As Freshers' Week approaches, health experts expect to see a sharp increase in the spread of sexual transmitted infections among young people.
The reality of STIs might be the last thing that you want to think about when heading off to university, but it’s estimated that 25 per cent of first years in the UK will catch one.
Our sexual health team has come up with a few things that you can do to stay sexually safe.
The sexual health team will be at both Pride events – in Whitehaven and Carlisle – this month.
And they will also be at the Lakes College freshers fair in Workington on September 13.
David Morris, Sexual Health Outreach Worker at NCIC, said: “When you hit the town, of course you want to have fun, but be aware that drinking too much impairs your judgement. Drinking leads to poor decisions and is negatively associated with condom use.
“You should also never leave a drink unattended, even for a moment. No one knows exactly how common it is to have your drink spiked.
“Similarly, stay with your friends and never leave by yourself. If you do, splash out for a taxi home.
“Assuming you're having consensual sex with someone who you've only recently met, always wear a condom. Condoms are free from sexual health clinics and many universities in the UK also give them out in their students unions, so there's no excuse. Used correctly, condoms are 98-99% effective in preventing HIV transmission.”
Sexual health experts say if you do have unprotected sex or sex with multiple partners, you need to get yourself tested for STIs. Just because you are not experiencing any symptoms does not necessarily mean that you're in the clear. The most common STI among young people, chlamydia, often doesn't give any symptoms at all. The only reliable way to know if you have it is to get tested. Not knowing that you have chlamydia is not only bad news for your next sexual partner; left untreated the STI can have long lasting health implications including infertility.
Some other STIs have more obvious symptoms. The genital sores of the first stage of syphilis might be painless, but they won't go away on their own. Gonorrhoea, meanwhile, can cause pain when urinating as well as genital discharge.
Genital Herpes is another common STI which in many cases, might not give you any symptoms at all. It may cause vaginal discharge, however, as well as small red blisters that leave open sores around the genitals. Although outbreaks generally become less common, and can be managed with medications, there is no cure for genital herpes.
HIV is also well known for not having a cure. HIV weakens the immune system and requires lifelong treatment.
So why don't people get themselves tested?
David added: “Many people feel embarrassed, or awkward, about going into an NHS clinic but they shouldn’t. We are here to help, not judge.”
More information is available on our sexual health page.