Health and Wellbeing

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

Sex can be part of some people's university experience, and it's important to make sure that if you do have sex it is consensual, and you take steps to protect yourself and your partners from both unwanted pregnancy and STIs (sexually transmitted infections).

On this page you'll find information about STIs, Safer Sex, Sexual Health Check-ups and HIV Testing, as well as links to other useful information.

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

STIs are infections that can be passed on through intimate sexual contact, including Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea, Syphilis, Herpes and HIV. Symptoms can include pain on urination, a skin condition, discharge or lower abdominal pain, but many infections don't produce any symptoms at all.

You can find out more about STI here:

Safer Sex

Safer Sex can include the following things:

  • using barrier methods of contraception
  • using plently of water-based lubricant
  • regularly having a sexual health check-up
  • talking to your sexual partner/s about sexual health

Condoms (male and female) are the only form of contraception that protects against both pregnancy and STIs. Male condoms and Dams can also be used for safer oral sex, because they act as a barrier to prevent STIs spreading between sexual partners - this is why condoms and Dams are called "barrier methods" of contraception. You can get free condoms, Femidoms, Dams and lubricant on campus by registering for an X-Card

Other forms of contraception protect against pregnancy but not against STIs, so it is important to use barrier methods (condoms and Dams) until you know that both you and the person/people you are having sex with have no STIs (by going for a full sexual health check-up).

Using plenty of water-based lubricant can reduce the chances of a condom breaking.

For tips on how to start conversations with your partner/s about sex and sexual health take a look at the NHS Choices webpages

Sexual Health Check-ups

Everyone should go for a full sexual health check-up as part of their normal healthcare routine. Every 6 - 12 months is recommended.

You should go for a check-up even if you have no symptoms and you've used condoms every time you've had sex. This is because some STIs are passed on by skin-to skin contact so can be passed on even when a condom is used, and because many STIs have no symptoms so you wouldn't necessarily know if you had one.

You can access sexual health check-ups and testing in the following ways:

Full check-up

Chlamydia/Gonorrhoea test

  • Come to an X-Card drop-in, or the Student Life Centre reception, to pick up a free self-test kit for Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea (the two most common STIs in young people in the UK). The test will only check for these two infections

Home Testing Kits

THT Drop-ins

  • Terrence Higgins Trust run a confidential, quick and easy drop-in service for black communities every Tuesday 3-5.30pm at the Park Crescent Health Centre. They provide free: rapid HIV testing, screening for Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea, and condoms
  • THT run a Fastest HIV testing drop-in for gay and bisexual mean, and all African men and women Monday-Friday from their offices in Brighton

HIV and HIV Testing

HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system, and weakens your ability to fight infections and disease. It's most commonly caught by having sex without a condom, but it can also be passed on by sharing infected needles and other injecting equipment, and from an HIV-positive mother to her child during pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding.

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. The virus attacks the immune system, and weakens your ability to fight infections and disease. You can find more information on HIV by visiting the THT website and the NHS website

PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis)

Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is a treatment that can prevent HIV infection after the virus has entered a person's body. PEP is an emergency measure to be used as a last resort, eg if a condom breaks or you have a ‘slip up’ from your usual safer sex routine. It is free of charge but can only be prescribed by doctors and if certain criteria are met.

You can find more information on PEP on the THT website and the NHS website

PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis)

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a course of HIV drugs taken before sex to reduce the risk of getting HIV. It is not currently available on the NHS, but could one day be widely available to those who are at high risk of coming into contact with the virus.

You can find out more about PrEP on the THT website

THT have produced a great booklet that gives information on PEP and PrEP [PDF] 

HIV Testing

HIV testing is usually a blood test, and it can be done as part of a full sexual health check-up or as a specific test for HIV. The test looks for antibodies in the blood, and these can sometimes take up to 3 months to appear - this is called the "window period", however you should not wait this long to seek advice if you are worried. Find out more about HIV testing here.

Where can I get tested?

Useful Links

THT website - for information on HIV

THT website - for information on testing for HIV

THT website - for information on living with HIV

Useful Links and Information

If you have any queries on sexual health services on campus you can email us on healthandwellbeing@sussex.ac.uk