Sexual Health

Here at LANDED, we acknowledge that talking about Sexual Health can be a bit awkward for some people, but knowing the facts is really important as it will allow you to keep yourself safe and healthy.  When it comes to sexual health, the main concern for many young people is avoiding pregnancy. But, being aware of the risks and consequences of not practising safer sex allows you to stay in control.

What is Sexual Health?

Sexual Health is about being safe, secure and comfortable. Not just in a certain environment, but in your own body and mind and being aware of Sexually Transmitted Infections STIs, pregnancy and your own sexuality.

Looking after your sexual health is just as important as looking after your general health or mental health, and is an important part of your physical and emotional wellbeing. 

Sex is a natural part of life, and without sex, none of us would be here.  Sex should be fun and pleasurable, and should be mutually agreed with your partner so it’s your choice – don’t allow yourself to feel pressured into doing anything you don’t want to or feel ready to do.

 
 

Contraception

Contraceptives or “birth control” are used to stop you from getting pregnant. There are lots of different types of contraceptives, and which one you choose to use will depend on lots of things like your lifestyle, culture and your plans for the future. Your doctor or sexual health clinic can give you advice on which method of contraceptive would suit you best.

Although most contraceptives are taken by women, it is as much a man’s responsibility as a woman’s to practice safer sex.

Condoms are the #1 method of preventing unplanned pregnancy and most STIs.  Even if you use contraception to prevent unplanned pregnancy, you should also use condoms to protect yourself from STIs.

 

Remember: It's your sexual health and it's your responsibility to protect yourself. Don't rely on someone else to do this for you.

For more information on the types of contraception available have a look below:

Condoms

  • Mainly used by males (female condoms are available too)

  • 98% effective if used properly

  • Available free in Lanarkshire through the C Card scheme and from sexual health clinics

  • The No 1 method to protect against pregnancy and most STIs

Contraceptive Injection - Depo-Provera (The Jag)

  • Used by females

  • Over 99% effective

  • Lasts between 8-12 weeks dependant on which type you get

  • Periods become irregular and can stop

  • Other side effects might include weight gain and mood changes

  • You can stop injections at any time

  • DOES NOT PROTECT AGAINST STIs

Contraceptive Implant

  • Used by females

  • Over 99% effective

  • Works for 3 years

  • A little rod the size of a match stick

  • Placed underneath the skin by a doctor or nurse (usually in the arm).  Once inserted you can feel it but won’t be able to see it

  • Releases a slow dose of hormone into your body

  • Side effects might include acne, mood changes and breast tenderness. 

  • DOES NOT PROTECT AGAINST STIs

Combined Pill (Contains Oestrogen & Progestogen)

  • Used by females

  • Over 99% effective if taken properly

  • Can also be used to control heavy periods

  • Side effects can include headaches, sickness and weight gain

  • DOES NOT PROTECT AGAINST STIs

Progestogen Only Pill

(Mini Pill)

  • Used by females

  • 99% effective if taken properly

  • Good for people who can’t take the combined pill.

  • Can mess up your periods

  • DOES NOT PROTECT AGAINST STIs

Femidom

  • Used by females

  • 95% effective if used properly

  • Placed inside the vagina before sex

  • Need to be careful as they can slip out

  • You can get them free on the “Free Condoms No Fuss” scheme and from sexual health clinics

  • Protects against pregnancy and most STIs

 

Safe Condom Use

Most contraceptives will only protect against an unplanned pregnancy – not against STIs. To keep you safe – either don’t have sex or use a condom.

Our amazing volunteers made this video to help you to use a condom safely and effectively.

REMEMBER: Condoms are only 98% effective against pregnancy if they are put on correctly.

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

Sexually Transmitted Infections or STIs are passed from person to person when they have unprotected sex or, in some cases, close skin to skin contact in the genital area.

  

If you have had unprotected sex with someone, there is a risk you may have an STI – even if you have no symptoms.  You can get STIs from oral, anal and vaginal sex. You can also get STIs if you share sex toys.

Most STIs are treatable, but not all STIs can be cured. STI’s will not go away by themselves - you need to be treated by a doctor or at a sexual health clinic. If left untreated many STIs can be painful or uncomfortable and may cause other health issues. Sometimes the symptoms will go away, but the infection will still be in your body and will continue to do damage until it has been treated. You can also pass the infection to another person if you have unprotected sex with them. 

 

Fact or Fib?

Do you think the statements below are fact or a fib? Hover over them with your mouse to find out the answer.

You can’t get an STI the first time you have sex.

You can only get an STI once then your body builds an immunity to it.

You will always know if you have an STI.

Getting an STI has nothing to do with your personal hygiene.

Chlorine in pools and hot tubs kill sperm and germs.

Types of STIs

Chlamydia

The most common STI amongst young people aged 15-24, a lot of people experience no symptoms so they don’t even know they have it, or sometimes symptoms can be very mild and you don’t even notice them. If Chlamydia is left untreated it can affect your chances of having children in the future.

Signs & Symptoms

  • White discharge from penis or vagina

  • Pain when peeing and having sex

  • Lower tummy or back pain

  • Bleeding between periods

  • Pain or swelling in the testicles (balls)

Gonorrhoea

Many people show no symptoms at all, and females are less likely to experience symptoms than males.   If left untreated, Gonorrhoea can affect your fertility which may affect your chances of having children. You can also catch Gonorrhoea of the throat through unprotected oral sex.

Signs & Symptoms

  • A green, yellow or white smelly discharge from the penis or vagina

  • Pain or discomfort when peeing

  • Itching or discharge from the anus

  • Bleeding between periods

  • Inflammation of the foreskin

  • Pain or tenderness in the testicles (balls)

Genital Warts

You do not have to have sex with someone to get genital warts. Close skin-to-skin contact with the genital area can also spread infection. Genital warts are caused by a virus called the Human Papilloma virus.  Genital warts can be treated by your doctor or at a sexual health clinic.  Do not treat genital warts with over the counter medications as the skin around the genital area is very sensitive and you could burn yourself.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Warts can be flat, smooth, small bumps or pink cauliflower-like lumps on the genital areas. Can appear on their own or in groups. Sometimes the wart can be so small it can be difficult to see

  • Lumps can appear around or inside the vagina, the anus, the penis, and the upper thighs

  • Genital warts are usually painless but can be itchy

Genital Herpes

Genital Herpes is caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus – HSV2.  There is currently no cure, but there are treatments available to reduce any pain or discomfort.  Once you have the Herpes virus in your body it will not go away but it does become dormant (goes to sleep) for long periods of time and will hide in the body. Some people only have an outbreak when they are first infected, but most people will have recurring outbreaks throughout their lives.  Genital Herpes cannot be protected against by using a condom as it can be passed by close skin to skin contact of the genital area. If you have a cold sore on your mouth you should not give someone oral sex as you could infect them with the Herpes virus.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Tingling feeling and itching in genital areas

  • Small fluid-filled blisters anywhere on the genital areas, on your bum or the tops of the thighs that burst and leave painful sores

  • Pain when peeing caused by your pee passing over the sores

  • Head and backaches

  • Flu-like symptoms including swollen glands and fever

Pubic Lice

Having pubic lice has nothing to do with personal hygiene. Pubic lice are passed by close body or sexual contact with an infected person. They cannot fly or jump and move by crawling from hair to hair. They can sometimes be passed by sharing towels or clothing, but this is rare. You can’t get pubic lice from a toilet seat.  If you have pubic lice you should not shave your pubic hair in a bid to get rid of them.  You need to use a special shampoo that will get rid of the lice and their eggs.  You can get the shampoo from a sexual health clinic or your doctor.


Signs & Symptoms

  • Itching in infected areas

  • Black powder in your underwear (lice droppings)

  • Brown eggs in your pubic or other body hair

  • Tiny specks of blood on your underwear or skin

Syphilis

Syphilis can be easily treated by antibiotics but can be very dangerous for your health if left untreated.  It can cause lasting damage to your internal organs, and can even lead to death’


Signs & Symptoms

Syphilis can develop in 3 stages;

Stage 1:

  • 1 or more painless ulcers 2 – 3 weeks after being infected on and around the genitals

  • The sores are very infectious and may take between 2 – 6 weeks to heal. If the infection has not been treated at this point it will have spread to other parts of the body and will now be 2nd stage syphilis

Stage 2

  • Can occur 3 – 6 weeks after the first stage:

  • A non-itchy rash all over the body or just in patches, but is often seen on the soles of the feet or palms of the hand.

  • Flu-like illness, tiredness, loss of appetite and swollen glands (which can last for weeks or months)

  • Flat wart-like growths on the lips of the vagina and anus in both men and woman (which can be mistaken for genital warts)

  • White patches on the tongue or roof of the mouth

  • Hair loss

Treatment at any time during the first two stages of syphilis will cure the infection. If left untreated stage 3 will occur

Stage 3

At this stage, most symptoms disappear but the infection will, after a number of years cause serious problems to the heart, brain, eyes, internal organs, bones and nervous system and will eventually lead to death. Treatment at this stage can cure syphilis but any damage caused to the heart or nervous system can’t be reversed.

HIV

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus.

It is a virus that damages the body’s immune system so that it can no longer fight off infections.


How do you get it?

  • By having sex with someone who is HIV+ and not using a condom. HIV is found in seminal and vaginal fluids (The fluids that come out of your body when you have sex).

  • By blood contact such as sharing needles, making a blood brother pact, or getting a tattoo or ear piercing from an unlicensed person.

  • From breast milk (from an HIV positive mother to her baby)

This means that you can’t get HIV by talking to someone who is HIV positive, shaking their hand, drinking out of the same cup, eating off of the same plate or kissing them. Neither can you get HIV by going to the doctors, visiting the dentist, or donating or receiving blood as all blood products are screened in this country, although this might not be the same in other countries throughout the world.

 

Although there is no current cure for HIV, there are treatments available that will allow an HIV+ person to live, longer healthier lives.

Sticking to your treatment plan, and making positive lifestyle choices can lead to the levels of the HIV virus in the body becoming so low they become undetectable. When this happens, the virus cannot be passed on.

Undetectable = Untransmittable

U = U

Hepatitis C

The Hepatitis C virus is mainly spread by blood to blood contact.  It can cause liver damage if left untreated.   There are treatments available that have a 90% cure rate.  An infected person will be given tablets that they should take for 2-4 months.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Liver damage

  • Sickness

  • Exhaustion

  • Weight loss

  • Jaundice

Hepatitis B

Some people have no symptoms, but can be carriers of the virus and can pass to others through saliva, blood or sexual contact.

 

Signs & Symptoms

  • Flu-like symptoms

  • Vomiting and diarrhoea

  • Loss of appetite and weight loss

  • Joint pain

  • Jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin)

  • Liver damage

Young People's Services

Lanarkshire has dedicated sexual health services for young people aged 20 and younger. 

These operate on a drop-in basis so you don’t need an appointment - although if you are experiencing symptoms or are worried about your sexual health you should make an appointment to guarantee you are seen.

 

Clinics offer a range of services including STI testing, pregnancy testing, access to contraception, free condoms, information and advice. Staff within the clinics are used to working with young people, so no need to feel anxious or embarrassed.

The service is confidential, however, if a young person under 16 years old shares some information which places them or someone else in danger staff may have to share the information disclosed with other agencies.

To find where your nearest clinic is and the opening times, go to the app store and download the YP+ app.  The app will provide all the info you need to find your nearest clinic in Lanarkshire.  It’s a one-stop-shop for lots of useful information

yp clinics.jpg

Alternatively, you can go to Lanarkshiresexualhealth.org where you will find more information on how to access a sexual health clinic in your area. If you are over the age of 20 you can also find information on this site.

 

Visting a Sexual Health Clinic

If you are anxious about attending a clinic, or you don’t know what to expect, check out our video to see Dylan and Chelsea’s experience of visiting a clinic for the first time.

Further Information

Have a look at the links below for further reading and information. 

 

© 2019 LANDED Peer Education Service

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Company House: SC346133

Scottish Charity Number: SC036012