How Common Are STIs?

How Common Are STIs?

How common are STIs?
Did you know there were over 400,000 new diagnoses of STIs in 2016?


Over recent years, there has been a rise in the rates of STIs. Although diagnoses of STIs such as warts and chlamydia have decreased, perhaps from recent efforts to tackle these infections, syphilis and gonorrhoea have increased.

STI (or STD) stands for ‘sexually transmitted infection’. These infections are most commonly spread through sexual contact, but not always (for example, some types of hepatitis can be spread through sexual contact but also by other means).

They can be spread through contact with bodily fluids (blood, discharge, semen) or through skin-to-skin contact.


There are 8 most common types of STI in the UK:
  1. Chlamydia
  2. Gonorrhoea
  3. Trichomoniasis
  4. Genital Warts/HPV
  5. Genital Herpes/HSV
  6. Pubic Lice
  7. Scabies
  8. Syphilis
They can also be classified by the different types of infection:
  1. Bacteria (gonorrhoea, chlamydia, syphilis)
  2. Parasites (Trichomoniasis)
  3. Virus (HPV, HSV, HIV)
Common symptoms of STIs include:
  • Unusual discharge – this means a different colour, smell or, in males, from the penis.
  • Sores or bumps on the genitals (as is common with warts, herpes and syphilis).
  • Painful or burning urination.
  • Unusual vaginal bleeding.
  • Lower abdominal pain.
  • Pain during sex.

(You can visit our STI page for a rundown on the symptoms of specific infections)


Of course, transmitting or catching an infection isn’t inevitable and there are ways you can protect yourself.


The only contraception that protects against both pregnancy and infection is the condom. Both male and female condoms protect against most STIs, but for those that are spread through skin-to-skin contact, it’s possible the infection is present in skin not covered by the condom (this can include the groin area). In this case, although they lower the risk of transmission, they can’t completely get rid of it.

Aside from condoms, the HPV vaccine is effective in protecting against four types of HPV: 6, 11, 16 & 18. Around 90% of cases of genital warts are caused by types 6 and 11. The vaccine is offered to young girls of school age as they are less likely to have come into contact with the virus.

STIs are common and most of the sexually active population will come into contact with at least one in their lifetime. Luckily, treatment for most is available and there are places online to find more information. There is no more shame in having an STI than there is in having a cold or another illness. But, unlike colds, some infections have the potential to inflict lasting health problems so treatment should be taken as early as possible.

Make sure you stay protected, get tested and practise safe sex.

Find out more about tests here.

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