Professor Matt Phillips; consultant in genitourinary medicine and HIV for North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust, shares some sexual health advice for the summer.
“As we look forward to summer and maybe holidays away and even abroad, it’s worth thinking about our sexual health again. There’s a wide range of things we can do to make sure we don’t have any unexpected surprises. Male condoms are the most common form of prevention of both pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). They’re available in many supermarkets and pharmacies, and are very effective if used properly. Alternatively, you can attend any of Cumbria’s sexual health centres to obtain free condoms. If you need to buy any condoms abroad make sure they have the kite mark on to show they’ve been tested properly. If you are going away for a while, ensure you have enough of your contraceptive with you, or, if you are on the injection, that it still covers you for your holiday.
“Remember you can get emergency contraception up to 5 days after a condom burst or unprotected sex – but the sooner you can take it the more effective it will be. Make an appointment at your local sexual health clinic or your drop in to your local pharmacy. Some pharmacists charge for emergency contraception so do ask first. You will also be able to speak to them in private about any concerns that you have about sexually transmitted infections.
“If you use Pre exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent acquiring HIV, ensure you have enough with you. If you think you may need PrEP and you’re not on it yet, book with the sexual health clinic to get you sorted. And don’t forget your sunscreen!
“Finally, remember if you’ve had sex with a new partner (expected or not!) then screening for common infections like chlamydia and gonorrhoea can be done two weeks after the sex, and at the same time you can get advice about when to time your blood tests for HIV and syphilis. These screens are available at all sexual health clinics, some pharmacies and some GPs just ask. If you have symptoms of an STI, then you should give the clinic a call to decide where and when it is best to be seen.”
For Cumbria’s sexual health clinics you can call the central phone line to make an appointment (01228 608989 Monday to Friday 9.30-4pm) or book an appointment online https://www.ncic.nhs.uk/services/sexual-health