The majority of HIV infections are sexually transmitted or are associated with pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding. Our work links prevention with treatment, care and support, reduces HIV-related stigma and discrimination, and responds to unique regional and national characteristics of the epidemic.
Articles by HIV and STIs
Watch: What's the impact of the Global Gag Rule?
We calculated the human cost of the U.S. Global Gag Rule. The effects can be devastating for millions of poor and marginalised women. WANT TO GET INVOLVED? SUBSCRIBE NOW TO GET UPDATES FROM IPPF SUPPORT OUR WORK WITH A DONATION
Why we will not sign the Global Gag Rule
On 23 January 2017 President Trump signed an executive order reinstating the Global Gag Rule, or the Mexico City Policy. The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) believes in the right of every individual to decide about their own health and well-being. As an organisation that seeks to protect and improve the lives of women, men and children around the world, IPPF and its partners in 170 countries will not sign a policy that denies human rights and puts the lives of women at risk. The Global Gag Rule denies U.S. funding to organisations like IPPF if they use money from other donors to provide abortion services, counselling or referrals—even if abortion is legal in a country. It blocks critical funding for health services like contraception, maternal health, and HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment for any organisation that refuses to sign it. When it has been enacted by previous Republican Presidents, evidence has shown that the Global Gag Rule has not reduced the number of abortions; rather, by eliminating access to contraception, it has led to more unintended pregnancies and more unsafe abortions. IPPF is the largest non-governmental provider of contraception in the world. It has worked with the U.S. government for decades. Our global network of local partners delivers more than 300 services every minute of every day, including 70 million contraceptive services every year. The Global Gag Rule’s reinstatement will result in additional unintended pregnancies and countless other needless injuries and deaths. It means IPPF will lose $100 million USD for proven programs that provide comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services for millions of women and youth who otherwise go without these vital services, including women suffering the burden of health and humanitarian crises. Over the years USAID has been a huge supporter of family planning – with a budget of over $600 million per year. Reinstatement will mean that years of progress to increase access to essential services globally, will be lost. We cannot—and will not—deny life-saving services to the world’s poorest women. We will work with governments and donors to bridge the funding and service gaps the Global Gag Rule creates. We will ensure that women can exercise their rights and access safe abortion and family planning. WANT TO GET INVOLVED? SUPPORT OUR WORK WITH A DONATION Subscribe to our updates!
Hepatitis is the medical term for inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis can be caused by liver damage by drinking alcohol or through viral infections which and can be transmitted through sexual activity. There are various types of viral hepatitis, but only hepatitis A, B, and C can be transmitted through unprotected sexual activity. Hepatitis A virus can be passed on through unprotected anal or oral sex as it is present in the poo of an infected person. The hepatitis B virus is found in the blood and bodily fluids such as semen and vaginal fluids of an infected person and can be passed on during unprotected vaginal, anal, and oral sex, pregnancy, and sharing needles to inject drugs. The hepatitis C virus is mostly transmitted through the blood of an infected person, with sexual transmission possible, but not common. Symptoms It can be common for hepatitis to have no noticeable symptoms, so you may not be aware that you have it. However, early signs can include flu-like symptoms such as: Muscle and joint pain Headaches Feeling sick High temperature Feeling tired Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes) Some types of hepatitis can pass without affecting the liver, while others may become chronic lasting for years or may cause cirrhosis (scarring of the liver). Chronic hepatitis symptoms include: Constant tiredness Jaundice Depression Generally feeling unwell Testing To test for hepatitis a healthcare provider will take a blood sample to test that will indicate if your immune system is trying to fight the virus. Your liver function may also be tested through an ultrasound scan or a liver biopsy (a sample of liver tissue is collected for testing). If you test positive for hepatitis your healthcare provider may prescribe antiviral medication. If your test is positive for hepatitis C you will be referred to a specialist for treatment options. Treatment can be more effective the sooner it is started. Treatment For many types of hepatitis there is no treatment, however symptoms can be managed with antiviral medication or painkillers such as ibuprofen. Resting and staying hydrated are important, especially resting the liver by avoiding drinking alcohol. It's important that your current sexual partner and any other recent sexual partners you have had are also tested and treated. Prevention There are several ways to reduce the risk of infection and protect yourself and your sexual partners from hepatitis. Hepatitis A and B can be prevented by vaccination, but not hepatitis C. Often a combined vaccine for hepatitis A and B is available, however recommended vaccination differs country-by-country. When used correctly and consistently, condoms are one of the most effective methods of protection against hepatitis and other STIs. Learn more about different types of STIs and their symptoms, treatment, and prevention
STIs: HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (commonly known as HIV) is a virus that damages the body’s immune system so it cannot fight off infections. It is preventable and treatable, but not curable. Anyone can get and transmit HIV. HIV lives in the blood and some bodily fluids (semen, including pre-cum, and vaginal fluids). HIV can be transmitted through: Vaginal or anal sex without a condom Oral sex without a condom (although this is rare) Sharing sex toys without washing them or covering them with a condom with each use Use of unsterile injecting equipment If you are living with HIV, it can also be transmitted during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding. Bodily fluids such as urine, sweat or saliva do not contain enough of the virus to infect another person. You cannot get HIV from casual contact such as kissing or hugging. Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (commonly known as AIDS) is an advanced stage of HIV infection, when your immune system is damaged and weakens your ability to fight common infections. However, with early diagnosis and effective treatment, most people with HIV will not develop AIDS. Symptoms Most people with HIV will experience signs seroconversion, a short, two-week illness soon after getting the virus. Seroconversion can feel like a flu (with sore throat, fever, tiredness, achy joints, swollen glands and a rash), and in some cases it could be severe enough to put you in hospital. However, a small number of people will not experience any noticeable signs or symptoms. After seroconversion, a person with HIV may not have symptoms for many years and might look and feel well, but the virus will be multiplying in their body, causing progressive weakening of the immune system. Following this period, symptoms may include weight loss, persistent diarrhoea, night sweats, and infections that keep returning. Testing The earlier that someone with HIV gets a diagnosis, the more likely it can be treated so it is important to get tested if you think you may have been exposed to HIV. Delaying testing and treatment will allow the virus to weaken your immune system. It also means you could pass the virus to someone else. HIV can’t be tested until at least four weeks after exposure to the virus, with more accurate results if the test is done six weeks after exposure to the virus. However, most tests do not detect the virus itself but the antibodies that your body has developed to fight it and are most accurate after twelve weeks. Testing for HIV involves taking a small sample of blood for analysis. The test is either sent away to a laboratory and results come back in a few days, or same-day tests can give an instant result. It is also possible to test a saliva sample or to test blood taken from pricking the finger. In some places, you may be able to do the test by yourself in the privacy of your home or another convenient place. If the test is ‘reactive’, you will need to visit a healthcare provider for further testing to confirm whether you have HIV and require treatment. Treatment It is recommended that all people with HIV start treatment as soon as possible after diagnosis. In some places, you may receive regular blood tests to check how your immune system is coping and will only recommend treatment if the cells in your blood that fight infection have dropped below a certain level. The treatment helps to manage the balance between the levels of HIV in your blood and the infection-fighting cells that your immune system has produced to fight it. It is treated with drugs called antiretrovirals – they work by stopping the HIV multiplying, allowing the immune system a chance to repair itself. A combination of antiretrovirals is used because HIV can quickly adapt and become resistant to them. The combination that is most effective will be unique to each person. These drugs will suppress the amount of virus in the body, stop the progression of infection, and prevent transmission of HIV to others. Prevention There are several ways to reduce the risk of infection and protect yourself and your sexual partners from HIV. When used correctly and consistently, condoms are one of the most effective methods of protection against HIV and other STIs. There is also a medicine called PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) for people who do not have HIV. PrEP is taken before sex and can reduce the risk of HIV transmission when it is taken correctly. PrEP can be used as a way to reduce your risk of HIV if you are HIV negative and don’t always use condoms. It is important to remember that PrEP will not protect you from other STIs, and you should wear a condom every time you have sex (whether it is anal, oral or vaginal). If you think you may have already been exposed to HIV within the last 72 hours (three days), it is also possible to take anti-HIV medication called PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) which may stop you becoming infected. PEP is a 28-day treatment of powerful drugs and is not guaranteed to work. It is often recommended if you are at high-risk of exposure (for example, if a partner is known to be HIV positive). It's also a good idea to get tested before each new sexual partner or every three to six months. Learn more about different types of STIs and their symptoms, treatment, and prevention
STIs: Genital warts
Genital warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) and are small growths or bumps that appear on or around the genital or anal area. There are over 100 different types of HPV which can affect different parts of the body. About 30 different types of HPV can affect the genital skin, but 90% of genital warts are caused by two types of the virus – types 6 and 11. The most common way for HPV to be passed on is through skin-to-skin contact with someone who has the virus. Genital warts can be passed on even if they are not visible. Most commonly, this is through sexual activity, such as vaginal, anal and oral sex, non-penetrative genital-to-genital contact, and sharing sex toys. HPV is not passed on by casual contact such as kissing or hugging. Symptoms Genital warts are normally painless but, in some people, they can be itchy and become inflamed, which may cause a little bleeding. They can either appear on their own or in clusters. The most common places for them to appear are: Around the opening of the vagina (vulva) Around the cervix (the neck of the womb) Inside the vagina Around or inside the anus On the upper thighs Anywhere on the penis On the scrotum Inside the urethra (where urine comes out) in people with a penis Testing If you suspect you or a sexual partner have genital warts, see your healthcare provider for a medical examination. Testing is usually not required for genital warts, but it is easy for a healthcare provider to diagnose by examining the area. In some cases, they may need to perform a more detailed examination in order to see if there are warts inside the vagina or anus. Treatment If you have visible genital warts, the two main types of treatment are: applying cream or lotion to the warts destroying the tissue of the warts by freezing, heating or removing them Unfortunately, wart creams that are available over the counter will not be effective as because they are designed to only treat warts on the hands or verrucas. The type of treatment you are offered depends on the warts. You should tell the healthcare provider if you are pregnant or if there is a risk of pregnancy as this may affect the type of treatment they are offered. For some people it can take months for the treatment to work and for the warts to disappear. It is recommended that you avoid having sex until your genital warts have fully healed. Not only will this help to ensure you don’t pass it on to others, but it may also help you recover more quickly. Over time, genital warts will go away without treatment but if left untreated, they may also grow larger or multiply. They are rarely harmful to your health, but genital warts can be unpleasant and may cause discomfort. Prevention When used correctly and consistently, condoms can help protect you from HPV but may still be passed on by the surrounding genital areas coming into contact with the virus. The HPV vaccine can protect against genital warts and types of HPV that can cause cancer, so it is worth checking if you are eligible to receive this. Learn more about different types of STIs and their symptoms, treatment, and prevention
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a bacteria called treponema pallidum and is easily passed from one person to another through vaginal, anal or oral sex without a condom and sharing sex toys without washing them or covering them with a condom with each use. Syphilis can also be passed to babies during pregnancy but can be treated. If left untreated it can cause complications during pregnancy, including miscarriage or stillbirth. During pregnancy, you should be tested for syphilis as part of ante-natal screening. Syphilis can also be passed on if you are an injecting drug user and you share a needle with someone who is infected. You cannot get syphilis from casual contact such as kissing or hugging. While syphilis is less common than other STIs (such as chlamydia), it is on the rise. It can be cured if treated early. Symptoms Anyone can get syphilis and the symptoms are usually mild, which may lead to some people ignoring them. Unless someone with syphilis is treated, they can pass syphilis on for up to two years after infection. The symptoms develop in three stages: Stage one: primary syphilis The first symptom is often a singular, small, painless – but highly infectious – sore called a chancre, which may appear two to four weeks after being exposed to the bacteria. The chancre will normally appear on the area where the infection entered the body such as the vagina, penis or anus. It may also appear on your lips, tonsils, hands or buttocks. The sore usually heals and disappears after two to six weeks, so it may be tempting to ignore it, but syphilis can still be transmitted during this stage. If left untreated the bacteria can also spread to other parts of the body and the infection moves onto the second stage. Stage two: secondary syphilis This stage often begins a few weeks after the chancre has disappeared. Even without the chancre, syphilis is still infectious and can be passed on. A common symptom is a non-itchy rash, often on the palms or soles of your feet. Other symptoms may include flu-like symptoms (such as headaches, fever, joint pain and tiredness), swollen glands in your neck, armpits or groin, weight loss, and patchy hair loss. These symptoms may disappear after a few weeks or can come and go over a period of weeks or months. When the symptoms have disappeared, you move into the latent (hidden) phase. This stage can last for years. Stage three: tertiary syphilis While serious, it is rare for people to reach this stage. It can develop years or even decades after the first infection, and the symptoms will depend on where the infection has spread to. Syphilis at this stage can be dangerous enough to cause death. Testing Testing for syphilis is often done by taking a blood sample. When the body’s immune system reacts to syphilis, it produces antibodies (infection-fighting proteins), and the blood test looks for those antibodies. However, these antibodies may not be detectable until three months after infection. If you have been diagnosed and treated for syphilis previously, additional blood tests may be required as these antibodies will stay in your body. Your healthcare provider may also perform an examination to look for the signs of syphilis. This may include an internal examination of the vagina and possibly of the anus. They may also look in your mouth and throat for skin rashes. If you have a sore (or chancre) then the healthcare provider may take a swab to collect a sample of the fluid. Taking the swab should not be painful. This will then be sent to a lab for testing. Treatment Syphilis is usually treated with a single antibiotic injection or a course of injections. This treatment is very effective for both first and second stage syphilis and should cure it. Syphilis can also be treated and cured in the latent and third stages, but treatment may not reverse damage that has already been done to your body. You should avoid having vaginal, anal or oral sex and any skin contact until you have been given the all-clear, to prevent you being re-infected or passing the infection on. If possible, it is important that you tell any recent sexual partners that you are being treated for syphilis, so that they can get tested and treated if they also have infection. Prevention The best way to prevent the transmission of syphilis is to use contraception such as condoms every time you have vaginal, anal, or oral sex, and by avoiding sharing sex toys. When used correctly and consistently, condoms are one of the most effective methods of protection against syphilis and other STIs (including HIV). It's also a good idea to get tested before each new sexual partner or every three to six months. Learn more about different types of STIs and their symptoms, treatment, and prevention
STIs: Pubic lice
Pubic lice are very small, crab-like parasitic insects – which is why they are sometimes called ‘crabs’. Pubic lice are not necessarily sexually transmitted but live on pubic hair and are passed on through close body contact, including vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Having pubic lice is in no way a sign of poor hygiene. As well as close body contact, they might also be passed on by sharing towels and bed linen (though this is much less common as lice can only survive for around 24-48 hours if not in contact with the human body). Pubic lice cannot jump like fleas or fly, and they cannot transmit HIV or other STIs. They are different to head lice and do not live in the hair on your head. They prefer coarser and more widely spaced hair. Symptoms Pubic lice can take a few weeks to appear so you may not notice them immediately or have any symptoms. When they do appear, they are tiny (approximately 2mm) and difficult to see. If you can see them, they are six-legged, with two larger legs like claws. They are often yellow-grey or red in colour and they attach their eggs to the base of the hair. The eggs are pale brown in colour and the empty egg sacs are white. Other signs and symptoms include: Itching in the affected areas Black powder in your underwear (this is the droppings from the lice) Brown eggs on pubic or other body hair Irritation and inflammation in the affected area (sometimes caused by scratching) Sky-blue spots or very tiny specks of blood on the skin (caused by lice bites) As well as pubic hair, they may also be found on underarm, leg, back or facial hair Although less common, eyelashes and eyebrows can also be affected Testing If you suspect you or a sexual partner may have pubic lice, see your healthcare provider for a medical examination. There is no test for pubic lice, but it is easy for a healthcare provider to diagnose by examining the areas with a magnifying glass. They will be looking for the lice and their eggs. Treatment Pubic lice will not go away without treatment and are likely to be passed to someone else. Treatment can be done at home using special types of insecticide lotions, creams or shampoo, which you may be able to get on prescription or over the counter at a pharmacy. Shaving your pubic hair will not get rid of pubic lice. If left untreated, the lice may spread to other parts of the body. The side effects can also cause other skin irritations and infections. You should return to your healthcare provider if the treatment doesn’t work – sometimes pubic lice can develop a resistance to the treatment. Ensure that anyone you have had close body contact with is treated too – as well as anyone you live with and wait until you have all finished treatment before resuming close contact. Avoid having vaginal, anal or oral sex until you and your partner have finished treatment and any follow-up treatment. You should also wash your sheets and towels at 50° Celsius (122° Fahrenheit) or higher to kill off the lice and their eggs. Prevention Unfortunately, condoms will not protect you from pubic lice. The best way to prevent pubic lice infestation is to avoid sexual contact or sharing bedding or clothing with anyone who has an infestation. Learn more about different types of STIs and their symptoms, treatment, and prevention
Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a tiny parasite called trichomonas vaginalis (TV) and infects the vagina and urethra. The infection is most often passed on through having vaginal sex without a condom, but also by sharing sex toys without washing or covering with a condom. You cannot get trichomoniasis through casual contact such hugging or kissing. Symptoms Many people with trichomoniasis will not experience any symptoms, and when they do develop, they can be confused with other STIs. Symptoms usually start to appear within a month of coming into contact with the infection. For people with a vagina, symptoms can include: Vaginal itching, swelling, and soreness Pain during sex and when peeing An unusual discharge which appears a yellow-green in colour Itchy inner thighs For people with a penis, symptoms can include: Pain during ejaculation and when peeing Thin, white discharge from the penis Itchy, swollen, and sore penis Needing to pee more frequently Testing It can be difficult to diagnose for trichomoniasis as the symptoms are very similar to other STIs. During an examination a healthcare provider will look for red patches on the walls of the vagina and discharge, swelling, and soreness from the head of the penis. They may also take a swab from your vagina or penis to test for the infection. This may be a bit uncomfortable but should not be painful. Samples may be tested during your appointment or sent off to a lab; the results can take up to a week to come back. Trichomoniasis can also be tested from the penis by taking a urine sample. If there is a high chance that you have trichomoniasis (if your partner tested positive), you may be given treatment before your results are back. Even if your partner tested negative you could still be infected and should continue with the test. Treatment Trichomoniasis is easily treated with a course of antibiotics – usually metronidazole – over five to seven days. Although metronidazole is very effective it can make you feel sick and you should avoid alcohol, including for up to 48 hours after completing your course. You should notice improvements quite quickly once you’ve started the course of antibiotics. However, you should go back to your healthcare provider who tested you if: Your symptoms don’t improve within a week You have unprotected sex You had unprotected sex with your partner before completing the treatment You vomited after taking the antibiotics You dd not complete the treatment or follow the instructions Your test was negative, but you develop symptoms To prevent yourself from being re-infected or passing the infection on you should avoid having sex until you have been given the all-clear by your healthcare provider. Prevention There are several ways to reduce the risk of infection and protect yourself and your partners from trichomoniasis. You can help prevent the spread of trichomoniasis by: using a condom every time you have vaginal or anal sex covering the penis during oral sex with a condom or the female genitals with a latex or polyurethane square (dam) avoiding sharing sex toys covering your genitals with a dam if you're a woman and rub your vulva against your female partner's vulva When used correctly and consistently, condoms are one of the most effective methods of protection against STIs (including HIV). Learn more about different types of STIs and their symptoms, treatment, and prevention
STIs: Genital herpes
Genital herpes is a very common virus that can stay in the body for life, but it usually doesn’t lead to serious health problems. Genital herpes is caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV). There are two types, HSV-1 and HSV-2 and both can infect the genital and anal area and also the mouth and nose (cold sores). No one should feel ashamed about having herpes and although it can’t be cured, it is worth noting that it is treatable. Herpes is spread through skin-to-skin contact with infected areas, often during vaginal sex, oral sex, anal sex, and kissing. It is passed from one person to another through: unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex receiving oral sex from someone who has a cold sore or is about to get one your genitals coming into contact with your partner’s genitals skin-to-skin contact during sex if the virus is active on the skin outside the area protected by a condom sharing sex toys without washing them or covering them with a condom with each use a person with whitlows (herpes on the hand) touching a partner’s vagina, genitals or anal area You cannot get herpes from casual contact such as hugging. Symptoms Herpes causes outbreaks of itchy, painful blisters or sores that come and go. It is common for people with herpes to not notice the sores or mistake them for something else, so they might not know they’re infected. Herpes can spread even when you don’t have any sores or symptoms. If you do develop symptoms you may experience: Flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, aches and pains. Stinging, tingling or itching around the genitals. Small fluid-filled blisters appear anywhere in the genital or anal area, as well as the buttocks or tops of the thighs – these burst leaving small, red sores which can be very painful. Pain when peeing – due to the urine passing over the sores. Unusual vaginal or urethral discharge. Testing Symptoms might not appear for weeks or even years after you're infected with the herpes virus. If you have or start to develop signs or symptoms your healthcare provider will be able to confirm the diagnosis by taking a swab of fluid from the blisters in the affected area. The results can take up to one to two weeks. You might also be tested for other STIs with similar symptoms rule them out and be sure you receive the correct diagnosis and treatment. If you have genital herpes, your previous sexual partners should also get tested. Treatment There’s no cure for herpes, but medication can ease your symptoms and reduce your chances of spreading the virus. Genital herpes will clear by itself, however, seeking treatment early can significantly reduce the time the outbreak lasts and speed up the healing process. It also reduces the risk of you passing it on to someone else. You will be given antivirals which work by preventing the virus from multiplying, however it does not clear the virus from your body completely. Over time, outbreaks usually become less frequent. To ease discomfort in the short term there are a few things you can do: Apply an ice pack or ice cubes in a plastic bag (do not apply ice directly to skin) Take a cool shower to soothe the blisters Apply a local, over-the-counter anaesthetic cream such as lidocaine Wash your hands before and after touching the infected area to avoid introducing bacteria Keep hydrated and drink extra fluids Wear loose, cotton clothing Use an over-the-counter painkiller to help with pain and discomfort Prevention There are several ways to reduce the risk of infection and protect yourself and your partner from genital herpes. You can help prevent the spread of genital herpes by using a condom every time you have vaginal or anal sex and to cover the penis during oral sex and avoid sharing sex toys. However, herpes can still be passed on if the condom does not cover the infected area. You should avoid vaginal, anal or oral sex if you or your partner have blisters or sores, or a tingle or itch indicating an outbreak is coming. When used correctly and consistently, condoms are one of the most effective methods of protection against genital herpes and other STIs (including HIV). Learn more about different types of STIs and their symptoms, treatment, and prevention
Gonorrhoea is a common bacterial infection. Anyone who is sexually active can catch gonorrhoea. No one should feel ashamed about contracting gonorrhoea, and it is worth noting that it is treatable. Gonorrhoea is caused by bacteria called Neisseria gonorrhoea that is found in semen and vaginal fluid of people who have the infection. It is passed from one person to another through vaginal, anal, or oral sex without a condom and sharing sex toys without washing them or covering them with a condom with each use. The bacteria can infect the entrance to the womb (cervix), the tube that passes urine out of the body (urethra), the rectum and, sometimes, the throat or eyes. Gonorrhoea can also be passed to babies during childbirth but can be treated during pregnancy with antibiotics. If you're pregnant and may have gonorrhoea, it's important to get tested and treated before your baby is born. You cannot get gonorrhoea through casual contact such as kissing or hugging. Symptoms Some people with gonorrhoea don’t have any obvious signs or symptoms. So even if you don’t have any symptoms, it’s really important you get tested if you’ve had unprotected sex. If you do develop symptoms you may experience: unusual green or yellow discharge from the vagina unusual green, yellow, or white discharge from the tip of the penis a burning feeling when peeing pain or tenderness in the lower abdomen (tummy) heavy periods or bleeding between periods (this is rare) painful swelling of the foreskin pain or tenderness in the testicles (this is rare) If left untreated, gonorrhoea can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (in women), infertility, and other complications. It is important to get tested and treated as soon as possible if you think you might have gonorrhoea. Testing If you’ve had unprotected sex, have a test as soon as you can. Accurate results should appear after two weeks. Testing for gonorrhoea is done with either a urine test or a swab test: The swab collects a sample from inside the vagina or from the tip of the penis. If you have had oral or anal sex, then a swab may be taken from either your throat or rectum. Taking the swabs may be slightly uncomfortable but should not be painful. Testing from a penis is often from a urine sample instead of a swab, unless you have symptoms. If there is a high chance that you have gonorrhoea (for example if your partner has tested positive), you may be given treatment before the results are back. Treatment Treatment often involves having an antibiotic injection and a course of antibiotic tablets. Most of your symptoms should improve within a few days with effective treatment. It is important to complete the full course of treatment even if symptoms start to clear. If you had symptoms, you should notice improvements quite quickly. You should go back to where you had your test if: the symptoms don’t improve within a week you have unprotected sex again you had unprotected sex with your partner before the treatment was finished you did not follow the instructions or complete the treatment the test was negative, but you develop signs and symptoms of gonorrhoea We recommend you attend a follow-up appointment 1-2 weeks after treatment so another test can be carried out to see if you're clear of infection. You should also avoid having sex until you have been given the all-clear by your healthcare provider. It's important that your current sexual partner and any other recent sexual partners you have had are also tested and treated to help stop the spread of the infection. Prevention There are several ways to reduce the risk of infection and protect yourself and your partners from gonorrhoea and other STIs. It's also a good idea to get tested before each new sexual partner or every three to six months. You can help prevent the spread of gonorrhoea by using a condom every time you have vaginal or anal sex and to cover the penis during oral sex, and by avoiding sharing sex toys. When used correctly and consistently, condoms are one of the most effective methods of protection against gonorrhoea and other STIs. Learn more about different types of STIs and their symptoms, treatment, and prevention