Help and support
Most STIs are passed on through body fluids such as semen (including pre-cum), vaginal fluids, anal mucus, or blood.
Sex without a condom is the most common way for STIs to be passed on. This could be vaginal sex (when a penis enters a vagina) or anal sex (when a penis enters the bottom).
STIs can be passed on through oral sex (see below). The risk of getting an STI from oral sex is usually much lower than for vaginal or anal sex.
STIs can also be passed on through sharing sex toys and some can be passed on through skin-to-skin contact.
Blood-borne viruses such as HIV and hepatitis can be passed on in a few other ways, most commonly through sharing drug-injecting equipment.
Many STIs can be passed on to a baby during pregnancy. This is why it’s a good idea to find out about your sexual health before trying for a baby (see below)
If you’re sexually active, then regular STI testing is one of the best things you can do to look after your health and that of your partner(s).
Many people with an STI don’t have any symptoms and so it’s possible to have an STI without knowing.
Some STIs can lead to serious health problems if they are not treated, so it’s always best to start treatment as early as possible if you do test positive for one.
We recommend getting tested whenever you have a new sexual partner. And if you want to stop using condoms with a regular partner then it’s a great idea if you both get tested for STIs first.
Our home STI tests are easy to do at a time and place that suits you. But if you have any symptoms, or a partner has tested positive for one or more STIs then you should get tested at a sexual health service as soon as you can.
It can take some time after you first have an STI before it can be detected by a test. This is sometimes called the “window period”.
If there is a chance that you’ve been exposed to an STI it can still be worth taking a test during the window period. That way, if you do test positive, you can begin treatment straight away.
But if you test negative, it’s often a good idea to do another test at the end of the window period.
The window periods we recommend are:
- Chlamydia: 2 weeks after last exposure
- Gonorrhoea: 2 weeks after last exposure
- HIV: 8 weeks after last exposure (although tests done after 4 weeks are accurate 9 out of 10 times)
- Syphilis: 3 months after last exposure
- Hepatitis B: 3 months after last exposure
- Hepatitis C: 3 months after last exposure
- Mycoplasma genitalium: 2 weeks after last exposure
- Trichomonas: 4 weeks after last exposure
Oral (in the mouth) sex is when someone licks, sucks, or kisses a partner’s genitals or anus. It is possible to get and pass on STIs through oral sex, although it’s usually lower risk than for vaginal or anal sex without a condom.
If you’re not sure whether you’ve been at risk, you might find it helpful to talk to a health adviser or nurse at a sexual health clinic.
Anyone can get an STI but having multiple partners can put you at higher risk and can mean that STIs spread more quickly. Regular testing with either our Standard or Comprehensive STI test kits is advised for you and your partners.
Using condoms every time will greatly reduce your risk of getting or passing on an STI.
If you or a partner get any symptoms, or a partner says they’ve tested positive for an STI, then get checked out at a sexual health clinic as soon as you can.
To protect your partner, avoid having sex with them, or make sure you use condoms until you know whether you have any STIs.
We’d recommend doing our Standard or Comprehensive STI test kits as soon as possible. Once we’ve received your samples, we usually get your results back within 1-3 days. If you test positive for any STIs you will usually need treatment as soon as possible.
Bear in mind that when you first have an STI, it may not show up on a test for a few weeks or months. This is known as the “window period”. So, although you may get a negative test result, you can’t be certain that you haven’t got a particular STI until the window period has passed and you’ve had a negative test result.
In the meantime, if you develop any symptoms, then get checked out at a sexual health clinic as soon as possible.
When you or a partner are planning to get pregnant it’s a good idea to consider all aspects of your health including your sexual health, to give yourself the best chance of getting pregnant and having a healthy pregnancy
Some STIs can cause pregnancy complications or can be passed on to the baby during the pregnancy.
Tests for HIV and syphilis are offered as a standard part of antenatal care but it’s better to check for them before getting pregnant so that you can begin treatment if needed.
If an ex has told you directly that they have an STI, don’t panic, but do get tested at a sexual health clinic as soon as possible. You’ll need testing and, depending on the STI, you may be offered treatment before your test results are back, just to be on the safe side.
If you’ve heard that your ex has an STI but you’re not certain, and you don’t have any symptoms, then our Standard or Comprehensive STI test kits could be a good option for you. They test for chlamydia, gonorrhoea, HIV, and syphilis at a time and place that’s convenient for you.
If you could be at risk of pregnancy, then you can get emergency contraception. It’s free from your GP or a contraception clinic or you can ask your local pharmacy if they offer it for free. You can also buy emergency contraceptive pills from high street and online pharmacies.
If you’re new to STI testing or haven’t tested for a while, this is a great idea.
If you’re sexually active, it’s a good idea to test once a year, whenever you have a new partner, or if you and a partner want to stop using condoms.
Our Standard STI kit tests for the four STIs that a sexual health clinic will most commonly screen for, or our Comprehensive STI test kits can give you a more complete picture of your current sexual health.
A blood test is needed if you want to test for HIV, syphilis, hepatitis B, or hepatitis C. We know that the thought of blood or needles can be a worry. Our blood tests are designed to be simple to do and really don’t hurt – or involve too much blood.
You collect the blood by making a small prick in one or two fingertips with a special needle called a lancet. We give you easy instructions to follow.
If you feel really nervous about it, or just can’t look at blood at all, you could consider asking a family member or close friend to help you.
STIs are passed on in a number of different ways, not just through ejaculation, so if you’ve had sex without a condom then it’s best to get tested.
If you have any symptoms, or you’re not sure, then it’s best to get checked out at a sexual health clinic as soon as possible. Our testing kits are only for people with no symptoms.