Sexual Health

Sexual health is fundamental to the overall health and well-being of individuals, couples and families, and to the social and economic development of communities and countries. Sexual health, when viewed affirmatively, requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. The ability of individuals to achieve sexual health and well-being depends on their:

  • access to comprehensive, good-quality information about sex and sexuality;
  • knowledge about the risks they may face and their vulnerability to adverse consequences of unprotected sexual activity;
  • ability to access sexual health care;
  • living in an environment that affirms and promotes sexual health.

Sexual health-related issues are wide-ranging, and encompass sexual orientation and gender identity, sexual expression, relationships, and pleasure. They also include negative consequences or conditions such as:

  • sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and reproductive tract infections (RTIs) and their adverse outcomes (such as cancer and infertility);
  • unintended pregnancy and abortion;
  • sexual dysfunction;
  • sexual violence; and
  • harmful practices (such as female genital mutilation, FGM).

Sexual and reproductive health provision includes support for individuals in relation to sexuality and healthy sexual relationships, the diagnosis, treatment, management of sexually transmitted infection, HIV care and the public health role of partner notification and promotion of safer sex and the provision of condoms and contraceptive methods such as implants, intrauterine devices and hormonal contraception. 

How often should I get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs)?

If you’re sexually active, it’s a good idea to get tested for STIs every year, even if you feel fine.

It’s good practice to go for testing if you’re about to start a new relationship, and for your partner to do the same.

Some STIs have no symptoms so you may not even know you have one unless you get tested.

If you're worried you have got an STI, you can access a test online (Chlamydia and gonorrhoea home testing pilot | Test and Post (friskywales.org) or contact your sexual health clinic(NHS 111 Wales - Services near you) .

Don't have sex, including oral sex, without a condom until you have had a check-up.

STI symptoms

  • unusual discharge from the vagina, penis or anus
  • pain when peeing
  • lumps or skin growths around the genitals or anus
  • a rash
  • unusual vaginal bleeding
  • itchy genitals or anus
  • blisters and sores around the genitals or anus
  • Feeling normal, not noticing anything is wrong.

Contact a sexual health clinic if:

  • you have symptoms of an STI
  • a sexual partner has symptoms of an STI
  • you're worried after having sex without a condom

Many STIs have no symptoms.  The only way to know for sure is to get tested.

Find a sexual health clinic.

What happens at a sexual health clinic

A doctor or nurse:

  • will ask you some questions about your symptoms and your sex life
  • may examine you, although, this isn’t always necessary.
  • will advise you on the tests that you should have and arrange them

If tests show you have an STI, you will be supported to through the process of telling your sexual partner and any ex-partners so they can get tested and treated as well.

Common types of STI