Introduction to STIs (sexually transmitted infections)
In this section you will find information about the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that gay men might catch.
Why it's important to get tested for STIs
Using condoms will protect you from many of these infections, and many of them are easily cured or can be vaccinated against. However, the transmission of some STIs is very difficult to prevent, even if you have safer sex, so sexually active gay men should go for a check-up at least once a year or every six months if you have lots of partners to test for these infections. You may have an STI without knowing it, so sexual health check-ups are an important part of staying healthy.
Being infected with one STI can make others easier to catch. If you are HIV-positive, other STIs can make it more likely that you'll pass on HIV if you fuck without condoms. If you are HIV-negative, being infected with another STI can make you more vulnerable to HIV infection.
Remembering to test on an annual basis isn’t as easy as it sounds. To help remind you to get checked out at least once a year GMFA have set up a service whereby we send you an email once a year. All you have to do is give us your contact details and tell us the month you would like a reminder and we send you an email on that month. The email contains a link to GUM clinics and a short message. You can unsubscribe from the service at any time. To be sent an annual reminder to test for HIV click here.
Where to get tested
This site provides a full list of London's GUM clinics, where you can have a free and confidential sexual health check-up. If you live outside London, you can find your local clinic by visiting the FPA website and entering your postcode.
How STIs can be treated
Most of the infections you need to be aware of are either viral or bacterial. Most bacterial infections, such as gonorrhoea and NSU, can be treated with antibiotics, and so they should clear up pretty quickly. Viral infections are typically more difficult to treat, and some (like HIV and herpes) cannot be cured. All treatments for STIs, including antibiotics, work with your body's immune system to fight off infection. If your immune system is weakened, this process will be more difficult, and may take longer or not work at all.
Why it's important to inform your partners if have an STI
If you've been diagnosed with an STI, don't assume that people you have had sex with will already know if they have an STI. It is possible to be infected with an STI without having any symptoms. The person who gave you an STI probably didn't know they had one and, without knowing, you may have already passed on your STI to someone else.
Untreated, STIs can cause serious medical problems and some can be life-threatening. They can also make people more likely to pick up HIV if they are HIV-negative or pass on HIV if they are HIV-positive.1
So even if you feel a bit awkward about informing your sexual partners that you have an STI, it's really important you do it so they have the opportunity to get tested and treated.
GMFA runs an online partner notification system with selected GU services in England. This free and confidential service allows men to contact recent sexual partners via text, email or a message on a gay dating website. Messages can be anonymous. If you are diagnosed with an STI at a GU clinic in England, ask for information about GMFA’s Sexual Health Messaging Service.
Visit the specific STI page in this section to find out more about which partners you should inform.
1 Weatherburn P, Bonell C, Hickson F, Stewart W. The facilitation of HIV transmission by other sexually transmitted infections during sex between men: evidence regarding epidemiological synergy among gay men in the UK. Sigma Research, 1999.