What are STIs?

What are STIs?

What is a STI?

Sexually Transmitted Infections or STIs

An STI is a bacterial, viral or parasitic infection that is spread through sexual contact. So, that’s not just vaginal or anal sex. Some simply make you itch - others cause long term damage.  Anyone can catch an STI – they don’t care about gender, sexuality, skin colour or social class.  Most STIs can be passed through oral sex and some through close physical contact.  If you’re having unprotected sex – you are at risk.

You will find below our quick guides to common STIs:




Genital Warts




if you need more infomation you can visit the FPA's website




Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted infection in Hull and the UK.  

It is a bacterial infection, which can be very easily treated but it can be easy to miss, and if it goes untreated it could cause complications.  

Many people have no symptoms for this infection so it can often go undiagnosed, this makes it extremely important to have a test even if you don’t see any signs of an infection, if you’ve had sex especially if it is unprotected, there is a risk of catching any STI.


You might not have any, which is why it is so important to get tested!

More than 2 in 3 women and 1 in 2 men with chlamydia won’t have any obvious signs or symptoms, or will have symptoms so mild they’re not noticed.

But if they do, they could experience any of the following:

  • Burning sensation when peeing
  • Swollen testicles
  • Unusual discharge from penis or vagina
  • Pain in the lower abdomen
  • Bleeding after sex
  • Pain during sex

If left untreated it can lead to infertility  - which means you might never be able to have children or it might be more difficult, this is because it can cause scar tissues inside the genitals so sperm and eggs might not be able to travel to where they need to to have baby.


A short course of antibiotics and don't have sex until you've completed the treatment.  It's really important not to pass on partially treated infections as the bacteria can become resistant to treatment in the future.

Repeatedly catching this infection can lead to further damage as well as the treatment potentially not being as effective as it should


So what is Gonorrhoea?

Gonorrhoea is a bacterial infection which can affect the genitals and throat.


Many people do not have or notice any symptoms, like Chlamydia.

If they do they could experience any of the following:

  • Burning sensation when peeing
  • Discharge from penis
  • Thin, watery discharge that is yellow or greenish in colour.
  • Sore throat if mouth becomes infected.
  • Can lead to Epididymitis in men if left untreated - infected swollen testicles


A short course of antibiotics and no sex for a week and the infection will be gone.

However, repeatedly catching this infection can lead to the treatment potentially not being as effective as it should.

STI Fact

There are some strains of gonorrhoea which are completely resistant to the antibiotics we have used for it in the past, so some people are stuck with it!  This is why it is really important to complete your treatment before having sex with someone.


Syphilis is a 3 stage bacterial infection, if left untreated stage 1 & 2 will go away on their own but will still turn into stage 3, or advanced syphilis.


Stage 1       (2 – 6 weeks after infection

Painless sores may appear on the penis, vagina, anus or mouth

(these may be on the inside and so may go unnoticed)

Stage 2       (4 – 10 weeks after stage 1)

All over skin rash. This is the only rash that will affect the palms of the hand and the soles of the feet
The rash itself is not contagious but if any of the blisters pop then it is very infectious
Possible nausea, loss of appetite, fever and hair loss

Stage 3       (Up to 10 years after the rash)

Large Ulcers (gummas)
Heart Failure
Encephalitis -  loss of mental faculties, disintegration of personality

Deterioration of central nervous system leading to paralysis and death
Deep tissue ulcers causing irreversible deformations of skeleton


First and second stage syphilis is treated using a single antibiotic injection or a course of injections or by taking antibiotic tablets or capsules. Penicillin is the most common treatment for syphilis, but there are several different antibiotics that can be used. Let the doctor or nurse know if you are allergic to penicillin.


Syphilis has been an issue for a long time, loads of historical figures, such as King Henry VIII, Al Capone, Vincent Van Gough and even Hitler have been suggested sufferers of the infection.

Genital Warts

Genital warts are caused by a virus which has no cure. The warts can be treated but you will always have the virus so they could re-grow or be caught be others.


Small cauliflower like growths around the head and shaft of the penis, or around the vagina. They may be inside, where you can’t see them. They can also be found around the anus
Uncomfortable, itchy and may bleed


Warts can be either:

  • frozen off using liquid nitrogen
  • burnt off with an acid-like compound or
  • treated with a specific lotion/cream

As with anything the longer it's left without treatment, the worse it gets, if you notice any little lumps and bumps around the genitals which are new, we'd always advise that you go and get them checked!

Treatment can take several weeks it may need to be done a few times in more severe cases.

Do not try buying products from the chemist for Warts as they are not designed for the genitals.




There are 2 types of herpes virus, type 1 is more commonly known as a coldsore and type 2 is genital herpes.  Just because you have one type it doesn’t mean you have both.  You are only contagious when you have symptoms.


Painful blister like sores around the genitals, mouth or anus
May also be painful when peeing
Discharge from the genitals
Generalised symptoms such as fever, headaches, tiredness and enlarged glands in the groin


Herpes can be treated with anti viral drugs to reduce the severity and duration of outbreaks.

There is no cure and it is up to the body to overwhelm the virus.

The sores can return at any time

Do not try buying products from the chemist for Herpes as they are not designed for the genitals.



Hepatitis means 'liver inflammation'. In most cases, it is caused by a virus.    Several kinds of hepatitis virus can infect the liver, the most common being hepatitis A, B and C.


There are often NO symptoms.

But they can include:

feeling tired
aching joints
jaundice (yellow tinge to your skin and whites of your eyes)
loss of appetite
stomach pains
cirrhosis (scarring to your liver)


The vast majority of people who are infected with hepatitis B are able to fight off the virus and fully recover from the infection within a couple of months.

There is a vaccine for Hepatitis B

There is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C, but treatment can clear the infection in approximately half of those who are infected.

20% of people will fight the infection and naturally get better within two to six months
some will remain well and never develop liver damage
many will develop mild to moderate liver damage (with or without symptoms)
A further 20% will progress to cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) over a period of 20-30 years

Excessive drinking of alcohol is often associated with an increased likelihood of progressing to severe liver complications.




HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. If a person infected with HIV does not take effective antiretroviral treatment, over time HIV will weaken their immune system, which will make them much more vulnerable to opportunistic infections.

Most people do not know they have become infected.

Very often it is not until a person cannot fight off an illness or has a blood test that the infection is diagnosed.

It takes 3 months for HIV to show up in a test, earlier tests may not give an accurate result.


Some people who become infected with HIV do not notice any immediate change in their health. However, some suffer from a brief flu-like illness within a few weeks of becoming infected, or develop a rash or swollen glands. These symptoms usually disappear within a few days or weeks.  However, there is no reason to panic as it could just be the flu – if you are worried go for a test.


It is not a cure, but Antiretroviral treatments are used.   They can stop people from becoming ill for many years.

The treatment consists of drugs that have to be taken every day for the rest of a person’s life.

The aim of antiretroviral treatment is to keep the amount of HIV in the body at a low level. This stops any weakening of the immune system and allows it to recover from any damage that HIV might have caused already.

Taking two or more antiretroviral drugs at a time is called combination therapy.

STI Fact

ANYONE can contract HIV, there are a lot of myths around HIV, and it certainly is not just gay men who can be HIV+.  It is an STI which is constantly on the increase, just using a condom can protect you from catching HIV from a partner.

Cornerhouse started out life as 'AIDS Action' and was purely for the support of people living with HIV and AIDS, and their family and friends.

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