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How to test yourself for STIs for free

Getting tested for sexually transmitted infections isn't something you can shy away from. Thankfully, it's the easiest process ever and doesn't cost a penny!totheclinicWe all know the safest option is to always ‘wrap it before you tap it' (aka use a condom – don't forget you can pick these up for free all across the country).

However, accidents do happen and (without meaning to sound like your sex ed. teacher) it's always better to get checked out if you're ‘sexually active' even when you have been taking precautions.

Last year, more than half a million British people were diagnosed with an STI. But whilst this is a scary number, getting rid of STIs is a walk in the park – the hardest part is bothering to find out if you have one in the first place!

You'll be pleased to know that getting tested isn't even costly and, in most cases, can be done for free!

Why should you get tested?

STI CheckIf you've had unprotected sex of any kind – vaginal, anal, or even oral – and haven't used protection, you could pick up an STI (this also goes for genital contact and shared sex toys, btw).

The scary part is that you might not even realise you've got an STI as symptoms don't always show, but if left untreated they can be uncomfortable, painful and cause long-term damage to your health or fertility. Oh and, you know, and you could pass them onto someone else, too.

Thankfully, most STIs are very easily treated, but this all hinges on you taking the test first! You shouldn't feel embarrassed about taking care of your body, and if the idea of taking a trip to the clinic makes you flush, you can even test yourself at home.

Even if you are using protection or are in a long-term relationship, it's still worth getting tested regularly.

How do you get tested for STIs?

Questioning cartoon faceIt's easy to get confused with this part as there are a few different STIs out there – each with their own despicable characteristics (and as a result, their own special way of being dealt with).

The easiest way to get tested is to go for a full sexual health check-up (think of it as your MOT!) every year at your local sexual health clinic.

However, remember to visit again after any time you have unprotected sex – don't wait around for your yearly check-up on this one.

Your sexual health check-up will be free, and there might even be one on your uni campus, so you really have no excuse!

If you're looking for a bit more info on what to expect before heading for your check-up, here's our hotlist of STI the main culprits below.

  1. Chlamydia

    chlamydiaWhat is it?
    The most common STI in the book, Chlamydia can cause problems with fertility and pregnancy in later life.

    What are the symptoms?
    Most people don't know they have Chlamydia as its symptoms don't appear in up to 70% of people, so that's why it's so crucial to get regular checks.

    You may, however, experience pain or burning when you pee or an unusual discharge. Women might find they bleed between periods or experience pelvic pains, while men sometimes experience pain in their testicles.

    How do you get tested?
    A chlamydia test is pretty easy, and can be done for free at a clinic (and in some cases, free to do at home too). If you're a dude, it involves peeing in a pot and if you're a dudette you need to get a vaginal swab.

    How is it treated?
    A simple course of antibiotics.

  2. Gonorrhoea

    41rviiBorZL._SY300_What is it?
    Another shady character, Gonorrhoea causes problems with fertility and can be very painful.

    What are the symptoms?
    Again, a large proportion of people won't show any symptoms, but you might find a tenderness in you abdominal area for women, or in the testicles for men. You could also experience burning when you pee or a strange discharge.

    How do you get tested?
    Like Chlamydia, If you're a man you'll need to wee in a pot and women will have a swab taken from their vagina.

    How is it treated?
    A simple course of antibiotics.

  3. Genital Herpes

    herpesWhat is it?
    Herpes is a virus that leaves you feeling pretty pokey and flu-like, as well as small fluid-filled blisters around in the genital/anal area, on the buttocks or the tops of your thighs. These will burst within a day or two but leave red sores which can be painful.

    What are the symptoms?
    The symptoms above should be easy enough to spot, but even if you don't experience everything on the list, do go and get checked out.

    How do you get tested?
    If you're being tested for herpes, you'll have to go and see a doctor so they can examine the blisters in the flesh. They'll also take a swab to confirm their diagnosis.

    You can pay for herpes tests online, but as they're upwards of £70 in most cases, we say stick with the clinic!

    How is it treated?
    Sadly you cannot cure herpes, but taking courses of antiviral tablets will help to control the symptoms.

  4. Syphilis

    microbes_26What is it?
    While syphilis is nowhere near as common as other STIs, if left untreated for long enough it can lead to serious damage to the heart, brain, eyes, bones and nervous system, even leading to death!

    What are the symptoms?
    There's no need to panic just yet though, syphilis is easily noticeable by sores which can appear anywhere on the body and can take up to six weeks to heal. They will usually appear in the genital area.

    How do you get tested?
    This one really is a ‘go to the clinic' situation. You'll be given an examination by a professional and you'll need to take a blood test as well.

    How is it treated?
    Thankfully, the treatment for syphilis involves a simple antibiotics injection.

Other STIs

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 21.45.25Of course, this list is not exhaustive. You've probably heard lots about HIV, genital warts or pubic lice (crabs) just to name a few – it's just as important to get checked out for these too.

In case you're wondering, the microbe on the right is a Trichomonas Vaginalis (TV) – a small parasite that can be found in both men and women (don't be fooled by the name, you guys aren't safe either!).

Home testing kits

Happy girl giving thumbs upYou can get free home testing kits for chlamydia nationwide if you're under 25, and you can also snag a gonorrhoea test in certain parts of the country as well.

If it's HIV you're worried about, you can also order yourself a free home HIV testing kit from the Terrance Higgins Trust. Just pop your details in and they'll post the kit to your house.

If you're looking to be tested for something else at home, you can also buy tests privately. It'll cost you, but home testing kits have generally reduced in price of late, and you can now get reliable ones for less than £20.

STIs can be easily taken under control if you just make sure you'r tested on the reg. And if you can get tested for free, why wouldn't you?

Whilst you're here on a health-conscious tip, here's how you can get cheap dental and medical care as a student!

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