Sexual Health & Infections

Anyone who is sexually active can pass on an infection to their partner by having unprotected sex. To reduce the risk of catching or passing on an STI, use a male or female condom every time you have sex. You don't need to have lots of sexual partners to get an infection. Don't be forced into having sex if you are unsure, especially with a new partner. If your partner will not use a condom, think very carefully about whether you want to have unprotected sex.

Most STIs can be treated, and it is important to start treatment as soon as possible. If left untreated, STIs can be painful or uncomfortable, and can permanently damage your health and fertility. They can also be passed on to someone else.

The signs and symptoms of an STI often take weeks or even months to appear. These can include:
  • Unusual discharges from the penis or vagina
  • Pain or burning when you pass urine
  • Pain or bleeding during or after sex, or bleeding between periods for women
  • Itches, rashes, lumps or blisters around your genitals and anus.

Even if you don't have any of these symptoms, it's a good idea to have a regular sexual health check-up. This is particularly important if you have had unprotected sex with a new partner recently, your partner has any symptoms or you or your partner have had sex with other people without using a condom.

Some of the most common sexually transmitted infections include:

Chlamydia - in the UK, 1 in 9 women aged 16-24 have Chlamydia and many men are infected. It often shows no symptoms, but left untreated it can cause serious problems and even infertility. Around 80% of women and 50% of men do not get any symptoms, so it's sensible to get tested if you think you may be at risk. Treatment is with antibiotics, and there is a national screening programme for 15-25 year-olds. The test and treatment is free, painless and confidential. Go to the RUclear programme website for more details: for details or ring the helpline on 0800 0461303.

Gonorrhoea - this STI most frequently affects 15-25 year-old men and women, but also older people. For both men and women with this infection, urination is painful and you may notice discharges from the penis or vagina. However, some people do not get any symptoms at all. Both partners should get tested by a GP or at a sexual health clinic, and treatment is with antibiotics.

HIV (the virus that leads to AIDS) - sexually active men and women plus people who inject drugs are at risk. It can be passed on through unprotected sex, but not by just kissing someone. You may not have any symptoms, but if untreated it can develop into AIDS, which affects your body's ability to fight off infections, and can ultimately lead to death. HIV is for life, but treatment can prolong life expectancy.

If you think you may have an infection, you can get tests and treatment through your GP surgery. There are also sexual health clinics and support services specifically for young people around Greater Manchester.

The Manchester Centre for Sexual Health (MCSH) offers an open access, walk in sexual health and HIV testing, treatment and follow up service. It is free and confidential and open Monday to Friday to people of any age. There is also a special clinic for young people aged 19 years and under on Wednesday afternoons from 3.30-5pm which offers contraceptive services. The service is based at the Hathersage Centre, which is also the location of the Palatine contraceptive and sexual health service. Contact MCSH on 0161 276 5200 or go to our web page:

If you would like to discuss sexual health in a confidential environment, you can also visit any of the dedicated drop-in FRESH clinics for under 25s, run at four locations across Manchester by the NHS. For locations and opening times, please go to which also contains lots of other useful information and advice.


"Most STIs can be treated, and it is important to start treatment as soon as possible. If left untreated, STIs can be painful or uncomfortable, and can permanently damage your health and fertility"