WE’RE HEADING DOWN
Going down on each other has been going up in popularity – but oral sex is having an impact on STI figures, too. “Over the past few years we’ve seen a sharp rise in herpes transmission through oral sex, simply because this particular sexual activity has become more common and acceptable,” says Nigel Scott, of The Herpes Virus Association. Helen Knox agrees, pointing out that an increasing number of men are contracting gonorrhea through oral sex and then passing it on to their regular partners, despite using a condom for penetrative sex.
HOW TO SAVE OUR SEX LIVES The Government has recently launched a £50 million, 10-year National Strategy for Sexual Health, but those at the frontline of the war on warts ‘n’ all say it’s not enough. “The solution, if there is one, is education, education, education – for prevention, prevention, prevention,” says Knox.
“A condom can only protect the area it covers, or the area it lines it doesn’t, and can’t ever, give 100% protection against infection. But, after monogamy, it’s our best defense against infection.” For this year’s holidaymakers, Knox’s message is even blunter. “It doesn’t matter what social class, color or creed the person is, always think twice and keep that zip done up until you are sober enough to at least be protected.”
COPPED A DOSE?
With GUM clinics stretched to breaking point, here’s the inside track on receiving speedy STI service: Don’t delay Your GP will only refer you to a GUM clinic, and he’ll be obliged to mention any symptoms on your medical records, so go direct to the clinic. “GUM clinics also provide a full sexual health ‘MOT’, whereas a GP may only test for one or two STIs,” says Mike Jones, sexual health adviser for The Royal Free Hospital, London. To find your nearest one, call the Sexual Health Line (Tel: 0800 567 123) or look in the phonebook under genitourinary medicine (GUM) or sexually transmitted infections (STI). Shop around “You can register as a patient at any GUM clinic or drop-in centre anywhere in the country,” says Jones. “Save time and look outside your own area.”
Be specific “If you’re in pain, tell the clinic receptionist,” says Jones. “They’re trained to put you through to a sexual health adviser who, if necessary, will try to book you an emergency appointment or refer you to a clinic where you can be seen as quickly as possible.” Be pee prepared Don’t pass water for three to four hours before your appointment. “That’s important because urine washes bacteria from the urethra,” says Jones.
Avoid the queues GUM clinics are in huge demand all through the week, but according to Jones, Monday walk-in services are especially busy, as are those on Friday. “If you can get to a walk-in service 20 minutes before the doors open, though, you should be seen relatively quickly,” he advises. If you’re abroad Many infections won’t show up until you get back home, but if you do notice any symptoms while on holiday, stop having sex immediately. If you’re in pain, contact your tour rep or nearest British Embassy for details of an English-speaking clinic.
Don’t be shy. You won’t be the first to have asked.