Today, 14 January, is STIQ day, an awareness day dedicated to sexual health.
Sexually-transmitted infections, or STIs, are passed from one person to another through sexual intercourse or genital contact. Left untreated, STIs can cause long-term health problems, including infertility.
Here’s what you need to know about STIQ day:
What is the point of STIQ day?
STIQ day aims to get people to undergo more regular sexual health checks for STIs.
For those wondering about the timing, the STIQ website reveals the awareness day falls on 14 January because many common STIs – including Chlamydia – take two weeks to be detectable.
It is also a month before Valentine’s Day, so “anyone hoping to enjoy the celebrations to the full should do so knowing that they are infection free and will not be putting someone else’s sexual health in danger,” the website adds.
Why is it important to get tested?
While no one likes to think they have contracted an STI, there is a worrying rise in rates of these diseases among some groups.
For instance, in October last year a report from Age UK identified an 18% rise in STIs among men aged 45 to 64 – who are three times most likely to develop the diseases compared to women of the same age, according to the research.
Despite the very real risk of contracting an STI during unprotected sex, last week a nationwide survey of over 2,300 Brits by the online pharmacy Medicine Direct revealed more than half of Brits (58%) have never been tested for an STI.
What are the risks if STIs are left untreated?
Chlamydia is one of the most common STIs in the UK, according to the NHS website.
Initial symptoms affecting both genders include pain while urinating, unusual discharge from the vagina, penis or bottom. Women may experience stomach pain and unusual bleeding after sex and between periods, while men might have pain and swelling in the testicles.
Gonorrhoea is the other most common STI in the UK.
For some, initial symptoms can include a thick green or yellow discharge from the vagina or penis, pain when weeing, and, for women, bleeding between periods.
However, around one in 10 infected men and almost half of infected women do not experience any symptoms, warns the NHS website. This infection can be passed on from a pregnant woman to her baby. If this occurs, gonorrhoea has the potential to cause permanent blindness in a newborn baby if left untreated.
Left untreated, chlamydia can cause a range of long-term health problems including pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), epididymo-orchitis (inflammation of the testicles) and infertility.
There are a number of other STIs with the potential to cause long-term health damage, according to the STIQ website. Syphilis, an STI which was once nearly eradicated but had sadly made a comeback, can cause organ damage and even death if untreated.
In order to get tested for an STI, you can visit a sexual health or genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic to get specialist tests and treatment. Visit the NHS Sexual Health website for further information, or find your nearest sexual health service here.