Ⓒ Illustration by INJECTION - Mia Hatch
Why STIQ Day is encouraging people to test for STI’s.
The 14th of January is STIQ Day, a day that encourages people to think about their sexual health and to get tested for STI’s. This date was chosen as it is two weeks into the year, and many STI’s - including Chlamydia - can take up to two weeks to be detectable.
STI’s, or Sexually Transmitted Infections, are passed from person-to-person through sex and can lead to more serious, long-term health issues if left untreated. Each year, the rate of people catching STI’s is increasing so if you are sexually active it is incredibly important to get tested regularly. Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea are two of the most common STI’s in the UK, but a lot of the time people with these infections show no symptoms so can pass them onto other sexual partners without knowing. This is why it’s so important to be tested, even if you feel fine!
STIQ Day aims to clear up misconceptions and to remove the stigma surrounding getting tested. For example, a lot of people put off getting tested in fear of embarrassment but medical professionals have tonnes of experience dealing with sexual health issues - “It's fair enough to not want to show your bits to a stranger, but for them it's no different from examining your throat or ears”. Going to the doctor may not be particularly fun, but that moment of awkwardness is an incredibly important safeguard, especially as if you do happen to have an STI, it is better to find out as early as possible.
According to the official STIQ site, 70% of women and 50% of men who contract Chlamydia will show no symptoms. Some people mistake the early stages of STI’s such as hepatitis, HIV, or syphilis for common flu - these STI’s can be fatal, so it’s important to get tested routinely.
If you test positive for an STI, and you’ve managed to realise it early on, then usually the most that’ll happen is that you will be prescribed a run of antibiotics (and, as with any bacterial infection, it is important to finish the full run of antibiotics that you are given to fully fight the infection). After, it is recommended you get tested 3 months after treatment. If you don’t get tested early on, it is possible that the infection can develop into something much more serious than something that just a course of antibiotics can fix.
Getting tested at a sexual health clinic doesn’t have to be as scary as it can sound. You can book an appointment, or go to a drop-in clinic, whatever works best for you, and will always be confidential - not even your GP will be told about your visit without your permission. You will have to give a name and contact information (in case your results are not ready on the same day), but you don’t have to give your real name if you don’t want to. Tests can involve urine samples, blood samples, examinations, urethra swabs, and vagina swabs (which the patient can do themself). It can sometimes be uncomfortable, but sexual health professionals have seen it all before and again, it’s so much better to be aware of any possible infections early on.
The best way to protect against STI’s, is through protection. Using condoms can protect against infections, and are available at sexual health clinics. People without penises can also spread STI’s - it is important to keep any sex toys that you use clean and to even use condoms on them if they are being used with different partners. Avoid oral sex if you have cuts or sores in the mouth or lips, or alternatively use a dental dam. STI’s can be transmitted by and to people of any gender or sexuality.