Sexual Health

It's important to know the facts on how to keep yourself and your partner sexually healthy before you start having sex.
Group of young people looking at a condom

If you are sexually active, it's really important to know how to protect yourself and others you have sex with. You need to know about:

  • Safer sex
  • Pregnancy
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • What to do if you think you're at risk.

Even if you don't plan to have sex anytime soon, finding out about safer sex will ensure that you are protected when you do.

Crucial: Safer sex means always using a condom if you have vaginal, oral or anal sex, even if you are using another form of contraception. Most people use a condom with a new or casual partner. Condoms stop infection by sexually transmitted infections (STI) like Chlamydia and HIV. Find out more from BBC Advice.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

An STI, also called a sexually transmitted disease (STD), is passed from one person to another during sex. Some diseases only affect the genitals (sexual body parts) and the parts of your body where urine passes through, while others (like HIV and Syphilis) can go on to damage other parts of the body and if untreated can make you very ill. When spread through oral sex, an STI can infect the mouth and throat.

STIs, including HIV, Gonorrhoea, Syphilis and Chlamydia, are on the rise in the UK, especially among young people.

Know the facts:

  • You don't have to have full sex to get an STI.
  • Many STIs show no symptoms at first.
  • The best way to find out if you have an STI is to be tested. 
  • All STIs can be helped by medical treatment.

Crucial: Remember, you only have to have unprotected sex (sex without a condom) once to be at risk of getting an STI.  Find out more from Sexwise.


Chlamydia is the most common STI among young people who are sexually active. Many people who have it don't have any symptoms. If left untreated it can go on to cause pain and infertility but luckily it’s easy to test for and easy to treat. Using a condom correctly every time you have sex can reduce the chances of getting Chlamydia, but it is also important to test regularly. If you’re aged 16-24, you can get a free NHS chlamydia test in Oxfordshire from the Chlamydia Screening service. If you are under 16 or over 24 you can get a free test from the sexual health clinics and GPs.

Take action: Get tested for Chlamydia for free from home.


HIV is the virus that causes AIDS, an illness that affects the body's ability to fight off disease. HIV is passed on in the sexual fluids or blood of an infected person, usually through sexual intercourse or by sharing needles used to inject drugs.

HIV cannot be caught by kissing, hugging, shaking hands, or from door handles or dirty glasses.

Some people believe that HIV is only a problem if you are gay, use drugs, or sleep around. This is wrong. Anyone who has unprotected (not using a condom) sex can contract any sexually transmitted infection, including HIV. Safer sex means always using a condom.

Should I get checked?

If you are sexually active you should visit a Sexual Health Clinic (sometimes called GUM or Genitourinary Medicine) to be tested. These are free, confidential, non-judgmental and available to people of any age.

In Oxfordshire, the two main sexual health clinics are in Headington (Oxford) and Banbury. There are also smaller clinics in Abingdon, Bicester, Didcot, East Oxford, Kidlington, Wantage and Witney. You can also go to your GP or School Health Nurse.

Crucial:  Find out which clinic is right for you. If you’re worried that you might have a sexual infection, you can go along and get tested.

Sometimes a Sexual Health Clinic will contact you and ask you to come in for treatment. This means that you have been named as a sexual contact by someone they are treating for an STI. 

You should always go in and get tested, even if you feel fine. You can easily have an infection and not be aware of it.

Time to get checked!

Any of the following symptoms need to be checked out by a doctor, even if you don't think you're at risk of an STI:

  • Unusual discharge from your penis or vagina
  • Stinging or burning when you pass water (urinate, wee)
  • Rash, sores or warts around your genitals
  • Bleeding between your periods, especially after sex

Remember, all STIs can be helped with medical treatment. If you think you might have an STI, get tested as soon as you can.

Crucial: Condoms are a popular choice for young people as they help provide protection against STIs, and also provide contraception.

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