is easily passed between people through: unprotected vaginal, oral or anal sex, sharing vibrators or other sex toys that have not been washed or covered with a new condom each time they’re used. Gonorrhoea is usually treated with a single antibiotic injection and a single antibiotic tablet. Read more

Trichomoniasis: Caused by a tiny parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis (TV). Symptoms of trichomoniasis usually develop within a month of infection. But up to half of all people will not develop any symptoms (though they can still pass the infection on to others). The symptoms of trichomoniasis are similar to those of many other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), so it can sometimes be difficult to diagnose. Symptoms include: abnormal vaginal discharge that may be thick, thin or frothy and yellow-green in colour, producing more discharge than normal, which may also have an unpleasant fishy smell, soreness, swelling and itching around the vagina – sometimes the inner thighs also become itchy, pain or discomfort when passing urine or having sex in women. Symptoms for men can include: pain when peeing or during ejaculation needing to pee more frequently than usual thin, white discharge from the penis, soreness, swelling and redness around the head of the penis or foreskin. Anyone who’s sexually active can catch it and pass it on. However, trichomoniasis is not thought to be passed on through oral or anal sex. It can be treated with a course of 5-7 days of antibiotics. Read more

HPV and Genital Warts: A common sexually transmitted infection (STI) passed on by vaginal and anal sex, sharing sex toys and, rarely, by oral sex. Many people with the virus do not have symptoms but can still pass it on. After you get the infection, it can take weeks to many months before symptoms appear. You can get genital warts from skin-to-skin contact, including vaginal and anal sex, and sharing sex toys. HPV is the name of a very common group of viruses. They do not cause any problems in most people, but some types can cause genital warts or cancer. HPV affects the skin. There are more than 100 different types.Strains HPV 6 and HPV 11 account for 90% of genital warts. Go to a sexual health clinic if you have: One or more painless growths or lumps around your vagina, penis or anus, itching or bleeding from your genitals or anus, a change to your normal flow of pee (for example, it’s begun to flow sideways) that does not go away, a sexual partner who has genital warts, even if you do not have symptoms. Treatment can include: cream, freezing the warts, cutting them off, burn them off or use a lazer to remove the warts. There’s no cure for genital warts, but it’s possible for your body to fight the virus over time. Read more

Genital Herpes: Passed on through vaginal, anal and oral sex. Treatment from a sexual health clinic can help. Symptoms clear up on their own but can come back. Go to the clinic if you experience: small blisters that burst to leave red, open sores around your genitals, anus, thighs or bottom, tingling, burning or itching around your genitals, pain when you pee, – in women- vaginal discharge that’s not usual for you. There’s no cure. Symptoms clear up by themselves, but the blisters can come back (an outbreak or recurrence). Treatment from a sexual health clinic can help. Treatment can include: antiviral medication and creams to soothe the blisters. You can get genital herpes: from skin-to-skin contact with the infected area (including vaginal, anal and oral sex) when there are no visible sores or blisters, if a cold sore touches your genitals, by transferring the infection on fingers from someone else to your genitals, by sharing sex toys with someone who has herpes. You cannot get genital herpes:from objects such as cutlery or cups – the virus dies very quickly when away from your skin. Read more

Pubic Lice: Otherwise known as ‘crabs’ are tiny insects that live on coarse human body hair, such as pubic hair. As well as being found in pubic hair, the lice are also sometimes found in: underarm and leg hair, hair on the chest, abdomen and back, facial hair, such as beards and moustaches, eyelashes and eyebrows (very occasionally). Pubic lice are spread through close bodily contact, most commonly sexual contact. Symptoms are the same for men and women, and include: itching in the affected areas, especially at night, inflammation and irritation caused by scratching, black powder in your underwear, blue spots or small spots of blood on your skin, such as on your thighs or lower abdomen (caused by lice bites), Itching is the most common symptom of pubic lice and is an allergic reaction to their saliva. The itching is usually worse at night because that’s when the lice are most active. Using condoms and other methods of barrier contraception doesn’t protect you against pubic lice – but shaving will! Pubic lice can be treated at home with insecticide cream, lotion or shampoo. Read more

Scabies: The symptoms of scabies are: intense itching, especially at night, a raised rash or spots. Tiny mites lay eggs in the skin, leaving lines with a dot at one end. The scabies rash usually spreads across the whole body, apart from the head. Scabies is not usually a serious condition, but it does need to be treated. A pharmacist will recommend a cream or lotion that you apply over your whole body. It’s important to read the instructions carefully. Scabies is very infectious, but it can take up to 8 weeks for the rash to appear. Scabies are passed from person to person by skin-to-skin contact. Therefore, it’s not always caught via sex – it can be passed on from touching someone – anything skin-on-skin. Read more

Syphilis: It’s important to get tested and treated as soon as possible if you think you might have syphilis, as it can cause serious problems if it’s left untreated. It can usually be cured with a short course of antibiotics. The symptoms of syphilis are not always obvious and may eventually disappear, but you’ll usually remain infected unless you get treated. Symptoms can include: small, painless sores or ulcers that typically appear on the penis, vagina, or around the anus, but can occur in other places such as the mouth, a blotchy red rash that often affects the palms of the hands or soles of the feet, small skin growths (similar to genital warts) that may develop on the vulva in women or around the bottom (anus) in both men and women, white patches in the mouth, tiredness, headaches, joint pains, a high temperature (fever) and swollen glands in your neck, groin or armpits. If it’s left untreated for years, syphilis can spread to the brain or other parts of the body and cause serious long-term problems. Syphilis is mainly spread through close contact with an infected sore. This usually happens during vaginal, anal or oral sex, or by sharing sex toys with someone who’s infected. Anyone who’s sexually active is potentially at risk. Syphilis is usually treated with either: an injection of antibiotics into your buttocks – most people will only need 1 dose, although 3 injections given at weekly intervals may be recommended if you have had syphilis for a long time. Or a course of antibiotics tablets if you cannot have the injection – this will usually last 2 or 4 weeks, depending on how long you have had syphilis. Read more

HIV: HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that damages the cells in your immune system and weakens your ability to fight everyday infections and disease. AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) is the name used to describe a number of potentially life-threatening infections and illnesses that happen when your immune system has been severely damaged by the HIV virus. While AIDS cannot be transmitted from one person to another, the HIV virus can. There’s currently no cure for HIV, but there are very effective drug treatments that enable most people with the virus to live a long and healthy life. With an early diagnosis and effective treatments, most people with HIV will not develop any AIDS-related illnesses and will live a near-normal lifespan. HIV is found in the body fluids of an infected person. This includes semen, vaginal and anal fluids, blood and breast milk. It’s a fragile virus and does not survive outside the body for long. HIV cannot be transmitted through sweat, urine or saliva. The most common way of getting HIV in the UK is through having anal or vaginal sex without a condom. Other ways of getting HIV include: sharing needles, syringes or other injecting equipment. Antiretroviral medicines are used to treat HIV. They work by stopping the virus replicating in the body, allowing the immune system to repair itself and preventing further damage. These come in the form of tablets, which need to be taken every day. As long as a HIV+ person takes their medication every day it makes the virus near undetectable when coming to transmission. However; anyone who has sex without a condom or shares needles is at risk of HIV infection. Read more

The Penis – How Much Do You Know?

Instagram via @shshithappens / FUN FACT: One testicle always hangs a little lower than the other so they don’t hit off each other when a man is moving.

Whatever you happen to call it – Cock, Dick, Willy, Schlong, Todger, Tom, or Jerry – the penis is a peculiar body part – but an incredibly vital body part nonetheless. The penis – just like the vagina – is essential to the survival of our species. When you consider the penis as an evolutionary adaptation, it has done remarkably well. All of us can say without too much doubt that our father’s penis worked, as did our grandfather’s, and his father’s, and so on, right back through successive generations until we reach far beyond the existence of mankind.

Memorialised in monuments, Greek statues, school-books and graffiti everywhere, the penis may be the most famous and arguably the most spoken about human organ on the planet. But despite it’s seemingly simple exterior, how much do you really know about penises? Given they’ve been swinging around for years, you might be surprised by just how many facts you never knew. So here goes!

Erections Are Complicated.

An average male experiences 11 erections per day, many of them while asleep. The average number of erections a man has during the night is nine lasting between 25-35 minutes. The standard male orgasm lasts six seconds, while women get an average of 23 seconds.

Achieving an erection is one of the most complex functions to happen in a man, Dr. Reitano says: “For starters, hormones must be released on demand, arteries need to carry six times more blood to the penis with perfect efficiency, the nervous system must transmit its signals without a hitch, and the mind must be working in perfect harmony with the body.” The ability to get and sustain an erection, he says, depends upon “a body that is perfectly tuned physically, psychologically, and emotionally.” The inability to achieve an erection, a.k.a. erectile dysfunction, is usually the first sign of poor health, according to Reitano.

According to Health, morning wood is a good sign: Waking up with a hard-on is a normal thing for guys; it has nothing to do with how horny he is but the biological fact that testosterone levels are highest in the a.m. If a man stops having morning erections, however, it could mean that something’s up with his health. Two weeks without one necessitates a trip to a doctor, suggests Dr. Reitano. You can read more about Erectile Dysfunction here.

You’re Born With One and You Can Die With One

That’s it…Erections! Did you know that it’s common for babies to exit the womb with an erection? You do now! Even before the moment of birth, ultrasound scans can show a fetus with a fully formed erection. Weird. According to a study from 1991, fetal erections occur most commonly during random eye movement (REM) sleep, and they can happen a number of times each hour. No one is quite sure why, but it might just be our body’s way of testing things out and keeping them running correctly.

The final erection: So, we’ve established that you can get erections in the womb and during sleep, but this is perhaps even more surprising: the death erection. Also called ‘angel lust’ or ‘terminal erection’, it happens in the moments after death. Most commonly, it occurs in men who have died from hanging.

How Many Times Do You Ejaculate on Average in a Lifetime?

The average man will experience around 7,200 ejaculations in his lifetime and the average number of times a man will ejaculate from masturbation in a lifetime is around 2,000.

Fun Fact – Fast & Furious: The average speed of ejaculation is 28 miles per hour.

The Angle of the Dangle 

A man’s erection can point in pretty much any direction. Straight up, ahead, down, left or right – there’s no right or wrong. The data below comes from a study that measured the erections of 1,484 men. In the figures below, if the penis pointed directly up, it was measured as 0 degrees, and if it was forward-pointing (horizontal), it would be 90 degrees:

0–30 degrees – 4.9 percent of men

30–60 degrees – 29.6 percent of men

60–85 degrees – 30.9 percent of men

85–95 degrees – 9.9 percent of men

95–120 degrees – 19.8 percent of men

120–180 degrees – 4.9 percent of men

So, if you’ve ever been concerned that your wood is a bit ski-whiff, don’t worry – you’re normal.

Grower or a Show-er? 

The average erect penis is about 5.56 inches (14 cm) long, according to a 2013 study detailed in the Journal of Sexual Medicine that surveyed 1,661 men. But variety is the spice of life, and men in that study had members that ranged from 1.6 inches (4cm) long to 10.2 inches (26 cm) long. So most penises are around the same size when erect which is actually between 6-7 inches (minus the anomolies).

When men are smaller or larger than average, it’s not by much. “Almost every man is between 4 and 6 inches, and maybe 15% of men have a penis over 7 inches in length,” Michael Reitano, MD, physician in residence at men’s health company Roman, tells Health.

A study on 274 men demonstrated that there is no correlation between the length of a flaccid penis and its erect size. Some start small and end up large (a grower), while some are large when flaccid and only grow a little when erect (a show-er). Some are even small whatever state they are in, and some are large when flaccid and get much larger. It’s a mixed bag. There’s no correlation between how big a guy is when he’s hanging loose and how large he is erect.

Penis anxiety is real and common: in a study published in September 2013 in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, 30 percent of a sample of British men were very dissatisfied with their penis size. The study found no link, however, between size anxiety and actual penis size. Despite reports that lots of men worry about their penis size, they shouldn’t. 85% of women are said to be totally satisfied with their partner’s package. For those that still worry, here’s another reassuring thing: vaginas typically adjust themselves to any size or length. However, penile tissue can also become less elastic if a guy doesn’t get regular erections, meaning his penis could shrink by a centimeter or two if he doesn’t use it enough.

The Biggest and the Smallest

Who has the biggest human penis in the world? Reportedly, a man called Jonah Falcon from New York has the biggest schlong on record – 13.5 inches (although, not totally verified). JEEZ!

A study conducted by the University of Ulster found that men in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have the biggest average penis size in the world at 7.1 inches.

North Korea apparently has the smallest penises on average (3.8 inches). Only 3% of men worldwide are over 8 inches and only 6% of men actually need extra large condoms. So men that say their penis is too big to fit inside a condom… y’all probably lying.

Sucks to be Shrew: The shrew has the smallest penis of the animal kingdom, typically just 0.2 inches. The largest penis on the other hand, is from a sperm whale, standing at 6 feet tall and weighing nearly 150 pounds!

Can You Suck Yourself Off?

According to the sexologist Alfred Kinsey, who, during the 1940s conducted epic research into human sexuality – on average – one in a thousand men are flexible enough to orally pleasure themselves.

Drop the Cigs! Smoking Can Shorten Your Penis!

Because smoking reduces blood flow to the penis, it can shorten the average penis by up to 0.4 inches (1 cm), studies have found. It has also been proven that smoking increases men’s chances of impotency (erectile dysfunction). The solution? Stub it out, lads.

You Can Be Born with Two Penises

Very rarely, a man may be born with two penises, a genetic condition that affects every 5 million to 6 million males (around 100 men worldwide) and is known as diphallia. Unfortunately, this condition doesn’t mean double the fun: Both organs are rarely fully functional, and the condition often comes along with other anomalies in the genital area that require surgery to correct.

Are Uncircumcised Penises More Likely to Get STD’s?

Before – during – after circumcision.

Can being circumcised reduce your risk of contracting an STD? Well, apparently so. The foreskin’s inner surface is made up of mucous membranes similar to those found inside the eyelid or the mouth, making it a moist place. That unique environment could be responsible for the increased STD transmission rates associated with uncircumcised men in some studies. Circumcised penises are also a lot easier to keep clean in comparison, because there’s no extra skin to allow for build up of bacteria and dirt etc.

There’s this impression that only newborns get circumcised, but adult men can get circumcised too! However only 30% of men over the age of 15 have been circumcised. As for those wondering if your partner will notice the difference; experts say that not much changes for women in terms of feeling when they have sex with a man who is circumcised – and as a woman who has experienced both circumcised and uncircumcised – I can confirm this.

Foot Size = Penis Length?

Penis length is NOT linked to foot size: The idea that the size of your penis is in proportion to your shoe size is a myth. According to a study published in the British Journal of Urology International, researchers at University College London measured the penises of 104 men, including teenagers and pensioners. The average penis length in this group was 13cm (5.1 inches) when soft and gently stretched, and the average British shoe size was 9 (43 EU Size). But researchers found no link between shoe size and penis length.

‘Blue Balls’ is REAL.

The myth surrounding men getting blue balls is not entirely a fabrication. It does exist in science, and is known as “prostatic congestion,”. The common symptom of an ache in the testicles is a result of ‘trapped’ blood. An orgasm can relieve it, but it is not the only solution. Doctors suggest a nice warm shower or aspirin can also fix the issue.

There’s More to it Than Meets the Eye

A guy’s penis size is double the length you actually see. The rest is tucked up inside the pelvis and attached to his pubic bone.

You CAN Break Your Penis

Yes – if the penis is violently twisted when erect – it can break. It most commonly occurs during vigorous sex, although it has been documented to happen to men who have fallen out of bed with an erection. There are no bones in the penis, but the tubes that fill with blood during an erection can burst. Blood pours out of them inside the penis and causes a very painful swelling. The moment of fracture is accompanied by a popping or cracking sound, intense pain, swelling, and – unsurprisingly – flaccidity.

Reported cases of penile fracture are rare, but it’s thought that some men are too embarrassed to report it to their doctor. According to the NHS, damage during sex, where their partner is on top, is responsible for about one-third of all cases. The breakage usually occurs when a man’s penis slips out of his partner and is violently bent.

Thankfully, it doesn’t happen very often and, if it is treated swiftly, full function can be restored. As a note of caution, if this happens to you, don’t let embarrassment get the better of you. Go and get it sorted as soon as possible.

A Phobia of Penises

Phallophobia is the fear of a penis.

Can You Change the Taste of Your Cum?

Dr Shirin Larkhani, a general practitioner explains to Cosmopolitan that although semen taste can vary hugely from one person to another, there are certain things that can affect the taste of semen, Dr Larkhani says,

“Strong-tasting vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, garlic and caffeine may make semen taste or smell unpleasant. Whereas pineapple, oranges and other sweet fruits may make it taste sweeter. This is largely due to how the enzymes in the food break down and affect proteins, thus impacting on the smell and taste.This is highly subjective though, just as our tastes vary with food it’s logical that our tastes in semen does too.” Off the Menu: According to Glamour, asparagus, red meat and dairy are all said to negatively affect the taste of semen.

The Penis is NOT a Muscle

Contrary to popular belief, the so-called love muscle does not contain any muscles. That’s why you cannot move it very much when it’s erect. The penis is a kind of sponge that fills with blood when a man is sexually excited, causing the penis to swell and stiffen.

Semen is More Than Just Sperm

(If you’ve ever had a facial) Have you noticed after washing cum off your face it’s super smooth? Well there’s a reason for that! Semen is made of about 96 percent water, 2 percent sperm, fructose (which nourishes sperm), vitamin C (which helps keep sperm healthy), sodium bicarbonate (which protects sperm from the acidic environment of a vagina), various proteins and enzymes, and minerals like magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc. All of that goodness!

Having Sex Once a Week Can Lower Your Risk of Health Conditions!

Having sex at least once a week can lower a man’s risk of heart disease by 30%, stroke by 50%, and diabetes by 40%. Even more of a reason to be having more sex!